‘The Political and the Epistemic’ in ‘KNOW’

The Fall 2020 issue of KNOW focuses on a specific theme: "The Political and the Epistemic in the Twentieth Century: Historical Perspectives." Emphasizing the first half of the twentieth century, in particular, guest editors Kijan Espahangizi and Monika Wulz point to an emerging "politicized understanding of scientific inquiry" in the interwar period, which "shaped a new social epistemology." (163) The starting point for the contributors to this issue is the interrelation between "heated disputes over the political and economic foundations of society" and the equally contested and pressing debates about "the role of knowledge in society and the economy." (163) The payoff:

By analyzing histories of antagonistic and competitive forms of knowledge, it becomes possible to paint a more detailed picture of not only the relations between the epistemic and the political but also of the inherently political strategies involved in the boundary work of knowledge regimes. (166)

Interesting on its own merits (see the abstracts), this issue of KNOW also deserves attention for its links to several interlocking forms of scholarly communication, including academic blogging. To begin with, six of the nine contributors participated in the conference "Political Culture and the History of Knowledge: Actors, Institutions, Practices."1 Of those six, four submitted pieces to the pre-conference series on this blog, an altogether different format that worked for three of the four authors. Two years later, after further discussion, "the political and the epistemic" issue of KNOW appeared. If the last of these things is usually what matters in tenure review and other promotion processes, it benefited from its contributors' engagement in other in-person and online venues.

  1. This event was a collaboration between the German Historical Institute Washington, the Center "History of Knowledge" at the ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich, and the Stevanovich Institute on the Formation of Knowledge at the University of Chicago. The conference, held June 6–8, 2019, in Washington, DC, also received financial support from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. ↩︎