Unformatted text preview: Epstein/ AIDS Activism 409 physicians, and federalhealth authorities-but variouscredentialedexperts a plus the mass media and the pharmaceutical nd biotechnologycompanies; it also encompassesa strongand internallydifferentiated ctivist movement a along with various organs of alternativemedia, including activist publications and the gay press. Beliefs about the safety and efficacy of particular therapeuticregimens, and understandingsabout which clinical research practicesgenerateusefulresults,arethe productof an elaborate,often heated, and, in some ways, quite peculiar complex of interactionsamong these variousplayers (Epstein 1993). i My point in stressingthe breadthof participationn claims makingis not simply to say thatAIDS researchis heavily politicized or thatit has a public face. More profoundly, this case demonstratesthat activist movements, throughamassingdifferentforms of credibility,can in certaincircumstances become genuine participants n the constructionof scientific knowledgei that they can (within definite limits) effect changes both in the epistemic practicesof biomedicalresearchandin the therapeuticechniquesof medical t care. This surprisingresultis, of course, at variancewith the popularnotion of science as a relativelyautonomousarenawith high barriers o entry.1 t is t I a result that illustratesthe dangerof understandinghe role of laypeople in t scientific controversiessolely in passive terms-as a resourceavailablefor use, or an ally availablefor enrollment,by an entrepreneurialcientist who s is conceived of as the truemotive force in the processof knowledgemaking. Infact, activistmovementscan, at times, advancetheirown strategicgoals within science, helping to constructnew social relationshipsand identities, new institutions,and new facts and beliefs in the process (cf. Brown 1992; Cozzens and Woodhouse 1995; Cramer,Eyerman,and Jamison 1987; Di Chiro 1992; Petersen 1984; Rycroft 1991). Medicine, to be sure, is an arena morepermeableto outsideinfluencethanotherless public, less applied,and less politicized domains of technoscience (Cozzens and Woodhouse 1995, 538). But even here, AIDS activists did not achieve influence simply by applyingpolitical muscle of the conventionalsort (althoughthat did prove necessaryatpointsalong the way). In addition,theyfoundways of presenting themselvesas crediblewithinthe arenaof credentialed xpertise.At the same e time, these activists succeededin changingthe rules of the game, transforming the very definitionof whatcountsas credibilityin scientificresearchsuch thattheirparticular ssets would prove efficacious.2 a Successful lay incursions into biomedicine have considerableimplications for the understandingf such broadphenomena s the cultural uthority o a a of science and medicine(Barnes 1985; Nelkin 1987; Starr1982), the public receptionof scientificclaims (Collins 1987; Jasanoff1991;Wynne 1992), the boundaries etween"science"and "society"(Gieryn1983), the relationships b ...
View Full Document
This note was uploaded on 10/10/2010 for the course ENG 000121 taught by Professor Mcgrand during the Spring '10 term at Cornell.
- Spring '10