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Social Knowledge in the Making

Over the past quarter century, researchers have successfully explored the inner workings of the physical and biological sciences using a variety of social and historical lenses. Inspired by these advances, the contributors to Social Knowledge in the Making turn their attention to the social sciences, broadly construed. The result is the first comprehensive effort to study and understand the day-to-day activities involved in the creation of social-scientific and related forms of knowledge about the social world.
The essays collected here tackle a range of previously unexplored questions about the practices involved in the production, assessment, and use of diverse forms of social knowledge. A stellar cast of multidisciplinary scholars addresses topics such as the changing practices of historical research, anthropological data collection, library usage, peer review, and institutional review boards. Turning to the world beyond the academy, other essays focus on global banks, survey research organizations, and national security and economic policy makers. Social Knowledge in the Making is a landmark volume for a new field of inquiry, and the bold new research agenda it proposes will be welcomed in the social science, the humanities, and a broad range of nonacademic settings.

464 pages | 4 line drawings, 6 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2011

Sociology: Theory and Sociology of Knowledge


“This is a fascinating collection that reveals to science and technology studies scholars how rich research on the social sciences can be and offers social researchers a site of reflexivity for considering their own practices of knowledge making. Picking up this book, I found it hard to put it down.”—Chandra Mukerji, University of California, San Diego

Chandra Mukerji, University of California, San Diego

“It was once believed that a sociological understanding of the natural sciences was ‘hard,’ even impossible, while the human and social sciences were ‘easy,’ even obvious, sociological objects. Why ever did we think this? Much human scientific knowledge has a self-referential character, and almost all of it confronts complex problems of establishing its expert authority. That alone makes the sociological study of the human sciences both hard and important. Social Knowledge in the Making is an eclectic assemblage of state-of-the-art scholarship showing how we might go about interpreting the production and evaluation of human scientific knowledge. It is a considerable achievement.”

Steven Shapin, Harvard University

“This volume reveals the heights of respected knowledge as practices on the ground. Libraries, archives, conferences, peer reviews, the annoying institutional review board—all these along with the intimate realities of surveys, regulatory agencies, and financial analysts are brought to the fore as they determine what gets produced or not produced as certified knowledge. Professionals are those who don’t just flaunt an identity but do their thing with mastery of details both banal and challenging: Camic, Gross, Lamont, and the rest of the contributors are professionals indeed.”­­—Randall Collins, University of Pennsylvania

Randall Collins

“This book marks a significant step towards closing the gap in our understanding of the actual practices in the making of social knowledge, that is, knowledge in the social sciences and humanities. Covering a wide range of production and evaluation sites within academia and beyond, it undoubtedly will influence future empirical studies in this important domain.”

Helga Nowotny, president, European Research Council

“Social scientists and humanists have been surprisingly inattentive to the institutional infrastructure and culture of shared practices on which our work rests. Social Knowledge in the Making changes this with a set of sharp and well-informed analyses.”

Craig Calhoun, president, Social Science Research Council

Table of Contents


Introduction: The Study of Social Knowledge Making
Charles Camic, Neil Gross, and Michèle Lamont

Part I
Knowledge Production in the Disciplines

One / Library Research Infrastructure for Humanistic and Social Scientific Scholarship in the Twentieth Century
Andrew Abbott

Two / In Clio’s American Atelier
Anthony T. Grafton

Three / Filing the Total Human: Anthropological Archives from 1928 to 1963
Rebecca Lemov

Four / Academic Conferences and the Making of Philosophical Knowledge
Neil Gross and Crystal Fleming

Five / Practical Foundations of Theorizing in Sociology: The Case of Pierre Bourdieu
Johan Heilbron

Part II
Knowledge Evaluation Sites

Six / Comparing Customary Rules of Fairness: Evaluative Practices in Various Types of Peer Review Panels
Michèle Lamont and Katri Huutoniemi

Seven / Meetings by the Minute(s): How Documents Create Decisions for Institutional Review Boards
Laura Stark

Eight / An Experiment in Interdisciplinarity: Proposals and Promises
Marilyn Strathern

Part III
Social Knowledge beyond the Academy

Nine / Subjects of Persuasion: Survey Research as a Solicitous Science; or, The Public Relations of the Polls
Sarah E. Igo

Ten / The Practices of Objectivity in Regulatory Science
Sheila Jasanoff

Eleven / How Claims to Know the Future Are Used to Understand the Present: Techniques of
Prospection in the Field of National Security
Grégoire Mallard and Andrew Lakoff

Twelve / What Do Market Designers Do When They Design Markets? Economists as Consultants to the Redesign of Wholesale Electricity Markets in the United States
Daniel Breslau

Thirteen / Financial Analysis: Epistemic Profile of an Evaluative Science
Karin Knorr Cetina


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