Monday, December 17, 2007

Rachel Silvey: Situated Knowledge

Excerpted from: Silvey, Rachel. "Gender and Mobility: Critical Ethnographies of Migration in Indonesia." Cultural Geography in Practice ed. Alison Blunt, et al. Edward Arnold, 2003: 94-95.

Attempts to situate knowledge--and to produce situated knowledges--challeneg the truth claims of detached, disembodied observation in favour of located, partial and embodied understanding. Inspired by the work of Donna Haraway, ideas about situated knowledge have their roots in feminist critiques of science, but now also critically inform research across the humanities and social sciences. ... Such ideas resist a masterful gaze from a distant vantage point, blind to its own specificity and location in its claims for objective, all-seeing authority. In Haraway's words, the 'god-trick' of such a gaze depends on its dislocation and distance not only from what is being observed, but also from where such observation is located. While recognizing that all knowledge is partial and located, attempts to situate knowledge make this partiality and location their explicit and critical focus, situating knowledge in particular contexts and articulating the positionality both of researchers and the subjects of research. ... Situated knowledges seek to disrupt the 'god-trick' of authority and impartiality that is empowered, in part, by denying its own situatedness. It does so by locating, and often embodying, the production of knowledge in terms of proximity rather than distance and reflexivity rather than detachment.

Key Readings:

Haraway, Donna. Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. Free Association Books, 1996.

Rose, Gillian. "Situating Knowledges: Positionality, Reflexivities and Other Tactics." Progress in Human Geography (1997) V21: 305-320


"Collins (1990) points out that feminist standpoint theory assumes a commonality among women that does not in fact exists, and she argues for a standpoint that takes into account other fomrs of difference, such as race, class, and ethnicity. Spivak (1990) complicates the standpoint picture further. She reminds researchers that even if qwe are able to uncover the voices and the standpoints of subjugated people, ultimately it is we who represent the researched. Thus, our ability to represent the subjects of our research is limited by our distinct subjective locations, and our interpretations of narrative interviews should take such limitations into account(95)."

Cited Sources:

Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1990.

Spivak, Gayatri C. The Post-Colonial Critic. NY: Routledge, 1990.


Ashley said...

Just wanted you to know that I linked your post on situated knowledge in the "about" section of a wordpress blog I am in the process of setting up. Feel free to check it out, and let me know what you think.

Michael Benton said...

No problem Ashley--glad you found it of interest. This summer I will probably add some more theoretical mappings (when I have more time).

Good luck on your various projects and congratulations on getting into Oxford!