(how) does the sociological speak to/with/from the earth?

How, why, when and where might the sociological speak to or with the earth, the biological or the ‘environment’? This is the question that’s enlivened me through this last morning of the conference.

Questions around the uses and abuses of science were sparked off at the Fireside Chat this morning, discussing the work of Ros Edwards, Val Gillies and Nicola Horsley. The authors spoke so evocatively of the ‘new speak’ of good parenting and the uses and abuses of the ‘biosocial’ in legitimating neoliberal parenting ideologies: Training for “good” parenting “skills” of making eye contact, stimulating synapses and developing learning strategies will produce good little bundles of social capital, fit and productive contributors to the nation and economy. Bringing to light the role of “biosocial” discourse in disciplining, demonizing and individualising parents – and mothers in particular – is vital. But does the sociological have a role beyond defending the social?

I didn’t raise my hand fast enough to ask the question I had rehearsed on paper: Given the racist, neoliberal and misogynistic uses of biology – do we (who think sociologically) have a responsibility not to ‘leave biology to the biologists’ – to paraphrase Elizabeth Wilson?

To me, this morning’s speakers – including Jenny Reardon – invite us not to dismiss the biosocial, the quantitative, geology, biology and environmental sciences outright – but to critically engage and redefine.

What might biology, neuroscience or environmental sciences do and look like if they drew on the critical, feminist matters of care of de la Bellacasa or the scientia of Sylvia Wynter? What would the sociological look like if it spoke to and with radically redefined science?

These are questions that I’ll carry from the conference back into my work – teaching, defending and perhaps re-defining ‘the social and cultural’ within a School of Applied Sciences.

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