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Journal Article

The Sokal Affair in Context

Stephen Hilgartner
Science, Technology, & Human Values
Vol. 22, No. 4 (Autumn, 1997), pp. 506-522
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
https://www.jstor.org/stable/689833
Page Count: 17
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The Sokal Affair in Context
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Abstract

The failure to consider the Sokal affair in light of other, related episodes has contributed to a wholesale misreading of its significance. The episode has often been offered as evidence for the bankruptcy of a broad and diverse collection of fields, variously referred to as cultural studies of science, sociology of science, history of science, and science and technology studies. However, when viewed in context, the Sokal affair illustrates precisely why social scientific and humanistic studies of science are necessary. To develop this argument, the author explicitly compares Alan Sokal's experiment with a similar experiment, performed by William M. Epstein and published in this very journal. Comparing the research questions, methods, ethics, and reception of these two experiments not only reveals the limitations of Sokal's critique but also shows that Sokal has unwittingly endorsed one of the central lines of research in science and technology studies.