Inspirations from the EASST4S virPrague conference 2020

Nordwit (members) attended the EASST/4S virPrague conference Locating and Timing Matters: Significance and agency of STS in emerging worlds 18-21.8.2020,

The conference had nearly 600 panels, including the one of ours Old Academies and Emerging Worlds: Feminist Encounters in Changing STS Contexts (chair: Gabriele Griffin). Although we missed the informal meetings and connections between colleagues and friends in the magnificent Prague, the virPrague conference worked well and provided numerous interesting presentations and discussions, utmostly timely such as subplenaries STS Enters the Transnational Covidscape: The Political Ecologies and Inequalities of COVID-19 and Sustainable Academia, and the subplenaries on the main themes of the conference: The temporal fabric of technoscientific worlds, and Locating matters, all important both conceptually and politically.

Many of the panels were extremely inspiring for the study field of gendering research and innovation. One cannot give credit to all panels worth mentioning, as it was not possible to follow them all, and I pick up here just two of them.

EASST4S Prague

In the panel on Science as a site of inequalities, Susanne Koch, Technical University of Munich, presented preliminary findings of her survey on the (in)equalities in academia within the publications in the Scopus database. Although the study was limited only to the Scopus database and years 2010-2020, the findings were important. Gender is acknowledged in the Scopus publications more often than the other dimensions of inequalities. Intersectionality appeared only in one fifth of the papers, although it has been discussed in Gender Studies for decades already. Furthermore, the publications tended to focus on only one of the levels, micro-meso-macro, and the linkages between the layers were rarely analyzed. Especially the studies that combined lived experiences in academia with the analysis of structural orders were few. These publications were also built on a limited range of theories. With her talk, Susanne Kock wanted to encourage the use of a variety of theoretical approaches.

The subplenary Sustainable academia took place at the end conference, ending by 9 pm on Friday evening. Its intriguing talks, especially by Sharon Traweek and Maria do Mar Pereira, kept me on-line to the very end. Sharon Traweek analyzed how the neoliberal political economy has affected universities, in the US in particular, and brought in practices such as the metrics of productivity and client satisfaction, and audit cultures. Traweek then emphasized the importance of collective knowledge production, to keep up hope. Pereira continued by discussing the same phenomena at embodied and affective level. Her talk was based on her ethnographical study in Portuguese academia and her book Power, Knowledge and Feminist Scholarship: An Ethnography of Academia (2017).  In the talk Pereira looked for ways of dealing with the various dilemmas of neoliberal academia. In neoliberal thinking, it is individuals that need to find solutions to meet the requirements of productivity and even the status of disciplines, and many withdraw from collective work (ie. peer reviewing) that sustains academy, phenomena familiar to many of us. As individual strategies cannot sustain academia and neither individuals who work there, Pereira joined Traweek’s suggestion for collective engagements and collaborative knowledge production to rethink the division of labor, to change the systems and to sustain the universities. For Pereira, the change should take into account the embodied individuals who need time both to think and to rest

Marja Vehviläinen 



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