TIK-Seminar:Making Traditional Knowledge Matter: Environmental Contamination, Indigenous Health, and Oil Production in Canada
Dr Sarah Blacker will talk about how collaborative studies can enable the public to identify matters of concern and to participate in the research process in the case of contamination affecting Indigenous First Nations communities located near an oil extraction site in Canada.
Outline of the seminar
Engaging with decolonizing methodologies in STS, as well as non-Western and Indigenous approaches to the study of science and technology, this talk raises questions about public participation in science, shifting concepts of expertise, and the making of scientific data. Examining both the possibilities opened up by, and obstacles to, collaborative studies that aim to produce ‘hybrid’ data that reflect knowledges often seen as incommensurable with Western science, I will discuss how levels of contamination affecting Indigenous First Nations communities located near an oil extraction site in Canada have been measured. This industrial site has been extracting bitumen from a geographical area larger than 79,000 km2 since 1967, yet the scientific knowledge produced about the health and environmental effects of this industry in the last years has been largely industry-sponsored and has not allocated epistemic space for Indigenous Traditional Knowledge about the consequences of industrial contamination for animals, plants, soil, waterways, and human health.
A collaborative research project between scientists and First Nations communities in Canada was designed to render Traditional Knowledge concerning harm caused by industrial pollution into forms of evidence that will be recognized by government metrics. I consider the processes of translation and encoding that quantify Traditional Knowledge for visibility within dominant Western scientific practices. Directly addressing the colonial relations at this site, the talk focuses on how such collaborative studies can enable the public to identify matters of concern and to participate not only in the making of data, but in the study design, interpretation, publication, and circulation of study results.
About the speaker
Sarah Blacker is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin. Her current research addresses the production of data on industrial environmental contamination in Canada with a focus on Traditional Knowledge and Indigenous health. She is also working on a book on the development of personalized medicine in Canada and the role that medical technologies play as part of state policies that are increasingly tied to financialization. She is co-editor of A Companion to Critical and Cultural Theory (forthcoming 2017) and the journal Reviews in Cultural Theory.
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