Bureaucratizing Science: An ethnography of agri-environmental research and development in southwest China
McLellan, Timothy George
It is ironic that an era in which scientists are hyper aware of an imperative to impact communities beyond the ivory towers of science and academia is simultaneously an era in which the day-to-day bureaucratic and administrative burdens of professional science are so bloated that time to look beyond the institutions we inhabit seems ever more elusive. This coalescence is perhaps not entirely coincidental. Many of the bureaucratic forms that permeate contemporary scientific practice are themselves concerned with the problem of the sciences’ relationship to and impact upon the world beyond it. In this dissertation, I use ethnography of a China-based agri-environmental research organization, the Institute for Farms and Forests (IFF), as the basis for analyzing the bureaucratization of science and the frustrated desires of scientists to make a positive difference to the world. I demonstrate how emerging bureaucratic planning and audit regimes impose temporal structures that are incongruous with scientists’ conceptualizations of scientific practice. As, for example, in the incongruity between a planning and audit technology called ‘theory of change’ that orientates scientists towards a utopian vision of the future that they want to bring into being and an IFF scientist’s vague hope that her research might be put to use in ways that she cannot anticipate. I show, furthermore, that while the intention of theory of change is to help scientists generate momentum towards impact, scientists more often experience imperatives to employ technologies like theory of change as an unwelcome interruption to scientific practice. Through ethnography of the diverse forms of momentum and interruption that animate scientific and bureaucratic practice, I develop an analytic framework for responding to the dual challenges of bureaucratization and of making science make a difference. I argue that rather than responding to the imposition of audit by battling for scientific autonomy, we should expend our energies seeking new opportunities for science to interrupt and for science to be interrupted.
Cultural anthropology; Law
Nadasdy, Paul; Yu, Xingzhong; Miyazaki, Hirokazu
Ph. D., Anthropology
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis