Through twelve ethnographic case studies, The Social Life of Standards reveals how standards – political and technical tools for organizing society – are developed, applied, subverted, contested, and reassembled by local communities interacting with norms often created by others. Contributors explore standards at work across different countries and contexts, such as Ebola biomedical safety precautions in Senegal, Colombian farmers contesting politicized seed regulations, and the application of Indigenous standards to Canadian environmental assessments. They emphasize the uncomfortable fit between the often messy and inconsistent implementation of standards in the real world and the monolithic, non-negotiable criteria presupposed by external forces. Overt conflict arises when standards misrepresent important local (or global) realities. How do communities actively challenge and re-create standards that do not meet their needs?
The Social Life of Standards provides an important anthropological perspective on the articulation of standards. The goal is to arrive at a more reflexive process that offers progressive engagement at the local level. Ultimately, we need an effective balance between evidence-based science, the social contexts that inform more useful and appropriate standards, and the inherent potential for activism.
This book will be invaluable for scholars and students in anthropology, political and environmental studies, and science and technology studies; for ethnographers and researchers who conduct participatory research; and for regulators, policy makers, and the citizen reader.
I absolutely love this book. Its goal is ambitious, and its contributors rise to the challenge. I have never included an analysis of relevant standards in my anthropological work before, but, inspired by this volume, I will now.
There is no comparable work to The Social Life of Standards, a breakthrough book which successfully – even brilliantly – articulates an approach to the study of standards that is sensitive to local contexts and alert to the politics of knowledge in the making.
Janice Graham is University Research Professor, a professor in medicine and social anthropology, and former Canada Research Chair in Bioethics in the Faculty of Medicine at Dalhousie University. Christina Holmes is an assistant professor in the interdisciplinary Health program at St. Francis Xavier University. Fiona McDonald is Co-director of the Australian Centre for Health Law Research, an associate professor in the Faculty of Law at the Queensland University of Technology, and an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Bioethics at Dalhousie University. Regna Darnell is a distinguished university professor emerita and adjunct research professor of anthropology at Western University.
Contributors: Xavier Anglaret, Craig Candler, Alice Desclaux, Liz Fitting, Laura Gutiérrez Escobar, Shawn Harmon, Dean Jacobs, Jane Jenkins, Mavis Jones, Udo Krautwurst, Frédéric Le Marcis, Robert Lorway, Denis Malvy, Gerald P. McKinley, L. Jane McMillan, Ian Puppe, Daouda Sissoko, and Tamara Wattnem
Introduction: The Social Life of Standards: Anthropological Ecologies / Janice E. Graham, Christina Holmes, Fiona McDonald, and Regna Darnell
Part 1: Making Standards
1 Making Standards in Science: The Imperfect Case of the European Bank for Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (EBiSC) / Shawn H.E. Harmon
2 “A Lab of One’s Own”: Entangled Measures and the Challenges of Redefining Standard-Lab Practice in Academic Context / Udo Krautwurst
3 When Are Standards Necessary in the Lab? Standards as Gateway or Barrier to Innovation in Proteomics / Christina Holmes, Fiona McDonald, and Mavis Jones
Part 2: Subverting Standards
4 Doing Science in an Emergency: Challenging Clinical Trial Standards and Producing Care / Frédéric Le Marcis, Daouda Sissoko, Xavier Anglaret, and Denis Malvy
5 The Social Life of Emergency Standards: Twenty-One Days of Ebola Biosafety Precautions for Contact Cases in Senegal / Alice Desclaux
6 Check Your Denominator: Geographic Mapping, Activism, and the Standardization of Sexual Risk / Robert Lorway
Part 3: Contesting Standards
7 Contesting Seed Standards: The Red De Semillas Libres in Colombia / Elizabeth Fitting, Laura Gutiérrez Escobar, and Tamara Wattnem
8 Sick Cows and Politicized Standards: The Construction of Farmer Resistance to Testing for Bovine Tuberculosis / Jane Jenkins
Part 4: Reassembling Standards
9 Unsettling Standards: Indigenous Peoples and Child Welfare / L. Jane McMillan
10 When the Bough Breaks: Balancing Heritage, Forestry, and Unsustainable Standards in Algonquin Provincial Park / Ian Puppe
11 Standing Our Ground: Putting Indigenous Standards to Work in Environmental Assessment / Craig Candler
12 Negotiating Good Development: Standards for Consultation / Dean Jacobs, Regna Darnell, and Gerald P. McKinley
Conclusion: Articulating Better Standards: A Lifecycle Approach to Progressive Engagement / Janice Graham
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