Here goes: Is STS a bordello or cabinet of wonders? (I write in the plural because Jan-H. and I were writing this together)
… we recognize the unorthodox and outlandish agency of “nonhumans” like scallops, microbes, Portuguese sea-going vessels, and British military aircrafts. In fact, the way we just listed those example case studies into the minutiae of STS scholarship is more telling than it might immediately appear. You see, STS is populated by intriguing micro case studies, and, from a far, STS appears to outsiders like a “cabinet of curiosities.” Because our research is punctualized into individual case studies, and these case studies were so routinely juxtaposed with one another during the era of great edited volumes of the 1980s, a look back through history of STS research is akin to opening the door to a cabinet whose contents were filled with every manner of wonderful and ornamental trinkets that somehow capture the grandeur of other worlds even in their miniature size. Also, because this cabinet was populated during the Science Wars, its contents are all the more precious, and, in retrospect, to this day provide a sense of nostalgia to the scholars who filled it, marking the discoveries they had made, as they passed it down both as a gift and a challenge to the students they trained.
Also, in STS, however:
Before we are accused of fickle sentimentality for our academic home, our cabinet of curiosities might just as well appear as a “bar à hôtesses” to some insiders sickened by the excesses of postmodernity, or the bitter, personality-driven, concept-oriented turf wars over aurthorial copyright that have come to typify STS <FOOTNOTE: At feverpitch in the early 1990s, … collins yearly / latour callon etc.> and, to this day, distract the field from sharing any semblance of unity with regarding agreed-upon phenomenon to study as a group, all of which might spell the end of STS in years to come. Thus, calling our cabinet a bordello might be warranted in certain company.
*This post was largely inspired by Fabio’s early characterization of STS as a “cabinet of curiosities,” which has, since I first heard it, stayed with me. As he put it, STS is:
very anti-normal science. You end up with a cabinet of curiosities than a deep and precise knowledge of a specific issue.
**The picture is from: http://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&docid=7p2FFa9Eveh4JM&tbnid=oxupV4E35lZsLM:&ved=0CAQQjB0&url=http%3A%2F%2Fparismarket.blogspot.com%2F2011%2F09%2Fcabinets-of-curiosities-and-pretties.html&ei=pFuFUoT6NPHC4APa3ICABg&bvm=bv.56343320,d.dmg&psig=AFQjCNFDvgagsuepOr4mm7V0rPzbL4qZCQ&ust=1384557853106096