An exploration of sociological research that is neither “detached” nor “engaged”; a new approach to sociological knowledge production, with examples from health care.
In this book, Teun Zuiderent-Jerak considers how the direct involvement of social scientists in the practices they study can lead to the production of sociological knowledge. Neither “detached” sociological scholarship nor “engaged” social science, this new approach to sociological research brings together two activities often viewed as belonging to different realms: intervening in practices and furthering scholarly understanding of them.
Just as the natural sciences benefited from broadening their scholarship from theorizing to experiment, so too could the social sciences. Additionally, Zuiderent-Jerak points out, rather than proceeding from a pre-set normative agenda, scholarly intervention allows for the experimental production of normativity. Scholars are far from detached, but still may be surprised by the normative outcomes of the interactions within the experiment.
Zuiderent-Jerak illustrates situated intervention research with a series of examples drawn from health care. Among the topics addressed are patient compliance in hemophilia home care, the organization of oncology care and the value of situated standardization, the relationship between standardization and patient centeredness, the development of patient-centered pathways, value-driven and savings-driven approaches to the construction of health care markets, and multiple ontologies of safety in care for older adults.
Finally, returning to the question of normativity in sociological research, Zuiderent-Jerak proposes an ethics of specificity according to which research adapts its sociological responses to the practices studied. Sociology not only has more to offer to the practices it studies; it also has more to learn from them.
Teun Zuiderent-Jerak is Associate Professor of Transdisciplinary Science & Technology Studies at Athena Institute, VU University, Amsterdam.
This bold and beautiful work explores ways in which social scientists can develop interventions in complex medical situations that honor the specifics of the setting, are normative, and are still of great interest to social theory. The resulting ethics of action are of the widest interest—this is a tour de force that speaks to the fundamental question of the relationship between investigation and intervention.
Geoffrey C. Bowker, Professor and Director, Evoke Laboratory, Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences, University of California, Irvine
It is easy for social scientists to point out recalcitrant problems in health care delivery but what if these scholars were asked to improve the work of health care providers and lives of patients? Situated Intervention does just that. Zuiderent-Jerak expertly translates a theoretically informed science studies approach to make a strong case for research that changes health care and produces new theoretical insights. The result is a new scientific manifesto sensitive to the ethics of intervention
Stefan Timmermans, Professor and Chair, Department of Sociology, University of California, Los Angeles
Through extended and careful ethnography in changing medical practices, Zuiderent-Jerak argues for the value of such engagement as at once a mode of scholarship and of transformative intervention. Undoing the binary of 'basic' and 'applied' knowledge-making helps to open the possibilities for a method assemblage that is at once conceptually and practically generative. This includes refiguring problems as given (including that of intervention itself) in ways that challenge the normativities through which knowledge's relevance and value is assessed.
Lucy Suchman, Professor of Anthropology of Science and Technology, Department of Sociology, Lancaster University, UK