Making things known: Epistemic Infrastructures, the United Nations and the Translation of Piracy

March 5, 2014 - 15:30 - 17:00
Nador u. 9, Faculty Tower
room 309
Event type: 
Event audience: 
Open to the Public
Department of International Relations
Doctoral School of Political Science, Public Policy and International Relations

How are international phenomenon rendered knowable? By which means and practical devices is international knowledge generated? In this article I draw on the case of contemporary maritime piracy to introduce a research framework that allows addressing these questions. Arguing that the practices of international knowledge generation are weakly understood I show how concepts from science and technology studies provide us with the tools to study these practices empirically. Relying on the practice theory of Karin Knorr Cetina, I introduce the concepts of epistemic infrastructures, epistemic practice, and laboratories and demonstrate how they spur interesting insights on knowledge generation. I investigate three ‘archetypes’ of epistemic practices in detail and show how these generate knowledge about piracy for the United Nations: the quantification practices of the International Maritime Organization, the interpretation work of a Monitoring Group and the net-work of a Special Adviser. The article introduces an innovative agenda for studying knowledge generation in international relations by focusing on the practical epistemic infrastructures that maintain knowledge about international phenomena.

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