In this article, an anthropologist examines the question, asked today in diverse forms by an increasing variety of actors: what is the aim or telos of the social sciences? From within the disciplinary communities of the social sciences themselves, the answers given are inseparable from questions of theory and method. This essay engages some recent experimental, postcritical responses as formulated by scholars in the fields of anthropology and STS (science, technology, and society). Following decades of reflexive debates and changing institutional and disciplinary environments, both anthropology and STS currently experience heightened levels of uncertainty about theories and methods, means and ends. In this context, the emergence and vigor of a number hybrid positions, eschewing traditional separations between facts and values, the conceptual and the empirical, and the descriptive and the performative, are noteworthy. This essay examines three distinctive and novel responses to the question of what comes after critique, found in the writings of the anthropologist Hirokazu Miyazaki, who has defined what he terms a method of hope; in the experimental anthropology of Richard Rottenburg, which offers parables of modern development aid; and in the scholarship of Helen Verran, a philosopher and STS ethnographer who constructs the figure of the good faith analyst. Coming to terms with the challenges, possibilities, tensions, and paradoxes of these and other postcritical responses is the key purpose of the present discussion.
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Casper Bruun Jensen; Experiments in Good Faith and Hopefulness: Toward a Postcritical Social Science. Common Knowledge 1 April 2014; 20 (2): 337–362. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0961754X-2422980
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