Sociology of Knowledge II: Diversity in Knowledge Creation

Monday May 16 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm (Eastern Daylight Time)
Virtual Platform

Session Code: KNW2B
Session Format: Regular Session
Session Language: English
Research Cluster Affiliation: Sociology of Knowledge
Session Categories: Regular Session

How does diversity influence knowledge creation? Despite a budding rhetoric of diversity, we continue to live in a culture that retains objectivity as a standard in knowledge creation. Just as the New York Times motto about “All the News That’s Fit to Print” conceals the power of editorial agency, an appeal to objectivity in social science obscures the everyday, local, contingent events, experiences and decisions that inflect our understanding of the real world. This session explores the role of diversity in challenging the sociocultural pressures, hierarchies, hostilities, and other contingencies that permeate the production of social science knowledge. Tags: Feminism, Gender, Knowledge, Theory

Organizers: Lily Ivanova, University of British Columbia, Will Keats-Osborn, Independent scholar; Chairs: Will Keats-Osborn, Independent scholar, Lily Ivanova, University of British Columbia


Carolanne Magnan-St-Onge, Université du Québec à Montréal; Isabelle Courcy, Université du Québec à Montréal; Margaux Nève, École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS)

Feminist Epistemologies and Critiques of the Construction of Knowledge on Menstruation

Cette présentation reprend certains courants épistémologiques féministes qui critiquent la construction  des savoirs autour de l’expérience des menstruations. D’abord, l’EMPIRISME FéMINISTE pointe du doigt le risque de biais qui sillonne les recherches sur l’expérience des menstruations, puisque celles-ci ne prendraient pas en compte l’effet des attentes sociales sur l’auto-évaluation que font les femmes de leurs symptômes prémenstruels (Parlee, 1974; Romans et al., 2013). Le STANDPOINT FEMINISMnous permet de mettre en avant comment les différentes positions sociales de la personne qui sait influent sur ce quelle sait et sur la manière dont elle construit un savoir (Harding, 1991). La PHéNOMéNOLOGIE FéMINISTE, par sa considération du « CORPS VéCU », met en exergue l’importance de la corporiété dans la matéralité des rapports de pouvoir genrés et de leurs effets sur les subjectivités. Le cadrage médical et commercial des menstruations comme problème hygiénique aurait produit un rapport aliéné des femmes à leur propre corps (Young, 2005). CERTAINES PERSPECTIVES FéMINISTES AU SEIN DES éTUDES CRITIQUES SUR LE HANDICAP nous permettent de mettre en avant le cadrage du corps féminin comme “incapable” (Wendell, 1989). Dans cette perspective, le « handicap » causé par les menstruations peut être envisagé comme une construction misogyne du corps féminin. Une autre posture, au sein des études critiques du handicap, FEMINIST QUEER CRIP, légitime pour sa part l’existence, la prévalence, la chronicité et la cyclicité de l’expérience matérielle de la douleur menstruelle (Przybylo et Fahns, 2018). Ensuite, nous analyserons une proposition de conciliation des apports présentés : la posture de MATERIAL-DISCURSIVE-INTRAPSYCHIC EPISTEMOLOGICAL STANDPOINT (Ussher, 1996). Enfin, nous déplacerons notre regard vers l’éPISTéMOLOGIE DE L’IGNORANCE, afin de souligner la manière dont la construction d’ignorance se développe autour de certains maux ou maladies pouvant être associés à certains groupes discriminés, dans notre cas : les femmes (l’endométriose en est un cas emblématique).   This presentation takes up some feminist epistemological currents that critique the construction of knowledge around the experience of menstruation. FEMINIST EMPIRICISM points to the risk of bias and error that runs through research on the experience of menstruation, which fails to take into account the effect of social expectations on womens self-evaluation of their premenstrual symptoms (Parlee, 1974; Einstein, 2012). STANDPOINT FEMINISM allows us to highlight how the different social positions of the subject affect what is known and how knowledge is constructed (Harding, 1991). FEMINIST PHENOMENOLOGY, through its consideration of the "lived body", emphasizes the importance of embodiment in the materiality of gendered power relations and their effects on subjectivities. The medical and commercial framing of menstruation as a hygienic problem has produced an alienated relationship of women to their own bodies (Young, 2005). CERTAIN FEMINIST PERSPECTIVES WITHIN CRITICAL DISABILITY STUDIES allow us to highlight the framing of the female body as "incapable" (Wendell, 1989). From this perspective, the "disability" caused by menstruation can be seen as a misogynistic construction of the female body. Another posture within critical disability studies, FEMINIST QUEER CRIP, for its part legitimizes the existence, prevalence, chronicity, and cyclicality of the material experience of menstrual pain (Przybylo and Fahns, 2018). After, we will analyze a proposed reconciliation of the contributions presented: the MATERIAL-DISCURSIVE-INTRAPSYCHIC EPISTEMOLOGICAL STANDPOINT (Ussher, 2000). Finally, we will shift our gaze to the EPISTEMOLOGY OF IGNORANCE, in order to stress the way in which the construction of ignorance is developed around certain illnesses or diseases that may be associated with discriminated groups, in our case: women (endometriosis is an emblematic case).

