Istanbul Anthropological Review
Science as the Research Object of Social SciencesMahmut Furkan Yılmaz
This article investigates how scientific practices are studied as objects of research. It asks how the social sciences and the humanities, particularly the disciplines of anthropology and sociology, have approached science in the process of their disciplinary development. Culture-oriented analyses of classical anthropology can be considered as early science studies. In the following periods, a growing body of research has emerged that focuses on science as a thinking activity per se. Orientation towards this kind of research indicates a transition from an understanding of science as a field dependent on macro-culture to a perspective that views it as a process of cultural construction in its own right. This shift in approach is marked by constructivist analyses offered by ethnographies of science. The article, discussing the shifting understandings of science, takes up leading research to examine how science involves continuous intellectual engagement and enables the capacity to produce contextual objectivity.
Sosyal Bilimlerin Araştırma Nesnesi Olarak BilimMahmut Furkan Yılmaz
Bu makale, bilimsel pratiklerin bir araştırma nesnesi olarak nasıl ele alındığını soruşturmaktadır. Makalenin odağı, antropoloji ve sosyoloji disiplinleri başta olmak üzere sosyal ve beşerî bilimlerin kendi disipliner gelişimleri sürecinde bilime nasıl yaklaştıkları sorusudur. Klasik antropolojinin kültür merkezli analizleri erken dönem bilim çalışmaları olarak sayılabilir. İlerleyen dönemlerde, bilimi başlı başına bir düşünme etkinliği olarak ele alan araştırmalar ortaya çıkmıştır. Bu tür araştırmalara yöneliş, bilimi makro kültüre bağımlı bir alan olarak kabul eden anlayıştan kendi başına bir kültürel inşa süreci olarak gören bir anlayışa geçiş sağlandığını göstermektedir. Bu yaklaşım farklılaşmasında bilim etnografilerinin teşvik ettiği inşacı çözümlemeler belirleyici olmuştur. Makale, bilim araştırmalarında gözlemlediğimiz kavrayış değişimini tartışırken, öncü çalışmalara odaklanarak, bilimin bir tür süreklilik arz eden entelektüel faaliyet içerdiğini ve bağlamsal nesnellik üretme kapasitesine olanak sağladığını ileri sürmektedir.
The study of science, or its contextualization and conceptualization, is a fairly typical activity in social sciences these days. A century and a half ago, however, when science and social science had yet to even be institutionalized at least in their present sense, turning science into an object of research might have been considered too innovative. In this respect, although viewing science as an object of research was difficult when the positivist dominance in social sciences had yet to be eliminated, Edward Burnett Tylor’s conception of Primitive Culture ( 2010) marks an important investigative moment. His name is the one that initiated the early study of science, both because of his methodological approach from an evolutionary cultural view as well as his treatment of science in the identity of primitive religion. Other names undoubtedly accompany his, such as the functionalists Bronisław Malinowski ( 1990,  1992) and Émile Durkheim ( 2004,  2005; Gieryn, 2010), who had made certain inferences about what science provides for the practical world. All three share a unifying point in their own way, namely that science is a part of the community’s macro-culture in which it exists. In their time, science was not yet something researched on its own.
Meanwhile in the 20th century, as positivist philosophy was criticized, a new generation of science studies emerged with a more distinctive framework (Hollis & Lukes, 1982, p. 1). In this regard, Robert Merton’s (1938) explanation of the cultural motivations that drove the science in 17th-century England is important for offering a parallel account to the Protestant Ethic. Likewise, Ludwik Fleck’s ( 1979) understanding of science as an intellectual thought process similarly enabled a framework derived from the sociocultural context. However, these frameworks still remain unable to deal with science in an autonomous manner.
The new epistemologies that developed during the 1970s offered innovative methodologies for filling this gap. In particular, the ethnography of science has treated scientific communities - laboratories and research institutes in particular- like “primitive tribes” (Serdar, 2001, p. 53, as cited in Öğütle & Balkız, 2010, pp. 16–17; Weiner, 1995, pp. 15–17). Latour and Woolgar ( 1986), for example, have conceptualized the scientific site as a network structure and a communication organization. Sharon Traweek ( 1992) is another researcher who has compared the established cultural patterns among different scientific communities, with a focus on how gender roles are embedded in the scientific field. Meanwhile, another ethnography led by Max Charlesworth et al. (1989) has demonstrated how eminent scientists provide a culture of inspiration for future generations of colleagues. This new initiative was important in two respects. First, a shift had occurred from ethnography as a science to the ethnography of science, so both methodological innovation and authentic conceptions of science had now become possible. Second, studying the autonomous and contextual functioning of science was more fruitful. Hence, science was no longer coded as a part of the macro-culture but was instead recognized as a field of culture in its own right and therefore possessing its own cultures (Franklin, 1995).
At a general level, these three ethnographies of science were certainly similar in the following aspect: Science is a communicative organization with its own contextual culture. Based on these considerations, this article argues that science involves a kind of continuous intellectual engagement and enables the capacity to produce contextual objectivity.