Helen Verran: Connecting the World’s Two ‘Northerns’

 Lectures by Professor Helen Verran

Lectures for Social Scientists in Northern Australia and Northern Norway

Helen Verran

Professor Helen Verran of the Northern Institute has been invited to deliver two lectures to students enrolled in Saami studies and peace studies at the Norwegian Arctic University, in Tromsø, Northern Norway.  She will be delivering the lectures from Casuarina campus, CDU, and CDU staff, students and the public are invited to attend. Preparatory readings will be provided for those who attend.  Alice Springs staff and students can attend by videoconference.  

Bio: Helen Verran’s scholarly life began in the natural sciences. She wrote Science and an African Logic (Univ of Chicago Press, 2001) after wrestling with philosophical questions around science and numbers when working in teacher education in Nigeria. Between late 1980s and 2012 she taught the History and Philosophy of Science at University of Melbourne. During that time, her research focus involved working with Yolngu Aboriginal Australians in Arnhem Land as they endeavoured to engage with science and scientists. She is currently working at the Northern Institute, interested in policy and politics in the areas of environmentalism and indigeneity. Her approach to analysis in these areas can be understood as a form of empirical philosophy.


Lecture 1: An Introduction to Philosophy of Social Science

Casuarina campus, LEBA Theatre, Blue 5.1.01, Tuesday 10th Feb, 3pm.

Focussing on two key areas: a) The idea that ‘research’ is the doing of knowledge  (or epistemic) practices; 
b) the idea that social sciences knowledge practices have particular characteristics, and a beginning consideration of what these are.

Helen will go on to consider the idea that there are many knowledge traditions which have variously distinct knowledge practices.  In this lecture she will revisit some of the work she has done in the past with members of the Yoruba speaking community in West Africa in learning to ‘see’ Yoruba knowledge practices, and to think about how social sciences epistemic practices might mesh with these.

First Reading: Chapter 1, Helen Verran: Science and an African Logic, University of Chicago Press: 2001.

Lecture 2: ‘Meeting’ other Knowledge Traditions

Casuarina campus, LEBA Theatre, Blue 5.1.01, Tuesday 17th Feb, 3pm.

In doing their social science research, students will meet others doing their knowing and knowledge practices in going-on in what are in fact, ‘their’ places.  These autochthonous knowledge practices will differ from social sciences knowledge practices to various extents. Helen will tell a couple of stories about experiences of such meetings, and describe how, in working as social scientists (sometimes in the guise of peace analysts) in their various situations (northern Australian communities, in northern Scandinavian communities, and other places), they are always involved in some form of epistemic translation.

Second Reading: Helen Watson Verran, the Yolngu Community at Yirrkala and David Wade Chambers (2008), Singing the Land, Signing the Land, Originally published Deakin University Press, 1989. 


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