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Inside Science

Stories from the Field in Human and Animal Science

Context and situation always matter in both human and animal lives. Unique insights can be gleaned from conducting scientific studies from within human communities and animal habitats. Inside Science is a novel treatment of this distinctive mode of fieldwork. Robert E. Kohler illuminates these resident practices through close analyses of classic studies: of Trobriand Islanders, Chicago hobos, corner boys in Boston’s North End, Jane Goodall’s chimpanzees of the Gombe Stream Reserve, and more. Intensive firsthand observation; a preference for generalizing from observed particulars, rather than from universal principles; and an ultimate framing of their results in narrative form characterize these inside stories from the field.
Resident observing takes place across a range of sciences, from anthropology and sociology to primatology, wildlife ecology, and beyond. What makes it special, Kohler argues, is the direct access it affords scientists to the contexts in which their subjects live and act. These scientists understand their subjects not by keeping their distance but by living among them and engaging with them in ways large and small. This approach also demonstrates how science and everyday life—often assumed to be different and separate ways of knowing—are in fact overlapping aspects of the human experience. This story-driven exploration is perfect for historians, sociologists, and philosophers who want to know how scientists go about making robust knowledge of nature and society.

264 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2019

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Biological Sciences: Behavioral Biology

History of Science

Philosophy of Science

Sociology: General Sociology


"In this volume, Kohler expands on themes in his previous work by detailing his conception of scientific exploration and explanation, which he calls 'resident observing.' He elaborates on notions central to the sociology of knowledge: situated participation, narratives, interpretation, acculturation, and other issues related to data collection and interpretation, such as surveys, interviews, and testimony. Along the way, he provides close descriptions and analyses of classic works in the social sciences (such as those of Bronisław Malinowski and William Whyte) as well as in primatology and wildlife ecology (such as those of Jane Goodall and Herbert Stoddard). By highlighting and examining the complexities of the fieldwork of these scientists, Kohler argues for what he sees as a richer and truer conception of scientific process and product—namely, one in which context and particularized data, rather than universalized, quantified, and abstracted extrapolations of that data, are prioritized. While acknowledging the epistemic value of 'universalized' science, he argues for a more pluralist approach to scientific exploration and explanation, one that fully recognizes and embraces contextualized knowledge. Readers will find this a captivating, accessible, and thought-provoking book. . . . Recommended."


"[Kohler] has chosen individuals for whom there exists rich biographical information, allowing him to analyze them personally and professionally. He deftly weaves together their research, backgrounds, and experiences to explain the person's motivations and methods, and to assess periods of self-doubt, triumph, and tribulation. . . . He masterfully lays out how different approaches intertwined and developed through his biographical treatments, and in turn, he lays a foundation for better understanding how professional research methods developed over the long term. . . . Inside Science meets the caliber of work expected of Robert Kohler based on his previous works, and for those interested in the history of sciences involving humans and social animals as subjects, Inside Science is a great resource."

Journal of the History of Biology

"Inside Science makes a compelling case that context‐dependent practices in the social and behavioral sciences deserve sustained historical attention."

Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences

"Inside Science is destined to be a classic. Kohler treats his readers to a thought-provoking study of situated knowledge in the making in this brilliant deliberation on the power of context in the history of anthropology, sociology, primatology, and wildlife ecology. He tracks the development of 'resident science' in modern science, with its practices of observing, case studies, and stories, as the counterpoint to the desituated science, with its emphasis on objectivity, quantification, abstraction, and law. Kohler elegantly combines compelling biographical accounts of such figures as Bronislaw Malinowski, Nels Anderson, William Whyte, and Jane Goodall with incisive analyses of a scientific tradition that is far more important than is usually recognized."

Bernard Lightman, York University

"Inside Science is a beautifully written and thought-provoking book that raises essential questions about the functioning of science and the position of the scientist."

History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences

Table of Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two
Participant Observer: Bronislaw Malinowski

Chapter Three
Hobo Sociologist: Nels Anderson

Chapter Four
Corner Sociology: William Whyte

Chapter Five
In Chimpland: Jane Goodall

Chapter Six
Wildlife Ecology: Three Life Histories
Epilogue: Inside Science

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