Atmospheres of science: Experiencing scientific mobility

Sarah Davies

This article uses notions of the atmospheric to engage with empirical material concerned with international mobility in science. It draws on recent conceptual work on atmospheres that frames them as allowing access to the affective qualities of everyday life and as ‘productively nebulous’: atmospheres exist between the local and the globally diffuse, the emergent and the staged, the intangible and the brutally present. Using atmospheric thinking, I devise ‘apparatuses of attunement’ to capture elusive aspects of life in science, as discussed in interviews with natural scientists about their experiences of international mobility. In particular I use ideas of the situation, atmospheric threads, and the staging of atmospheres to argue that scientists represent themselves as existing in between the particular and the general: they are never wholly at the mercy of the structures and expectations of globalized science, but are also never not in the grip of them. In closing I reflect on what this analysis reveals about the affective qualities of contemporary science, the forms of life being nurtured by the norms and expectations of research (policy), and the kinds of agency available to (these) scientists. The aim of the article is thus twofold: to demonstrate how concepts of atmospheres can be put to work in STS, and to contribute to research on international mobility in science and contemporary scientific careers.

Institut für Wissenschafts- und Technikforschung
Social Studies of Science
ÖFOS 2012
509017 Wissenschaftsforschung
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