Politics of Knowledge: Debates in Human Science
This module aims to raise questions about whether the concepts and categories through which we usually study the ’international' or ’global' are adequate to the task. It critically examines categories of the social sciences and humanities that are usually simply presupposed and ’applied', and which, despite their Western or European origins, are assumed to be ’universal'. It does this by closely examining some of the most important theoretical writings of the post-WWII period, focusing upon books and debates which had repercussions far beyond their immediate disciplinary boundaries, including books by Kuhn, MacIntyre, Foucault, Said, and others.
Students explore the claim(s) that far from being objective and universal, our knowledge is shaped by culture, history and politics. In seminars we ask, can different ’conceptual schemes', ’paradigms' or ’traditions' be compared to see which one is better, or are they incommensurable? Do theories and explanations triumph over rival theories because they are ’better'- or for other reasons? Does knowledge serve to unmask power, or is it always caught up with and complicit with power?
This module requires students not simply to advance their knowledge of politics, but to explore the politics of knowledge, and to do so, in particular, by enquiring into whether the categories and concepts of the social sciences are genuinely international and universal, or merely modern/Western and parochial.