The Dialectics of Engagement: Some Critical Remarks on Contemporary Participatory Research Program in STS

Kulyash Zhumadilova
Pages 1-12| Published online: 05 Nov 2023

Zhumadilova, Kulyash. 2023. “The Dialectics of Engagement: Some Critical Remarks on Contemporary Participatory Research Program in STS.” Marxism & Sciences 2(2): 1–12.


This paper will offer a Marxist critique of a recent turn in participatory research within STS tradition. Although in this work, I will focus on examples from the STS community, it is worth mentioning that such a vision of engagement is prevalent in social sciences. STS scholars have been involved in various theoretical and practical attempts which challenge the traditional boundary between academia and the rest of society since the field’s inception in the second part of the twentieth century. At first, such practices were informal, but soon became a scholarly topic on their own and gave rise to various participatory, action-based methodologies. Some of them involve activism and search for alternatives, while others call for reflexivity or increased ethical deliberations. Theory and political commitments of these approaches differ greatly. For example, the theory behind contemporary interventions is intentionally apolitical and focuses on processes and accounts of action rather than a certain goal. In this paper I will look closely at the origin of the participatory research program in the North American context and will analyze from a Marxist perspective its recent move towards rejecting normativity and objectivism. I will highlight friction points and possible additions of new methodologies to Marxist scholarship.

KEYWORDS: History of STS, science studies, Marxism, Situated Interventions, Engagement, Participatory research, Engaged STS, dialectics, emancipatory approach.


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