Producing Anti-Political Scientists? An exploration of environmental science pedagogies at Utrecht University in the Anthropocene
Mac Donnchadha, A.L.
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Drawing on Foucauldian theories of governmentality and subjectivisation, previous applications of these concepts to the governance of nature, and ethnographies of science, this thesis examines the formation of certain types of scientists in the Anthropocene. Based on interviews and participant observation conducted among students studying environmental sciences at Utrecht University, I argue that teachers and course materials seek to shape students into anti-political scientists-in-the-making who reproduce renderings of the Anthropocene as a technical issue, rather than a political and ethical crisis. On the individual level, this is done by teaching students how to conduct themselves appropriately as either disengaged theorists or pragmatic solution-finders, depending on the programme they follow. However, subjects are also formed through the dissemination of certain discourses, which construct a regime of truth that presents science as the most authoritative method of knowing and governing nature and society. However, some students challenge these discourses: they engage with the responsibility of becoming a scientist in the Anthropocene, they oppose the commodification of nature, and they problematise their programmes’ marginalisation of alternative forms of knowledge production about nature. I argue that the construction and circulation of these counter-discourses are attempts to re-politicise the Anthropocene and Anthropocenic subjects.