My work is at the intersection between social and political theory, sociology of knowledge, political sociology, and philosophy of social science; broadly speaking, it could be defined as the ‘social life of concepts’. More specifically, I research the relationship between modes of knowing about (that is, ideas, institutions, and practices of knowledge production), and modes of being in the world (that is, how they relate to economic, political and affective regimes).
My PhD (University of Cambridge, 2019) explored the relationship between knowledge and critique, especially in contexts when knowledge is about the context that is simultaneously source of its legitimation – as is the case with critique of neoliberalism in higher education and research. Using intellectual interventions concerning the transformation of UK universities as an empirical illustration, the thesis framed questions of knowledge, critique, and the role of social sciences in the present moment with the longer discussion about the relationship between ‘thinking’ and ‘doing’, and thus the impossibility of reconciling the legacy of the Enlightenment with the history (and, worryingly, prospective future) of mass violence. Looking, in particular, at the relationship between positionality and positioning – that is, the epistemological and social conditions of knowledge claims – the thesis showed how the constitution of subject-object relationships forms a fundamental part of both critique and the production of knowledge.
My current research takes the concern about the relationship between ontology, epistemology, and positioning in the context of current political transformations, in particular the climate crisis. It asks: how do systems, structures and practices of knowledge production relate to the future? What kind of narrative and methodological devices do they generate or use? I am particularly interested in the following:
- Relationship between knowledge, prediction and agency
Both policy and everyday discourse assume the link between knowledge and agency. That is, increased awareness of the causes as well as consequences of specific occurrences, objects, or events, is assumed to correlate with a wider scope of possible reactions in relation to them. How do social systems for mediating knowledge and expertise – from education institutions to social media – interact with this link? What does the context of pluralisation of ‘legitimate’ ways of knowing (and the disputes surrounding validity of knowledge) mean for how people act and reflect on their actions? How do concepts of ‘agnotology’ or ignorance link to this?
- Human (and non-human) learning and forecasting accuracy
One of the things that supposedly make algorithms superior to humans as information processors is the capacity to learn from error. How does this work in contexts in which error identification is not simple or binary? In other words, how do people and systems for knowledge production ‘back-propagate’ predictions of election or referendum outcomes, natural disasters, or wars?
A longer reflection on these topics is here.
This is rooted in the broader theoretical project on the relational ontology of knowledge production. This entailed reframing the question of intellectuals’ public engagement or expertise as forms of agential mediation of conditions of knowledge production (see here). Another major theme concerns the moral, ethical, and political elements of knowledge production, including discussions about neoliberalism, Open Access, or academics’ working conditions. A paper I’ve co-authored with Chris Muellerleile addresses some of these issues.
Last, but not least, this concerns the relationship between academics (or intellectuals) as epistemic subjects and collective, institutional, and material arrangements of knowledge production, including questions of authority, reflexivity and self-knowledge (or self-ignorance). This article in Social Epistemology addresses some of these issues, as does the accompanying blog post.