Tsahi Hayat, Sammy Ofer School of Communications; Dimitrina Dimitrova, Toronto Metropolitan University; Barry Wellman, University of Toronto

The company you keep: How network disciplinary diversity enhances the productivity of researchers

We examine a Canada-wide research network funded by the federal government. Our goal is to understand how the productivity of researchers, who collaborate with each other from a distance, is affected by the networks in which they are embedded. We focus on the effects of brokerage and closure on the researchers’ publication rate, which is interpreted as an indicator of their productivity. The paper analyzes researchers’ communication networks, focusing on structural holes and diversity. In addition, we take into account the personal qualities of the focal researcher such as seniority. We find that disciplinary diversity among researchers peers increases the researchers’ productivity, lending support to the brokerage argument. As well, we find support for two statistical interaction effects. First, structural holes moderate diversity so that researchers with diverse networks are more productive when their networks also have a less redundant structure. Diversity and structural holes, when combined, further researchers’ productivity. Second, seniority moderates diversity; so that senior researchers are more productive than junior researchers in less diverse networks. In more diverse networks, junior researchers perform as well as senior researchers. Social capital and human capital are complementary. We conclude that the benefits of diversity on researchers’ productivity are contingent on the personal qualities of the researchers and on network structure. This suggests that the brokerage / closure debate needs a more nuanced understanding of causal relationships.

Lily Ivanova, University of British Columbia

The Faculty Factor: A Cultural Approach to Diversity and Decolonization in Post-Secondary

How do faculty lived experiences with post-secondary education influence their own pedagogical values and goals as educators? Historically, post-secondary institutions have evolved from deeply classed, gender normative, and culturally homogenizing values and practices. As the field of higher education strives to correct and adapt from inequalities stemming from this legacy, practical efforts have focused on creating infrastructure and programming to support this mission, including policy, resource centers, educational workshops, and experimentation with pedagogical tools in the classroom. Research on teaching and learning has often followed suite, shadowing and spear-heading pilot programs, tools and collaborations. While interventions focused on institutional infrastructure and programming offer helpful frameworks, resources, and gathering points, the work of shifting cultures of inequality is complex and multi-faceted. This project applies a cultural sociology framework and methods to understand the influence of intergenerational academic culture on current efforts to improve equity and diversity, decolonization, and mental health outcomes in post-secondary institutions. Drawing on six years of research and advocacy work at a Canadian post-secondary institution and preliminary research at four post-secondary institutions across a breadth of institutional styles and cultures, this project builds on findings that the equity, diversity and mental health landscape in universities is deeply shaped by faculty values, expectations, and the academic culture inherited through their own post-secondary experiences.

Anastasia Kulpa, University of Alberta and MacEwan University

Unknown Unknowns - What are we missing by excluding voices from sociological research?

Despite the discipline’s claims to an inclusive and progressive identity, significant structural inequalities remain in sociology. One of these involves who occupies positions from which it is possible to define the knowledge that constitutes the discipline. The production of peer-reviewed publications, the gold standard in this area, is practically, if not officially, restricted in Canadian sociology. Contingent faculty are less likely than full-time faculty to produce such research, given economic realities encouraging taking on higher teaching loads, difficulties securing funding, and limitations that make existing funding, if available, less helpful in affording contingent faculty the freedom to research. As a discipline, we are forced to function without the answers to questions contingent faculty would ask in the pursuit of sociological knowledge, without acknowledging the existence of these omissions, let alone their contours. The types of people who disproportionately occupy contingent faculty positions offers hints at the potential silences in sociological knowledge. Contingent faculty are more likely to be women, people of colour, people with disabilities and/or first-generation academics. Excluding the questions asked by such groups presents a significant challenge to the claim that sociological knowledge is inclusive, progressive, and emancipatory. Given the design of existing disciplinary structures, there is an inherent assumption that sociological knowledge produced by those in tenured or tenure-track positions is more valuable than that produced by sociologists occupying other occupational positions. Beyond questions of if this is a justifiable assumption or not, what might the discipline and the university look like if it were structured to consider the potential for all actors to contribute meaningfully to the expansion of sociological knowledge?

Matthew Smithdeal, University of British Columbia

Moving Towards Neurocosmopolitanism through Research-based Theatre

The neurodiversity movement invites us to imagine a radically different world. It is relatively easy to imagine a world where having a neurotype that diverges from the norm doesn’t result in being stereotyped and dehumanized. It’s a bit harder to imagine a world where being neurodivergent is commonly accepted, rather than being merely accommodated. Considerably more difficult to imagine is a neurocosmopolitan world, where neurodiversity is celebrated and appreciated as contributing to novel forms of experiences and ways of being in the world, which in turn acts as a rich source of distinct ways of knowing the world (Savarese, 2014; Walker, 2020). I will explore how Research-based Theatre (RbT) can be used to move us towards a neurocosmopolitan future. RbT offers an innovative arts-based method of inquiry and knowledge sharing that uses embodied approaches to catalyze dialogue and foster new understandings of critical and complex social issues (Belliveau and Lea, 2016). Importantly, scenes can be fundamentally informed and shaped by the lived experiences of members of the populations being portrayed through story telling sessions, while not requiring individuals to continuously publicly retell their stories and divulge possibly traumatic aspects of their past. RbT is uniquely situated as an effective and ethical tool to help foster empathy between both neurotypical and neurodivergent participants, and generate greater awareness of the unique ways other members of the community may experience and know the world. By experiencing a scene together, audience members can discuss sensitive issues in light of the shared experience, commenting on characters and situations rather than needing to divulge possibly traumatic aspects of their own experiences. A further benefit of this approach is that participants can experience the situation through a third-person perspective. They can see the challenges faced by other parties that they may not normally be privy to otherwise.