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Objectivity in social sciences, a regulating ideal?

L’objectivité en sciences humaines, un idéal régulateur ?

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Published on Friday, December 17, 2021 by Céline Guilleux

Summary

The goal of this issue of the C@hiers du CRHiDI is to invite young researchers to interrogate the notion of objectivity in respect to their personal research and field of study. Moreover, it will tend to create, thanks to practical applications, a panel of different approaches used in the social and human sciences regarding objectivity.

Announcement

Lead by jurists and historians of the University Saint-Louis – Bruxelles, the C@hiers du CRHiDI. Histoire, droit, institutions, société are a scientific peer-reviewed journal published in open access. Its vocation can be found in transperiodical perspective and a tendency to explore interdisciplinary interactions between law, institutions, and society. However, this journal is also interested in the history of all societies and the study of theoretical, methodological, and historiographical challenges of history, especially the history of law.

Argument

Today, the expectation of a complete objectivity has become a regulating ideal in every scientific practice of historical and social sciences. Objectivity in the field of History demands that impartiality and dissociation to avoid any deviation or instrumentalization of the historical narrative. Context, preferences, specification of the historian are supposed to disappear behind one construction of some facts in accordance with reality. In an ontological perspective, objectivity can be defined as the independency of an object with respect to the representations structures of the subject who thinks about it. However, on an epistemological point of view, objectivity tends to validate a knowledge which is constructed on proven facts or observations. Finally, the ethical standpoint presents objectivity as the capacity of neutrality of the subject towards the object he thinks of. This last type of objectivity requires the subject to abandon its interests, preferences and beliefs while taking action, in order to elevate itself to some sort of universal perspective (Ouattara, 2017).

Nevertheless, the notion of scientific objectivity hasn’t always been a given, nor has it always had the same meaning (Bredekamp, Dünkel et Schneider, 2008; Cohen, 2011; Latour, 2012; Daston et Galison, 2012). It seems therefore inevitable to regularly interrogate the concept used to legitimize our knowledge, and even more so in the social sciences. How can today’s scientist study ancient societies as well as more recent ones and their norms, without forcing them into our contemporary grids of comprehension? Is it really possible to detach ourselves from our personal standpoint, cultural system and prejudices? In other words, are we capable of using an external point of view to research our subject of study and is that attitude really a requirement to validate any research?

In the last decades, the development of the Standpoint theory has reevaluated the notion of objectivity by proposing to consider the minorities point of view as a pertinent knowledge bias to criticize a given system. This theory allows therefore individual experience to constitute a real part in the construction of knowledge and offers new epistemological perspectives while freeing itself from traditional alternatives, between universalism (the subject separates itself from a particular point of view to develop an objective knowledge) and relativism (all knowledge is equal) – with the possibility to build knowledge from a limited perspective.

The goal of this issue of the C@hiers du CRHiDI is to invite young researchers to interrogate the notion of objectivity in respect to their personal research and field of study. Moreover, it will tend to create, thanks to practical applications, a panel of different approaches used in the social and human sciences regarding objectivity.

Suggestions

  • Links between historian practices and militantism/beliefs (For example: feminism, sexual orientation, political standpoint, races and ethnicity, Catholicism, Islam, ecological militantism, etc.)
  • Renewed reading of a body of sources already used
  • Historiographical rereading
  • Implementation of a new heuristic and/or epistemological approach
  • Annotated source edition
  • Choices made as a reduction or opening of the researching approach
  • The search for neutrality and/or factors of subjectivity in the transmission
  • Etc.

Practicalities

Proposals (approximatively 500 words) must be submitted in English or in French, by email to crhidi@usaintlouis.be

for January 31st, 2022, at the latest.

Accepted applicants will be contacted by February 15th, 2022. Publication is planned for winter 2022.


Date(s)

  • Monday, January 31, 2022

Keywords

  • objectivité

Contact(s)

  • Camille Banse
    courriel : camille [dot] banse [at] uclouvain [dot] be
  • Contact CRHiDI
    courriel : crhidi [at] usaintlouis [dot] be

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Camille Banse
    courriel : camille [dot] banse [at] uclouvain [dot] be

To cite this announcement

« Objectivity in social sciences, a regulating ideal? », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Friday, December 17, 2021, https://calenda.org/948720

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