Polish Science and Technology Studies in the New Millennium

by Krzysztof Abriszewski (Volume editor) Aleksandra Derra (Volume editor) Andrzej W. Nowak (Volume editor)
©2022 Edited Collection 146 Pages


The tradition of Polish Science Studies dates back to the works of L. Fleck and F. Znaniecki. In the 1990s, the field found itself in crisis due to the many institutional transformations in the former Eastern Bloc. The subsequent resurgence started with the new millennium thanks to scholars particularly interested in the Actor-Network Theory, which offered conceptual tools to combine philosophical questions with sociological interests, and seemed also a good way out of the pitfalls of postmodern discussions. This collection presents a sample of renewed Science and Technology Studies in Poland ranging from theoretical explorations through discourse analysis-oriented chapters on anorexia and climate change disinformation, to studies of socio-scientific controversies over air pollution.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Preface
  • The Disappearance of the Second World and “Suitcase Science” (Andrzej W. Nowak)
  • What Does Theory Do in the Humanities? (Krzysztof Abriszewski)
  • Women Not to Be Seen: The Medical Versus Feminist Thought Style on Anorexia Nervosa (Aleksandra Derra)
  • The Disinformation Rhetoric of the Twenty-First Century (Ewa Bińczyk)
  • Polish Smog: Metrological Controversies and Conflicting Ontologies (Michał Wróblewski, Wojciech Goszczyński)
  • Learning to Breath: Issue Mapping on the Smog Controversy in Poland Using the Web 2.0 (Maria Lompe)
  • Series Index

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The history of science studies in Poland goes back to 1910–1939. This early stage brought at least several great scholars including Florian Znaniecki, philosopher and sociologist, president of American Sociological Association (1953–1954); sociologists and philosophers Maria Ossowska and Stanisław Ossowski; or Ludwik Fleck, microbiologist and philosopher, whose Entstehung und Entwicklung einer wissenschaftlichen Tatsache. Einführung in die Lehre vom Denkstil und Denkkollektiv (Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact) from 1935 influenced Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolution and offered an early ethnography of laboratory work, forty years before a movement with such a label emerged in science studies, in Californian fieldworks of Karin Knorr-Cetina, Bruno Latour and Michael Lynch. Michał Kokowski, distinguished historian and STS scholar from Polish Academy of Science, tells detailed history of science studies in Poland, and notes a “destruction stage” in 1950s after the first stage of flourishing. The next development stage of science studies in Poland dates from 1960s to 1980s and ends roughly with the fall of the Eastern Bloc.1 Political structures undergo deep transformation together with structures of knowledge, and that includes both scientific institutions and professional knowledge. One can but mourn when the disappearance of science studies departments and professional discourse turned out to be just a collateral damage – one among many in the academia – of structural adjustment of the institutions of the former Eastern Bloc to the capitalist world-system. Thus, the twentieth century history of science studies in Poland ends with another destruction stage in the 1990s. Traditionally, the Polish term “naukoznawstwo” used to be translated not as “science studies” but rather as “science of science.” Even one of the Polish Academy of Science committees is still translated as “Science of Science Committee.”

By stressing this, we want to underline the symbolic moment of rupture. Most authors in this volume started their university studies in 1990s, during the “destruction stage” of Polish science studies/science of science. Consequently, their knowledge came from singular texts by Fleck, the Ossowscy, or Znaniecki, ←7 | 8→and not from any systematic university course presenting the whole discipline (science of science or science studies). Therefore, when studying philosophy or sociology with an interest in studying science, they turned to western Science and Technology Studies (STS), which were gaining their momentum after great successes of the Edinburgh School’s strong programme, the ethnography of laboratory, the empirical programme of relativism, and the social construction of technology. As it happened, having abandoned their philosophical training, they became particularly interested in the Actor–Network Theory (ANT), which seemed to offer good conceptual tools to combine philosophical questions with sociological theory, particularly with the sociology of knowledge. At the same time, ANT avoided weaknesses of popular individualistic epistemology insensitive to social and cultural dimensions of knowledge. Back then, ANT seemed also like a good way out of postmodern discussions that were uninspiring and, in fact, half dead by the dawn of the new millennium.

