Localization of Global Scientific Knowledge – or: How Global Theories Became Local Buzzwords

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 08:30
Oral Presentation
Philipp ALTMANN, Universidad Central del Ecuador, Quito, Pichincha, Ecuador
The production of scientific knowledge is organized around a series of transnationally relevant theories. Neglect or ignorance of those theories generally leads to a rejection of the correspondent studies by fellow scientists. The production of transnationally relevant theories happens mainly in the Global North and is influenced heavily by the institutional frameworks and the academic culture there. The process of transnationalization of a given theory is therefore an act of globalization of one specific locality – the theory on power by Max Weber carries in it German values and ideals of the early 20th century. Transnationalized theories are not simply accepted in other countries, but go through a process of localization by the agents and institutions there. They are translated into the local culture and the local academic sphere. The values in Weber’s theory are connected to local values and by this, the theory as such is resignified.

This presentation will study the process of localization of transnational theories in social sciences in the Ecuadorian university. Social sciences in Ecuador have a history as academic discipline since the 1960s and are marked by several breaks considering the use of theory. The argument here will be that the localization of transnational theories happens in part in the form of buzzword-like categories, such as “North American sociology” or “positivism” and in part via subsummation under already existing theories and non-theoretic values. The result was -at least for a certain time- a contradictory and rebellious re-creation of theory that is the base for nowadays theory-building in Ecuador.