Unity, Dyads, Triads, Quads, and Complexity: Cultural Choreographies of Science

PDF Document

It appears your Web browser is not configured to display PDF files. Download adobe Acrobat or click here to download the PDF file.


Creative Commons Licence



Created date

February 16, 2019

Critical Commentary

One of the goals of this issue, I was told, was to "coordinate views about the current state of the contests between social rationality and scientific rationality." That seems to me completely laudable, if a bit difficult, due in particular to that pesky verb coordinate. The word brings to my mind Descartes's orthogonal measuring lines and the social niceties in the late 1950s of getting the colors of one's clothes aligned or even getting the lines of our high school drill team perfectly straight. It seems to emphasize the disciplined side of life. I was reading a lot of papers just now and try- ing to discipline my thoughts into classifying student work under five of the first six letters of the alphabet and then inscribing my judgment into little boxes with the correct marking implement. As you can probably tell, I am keener on the other goal of the issue: "Drawing attention to the cul- tural prejudices inscribed in the very epistemology of scientific inquiry." However, I would be much happier if we could drop the word prejudices and replace it with something less prejudicial. I prefer to draw attention to the cultural choreographies embodied in scientific inquiries. In Choreographing History, edited by Susan Foster, several of us wrote about how social, intellectual, political, scientific, eco- nomic, art, and cultural histories are enacted and performed, produced and consumed by human bodies moving through specific places.1 Of course, these embodied actors perform their moves in ways that they and others around them understand. Their movements might be rigid or fluid, formulaic or inventive, but they are enacted in the context of cultural codes that make them decipherable to most everyone around them, just as most of the readers of Social Text could probably navigate the pedestrian traffic at midday on the sidewalks of big cities. We know our way around gatherings of the sort of people who read Social Text. We know the ges- tures, the tones of voices, the styles, the rhythms, the jokes, the texts, the details that make a difference. I think we should know more of the moves made by scientists, engineers, and physicians as they get around their worlds


Traweek, Sharon. "Unity, dyads, triads, quads, and complexity: Cultural choreographies of science." Social Text 46/47 (1996): 129-139.