The first two decades of the 2000s witnessed growing interest in STS and, particularly, ANT among Polish scholars. This entailed a series of original books, papers, and translations, including five translations of books authored or co-authored by Bruno Latour: Politics of Nature (Polish translation: 2009), Reassembling the Social (Polish translation: 2010), We Have Never Been Modern (Polish translation: 2011), Pandora’s Hope (Polish translation: 2013), and Laboratory Life (Polish translation: 2020). Moreover, Latour became a major inspiration for numerous scholars in Poland in the humanities and social sciences who were interested in posthumanism or developing their own position within the “material turn.” As a result of gaining recognition, the local Polish STS community in Toruń hosted the 2014 Congress of the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology.

Research units, institutes, undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs devoted to STS research have been established at many universities; each of them, depending on the circumstances and interests of researchers and researchers, has its own specificity. Today, their sheer number and diversity indicate how mature STS has become a research field. An example is the European Inter-University Association on Society, Science and Technology (ESST). It is an association of universities in Europe that offer a Master’s degree program in science and technology studies and allow for research exchange. The Faculty of Humanities of the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń joined it in 2017, offering the specialization “The Theory and Practice of Risk Society” (http://esst.eu/specializations/).

Thanks to the efforts of researchers at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, the first Polish-language reader in the field of STS was created in Poland, ←8 | 9→entitled Reader in Science and Technology Studies, edited by Ewa Bińczyk and Aleksandra Derra (published by scientific publishing house of the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń in 2014). They include translations of texts by Bruno Latour, Donna Haraway, Karen Knorr-Cetina, John Law, Andrew Pickering, Michel Callon, Harry Collins, Steven Shapin, Ruth Hubbard and Ian Hacking along with an appropriate introduction and commentary.

Furthermore, the first two decades of the 2000s brought new generations of young scholars interested in the study of science. They were able to use experiences of the “1990s generation,” now their older colleagues and sometime scientific supervisors. While the older generation is more devoted to theory, the younger researchers often turn to empirical research. The number of STS scholars in Poland is growing, embracing this philosophy and methodology in the humanities, social sciences, political science, cultural studies, feminism, along with the study of Anthropocene and climate change, smog problems, contemporary medicine, medical controversies, hacker cultures, and others. Current stage of STS in Poland – the one strongly inspired by ANT – is mainly linked to Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń and Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. This volume is a small representation of the growing community of Polish STS scholars. We hope that it would be just the first in a series of such presentations that go beyond one country.

Krzysztof Abriszewski, Aleksandra Derra and Andrzej W. Nowak

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Andrzej W. Nowak
Translated by Nelly Strehlau

The Disappearance of the Second World and “Suitcase Science”

Abstract: The chapter captures two intertwined problems. The first is the consequence of the transition from describing the world through the prism of the categories of First, Second, and Third World and replacing it with the North-South opposition. The second problem is the question of doing science, and especially science and technology studies, from the semi-peripheral perspective. This is called “suitcase science.” The chapter concludes by pointing out the consequences of geopolitical changes for the location of local technoscientific practice in the semi-peripheral countries (Central and Eastern Europe).


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2022 (August)
anorexia climate change knowledge production social theory socio-scientific controversies theory in science
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2022. 146 pp., 2 fig. b/w.

Biographical notes

Krzysztof Abriszewski (Volume editor) Aleksandra Derra (Volume editor) Andrzej W. Nowak (Volume editor)

Krzysztof Abriszewski is Associate Professor and Chair of the Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology Department at Nicolaus Copernicus University, Toruñ, Poland. His main areas of research concern the Actor-Network Theory, cultural theory and philosophy of human and social sciences. Aleksandra Derra is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Practical Philosophy at Nicolaus Copernicus University, Toruñ, Poland. Her areas of academic interest are philosophy of science, Science and Technology Studies, contemporary feminist theories, and embodiment in cognitive science. Andrzej W. Nowak is Associate Professor of Philosophy of Science and Technology at the Faculty of Philosophy of the Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznañ, Poland. His areas of interest are Science and Technology Studies, sociology of knowledge, and public philosophy and sociology


Title: Polish Science and Technology Studies in the New Millennium