• working/reading

    I am reading through 'both ways' literature of Yolngu and non-Yolngu working their knowledge systems together. Alongside I am reading Lorraine Code's 2006 book Ecological Thinking. I am also browsing through blogs and discussions on knowledge work and community development.
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    Here I post some of my work and thinking. It is a much harder task than I thought! It is an extension of my research on knowledge and difference connecting my experiences, reflections, formal written pieces, and hopefully friends and colleagues. As work and self cannot be separate this blog is both personal and intellectual. Comments are moderated because, while it is a site for collective work, it is not anonymous.
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This blog is not longer being used: it has been moved to www.christianclark.net

Speaking for Others: small steps and giant leaps

Recently I have been working on a paper about the Digital Objects at work in the Healthy Breathing and Heart Project. In the first draft of a paper I wrote that I was assuming an ‘double outsider’ and referenced a piece of work by Helen Verran where she wrote of being an outsider in what I read to be a similar workshop between Yolŋu knowledge authorities and Environmental Scientists (I’ll put all the papers I refer to down the bottom).

I made this move, assuming to be a double outsider, with a hope to make this simple point: by not being an insider of either recognised knowledge traditions (Yolŋu nor Environmental Science) I might hope to be able to credit and value both knowledge traditions and hopefully work in a way that supported multiple ways of know … not so easy!

A few months later I had the at first stomach turning then delightful experience of having two reviewers take my work seriously and provide some very strong and helpful feedback. After getting over the shock of the red and orange typing all throughout my paper I began to realise how supportive and helpful the comments were, not just to writing this paper but much more generally.

One of the points that was picked up on was how could I claim authority to write as an outsider and I was given two papers to read on ‘speaking for others.’ By trying to just take a little step in order to recognise multiple knowledges, I found I had taken a rather large leap.

So I have rewritten the piece with this in mind and as it happened removed much of the material about subjects and speaking for subjects and focussed on the agency of objects. What was very useful about the Linda Alcoff piece was that she identifies that the problem of speaking for other people as the same problem about speaking about other things: it is how we grant ourselves the power to make the great leap necessary in using a representational theory of knowledge – how we assure the connection between reality and our knowledge of it.

Reading Maria Lugones’ “Playfulness, ‘World’-Travelling, and Loving Perception” I had a reoccurring thought that it was making a parallel argument to Leigh Star and James Griesemer make in their well known piece on boundary objects. At some point I’ll read them together.


Linda Alcoff, “The Problem of Speaking for Others,” Cultural Critique, no. 20 (Winter, -1992 1991): 5-32.

Maria Lugones, “Playfulness, ‘World’-Travelling, and Loving Perception.,” Hypatia 2, no. 2 (Summer87 1987): 3.

Helen Verran, “A Postcolonial Moment in Science Studies: Alternative Firing Regimes of Environmental Scientists and Aboriginal Landowners,” Social Studies of Science 32, no. 5/6 (2002): 729-762.

Susan Leigh Star and James R Griesemer, “Institutional ecology,’translations’ and boundary objects: Amateurs and professionals in Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, 1907-39,” Social studies of science (1989): 387–420.

[From speaking for others: small steps and giant leaps]

spectator epistemology

Reading Lorraine Code’s Ecological Naturalism.

Here Code is setting out Carson’s epistemology as exemplary. Contrasting it to the conventional epistemology she writes “Knowledge claims are propositionally formulable in an “5 knows that p” rubric (“Carson knows that this bird is a heron”) or multiples and elaborations thereof, and verifiable by revisiting the empirical evidence. In such a spectator epistemology, the self-reliant individual knower, …” p 95 YES! Spectator epistemology. This is what I feel I have been caught in. In Gapuwiyak it is hard to feel actively involved, and it seems that an epistemology based on observation is supported by Yolngu. It is too easy to fall back on or into a Western spectator epistemology. And self reliance, well that is key as you don’t feel you have much else some of the time.

Code, Lorraine. “Ecological Naturalism: Epistemic Reposibility and the Politics of Knowledge.” Dialogue and Universalism 5-6 (2005): 87-101.

[From spectator epistemology]