Social science knowledge informs the way in which people interpret their experiences, and can be empowering, as in the case of political and feminist discourses. However, knowledge, employed as discourse, can also be employed in ways that disempower, and this is the focus of much of Foucault's work. The implication for academic work is that social science knowledge can serve to either empower or disempower its subjects, sometimes both, and in all cases it has influence over its subjects and its audience, by virtue of being itself a discourse, albeit a scientific one.
[...] By examining the production of environmental knowledge and the impact of Chinese government policies on the local peoples, Williams demonstrates how the state rhetorics clash with local rhetorics about the land. As a social scientist, she sees her role as one of translation, moving between the two groups in order to create and sustain a dialogue that will lead to more efficient land-use practices while simultaneously respecting the values of the local culture. Other areas of knowledge, such as feminist and political anthropology, also have a great impact because of their broad applications to many areas of life. [...]
[...] Social scientists have by and large taken male authority for granted; they have also tended to accept a male view that sees the exercise of power by women as manipulative, disruptive, illegitimate, or unimportant." (ibid: 21) By addressing the way in which the literature has served to legitimate male authority, Rosaldo is able to undermine the prevailing discourse. The power of feminist discourse, furthermore, is revealed in its application to the practical domains of society. In her examination of the woman's role in domestic and public life, Rosaldo refers to several arenas to which anthropological feminist theory has been applied: "In what follows, it will be seen that an opposition between 'domestic' and 'public' provides the basis of a structural framework necessary to identify and explore the place of male and female in psychological, cultural, social, and economic aspects of human life." (ibid: 23) And in reference to women's traditional role in the home, she writes: " . [...]
[...] Writes Clifford: "The Russian critic [Bakhtin] urges a rethinking of language in terms of specific discursive situations: "There are," he writes, "no 'neutral' words and forms words and forms that can belong to 'no one'; language has been completely taken over, shot through with intentions and accents." The words of ethnographic writing, then, cannot be construed as monological, as the authoritative statement about, or interpretation of, an abstracted, textualized reality." (1988) We may even go so far as to consider power relations as the starting point for an investigation into social science knowledge and academic production. [...]
[...] In similar fashion, academic and social science knowledge serves to either empower or disempower the subjects that are "known" or written about. Feminist anthropology employs a discourse of knowledge that aims at the empowerment of women and the incorporation of the female perspective into anthropological study. States Rosaldo: " . we are heirs to a sociological tradition that treats women as essentially uninteresting and irrelevant, and accepts as necessary, natural, and hardly problematic the fact that, in every human culture, women are in some way subordinate to men." (Rosaldo 1974: 17) By bringing to light this bias, feminist rhetorics serve to call for revisions in the systems and approaches of a male-biased anthropology. [...]
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