chapter  1
28 Pages

A Material World

Most sociologists of scientific knowledge have the very proper, mainstream desire to unravel the epistemological problems that place limits on our knowing the world. Because they study knowledge-generation in context, this leads to historically-and spatially-contingent epistemologies. a good recent example is John Pickstone’s history of science, technology and medicine, entitled Ways of Knowing. His account is a summary of the intertwined histories of the gathering and making sense of knowledge in natural history, experimental science, and the technoscience of industrial complexes. nikolas rose espouses similar objectives in his ‘epistemology of assemblage’. rose’s concern

along the same lines, part of the stimulation for the present project came from the historical epistemology of Lorraine daston and the historical ontologies of both ian Hacking and ursula klein. taking historical epistemology first, this is the study of the organization of knowledge through concepts such as objectivity, wonder, and error.5 daston’s own definition is ‘the history of the categories that structure our thought, pattern our arguments and proofs, and certify our standards of explanation’.6 i am mainly interested in the material properties of milk, but its history, like the objects that appear in daston, is the result of competing forms of facticity: laboratory experiments, legal ontologies, and legislative/regulatory/ administrative ideas about what is ‘natural’ about milk. these will be discussed in Chapters 3 to 9.