Home / Events / Stephanie Graeter, "An Ethical Objectivity: Jesuit Science, Political Legitimacy, and Lead Exposure in Peru's Montaru Valley"

Stephanie Graeter, "An Ethical Objectivity: Jesuit Science, Political Legitimacy, and Lead Exposure in Peru's Montaru Valley"

When Apr 08, 2015
from 12:10 PM to 01:30 PM
Where SS&H 1246
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Lunch provided. Please RSVP if you plan to attend.

Abstract: Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork with a Catholic scientific project in Peru, this article examines the creation of lead exposure studies in the Andean city of La Oroya, home to South America's largest poly-metallic smelter. The essay analyzes how Jesuit exposure science garnered legitimacy within an antagonistic social field of mining politics and state corruption. While science factually legitimized the Church's ethical concerns about human lead exposure, the Church, along with the support of the region's Archbishop, sanctified the scientific research, making both the data collection possible, as well as ensuring its inclusion within regional and national mining policy debates. In Peru, exposure scientists must demonstrate their own moral intent due to rampant political corruption, as well as histories of violence and exploitation in the Andean region where this research took place. Drawing from social theories of scientific objectivity, this article contends that in the Mantaro Valley of Peru, a situated ethical objectivity emerged within this project in response to the social field it wished to impact. An ethnographic attention to the social conditions that shape situated objectivities can highlight the factors that condition and delimit both forms of knowledge and the terms of their social acceptance and political impact. Yet, while the power of the Church and the Archbishop stabilized this project's scientific research, the article concludes by reflecting upon the possibilities for science in extractive politics considering the increasing global financial and political stakes of mining in Peru, Latin America, and beyond.

Stefanie Graeter is a PhD Candidate in the department of Anthropology at UC Davis in her final year of the program. She also holds a designated emphasis in Critical Theory and has worked closely with the Science and Technology Studies department since the beginning of her degree. Her research investigates the knowledge politics of lead exposure in Peru within the context of the mineral industry. In her dissertation she traces lead's emergence as a controversial sociopolitical object in the 1990s and the various ways that scientific evidence of lead exposure has generated social meaning and political impacts up until the present, or not. Before her dissertation, Stefanie completed a bachelors of science in Environmental Science at UC Berkeley and subsequently worked in the environmental health NGO sector before resuming her studies in anthropology. 

Note this is our Food for Thought format where everyone is asked to read a paper ahead of time. After you RSVP, you will be emailed with the paper to be discussed.

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