What are the meanings of calcium in physiology?
The embodiment of cultural history:
(Note: name change - this used to be called "Material History: Foucault" but
material has too many other meanings.)
Michel Foucault's ideas of global and subjugated knowledges and his ways
of reasking old questions in new forms allow a useful approach to the differences
between theory and practice in biology. The Indian physicist Vandana Shiva
uses this approach (amongst others) in 'Monocultures of the Mind'
Although Mayr (1997) paints a pluralist view
of biology, Shiva shows the practice of biology in agriculture to rely
to much on theory and not enough on local knowledge of ecologies. The interests
of the large agrochemical corporations and the practice of genetic patenting
also tend to favour an industrialised western knowledge over local agricultural
knowledge (see Shiva 1998 for example).
In his general methodology of finding the concrete ways in which political
and medical theories where converted into social practice, Foucault echoes
the way which some scientists actually work. His rejection of 'theories
of everything' (one reading of his fourth methodological precaution 1980,
pp.99-100) closely matches the arguments used by the biologist Jack Cohen
and mathematician Ian Stewart in 'Collapse of Chaos' (1994). Eric Darier's
book 'Discourses of the Environment' looks at how Foucault's ideas have
been applied to ecological problems (but I haven't bought it yet).
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Last modified 10/2/00