Toward a Feminist Sociology of Expertise

Friday, 20 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Jennifer BRADY, Mount Saint Vincent University, Canada
This paper draws on feminist actor-network theory to advance an emerging theoretical framework, the sociology of expertise. The feminist sociology of expertise developed in this paper will likely be of interest to scholars of the professions and professionalization who are familiar with the frameworks developed in the sociology of professions literature. The sociology of professions has served as the main body of literature in which the stratification of work and elite knowledge, or expertise, has been theorized. However, the sociology of professions largely oversimplifies the implications of expert claims-making because of its narrow focus on the actions of professional groups. The sociology of expertise draws on the tools of actor-network theory (ANT) to illuminate the wider workings and consequences of expert claims-making as a participatory and diffuse phenomenon. However, like much of mainstream ANT, this emerging body of work has not considered how gender, race, and class inequities inform the expert performances that give rise to networks of expertise. Using my empirical work on the history of the home economics and dietetics professions in Canada, I elaborate a feminist sociology of expertise. In this paper, I offer a brief primer on the sociology of expertise and the ANT concepts on which it is built before sharing my thoughts on how this framework may be expanded to engender a feminist sociology of expertise.