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Caring for Weak Ties: The Natural History Museum as a Place of Encounter Between Amateur and Professionnal Science

Abstract : This article is concerned with a community of practitioners that does not hold together well: amateur scientists. It examines the interrelationships between amateurs and professionals in a museum of natural history and focuses, in particular, upon two 'community-making devices' through which they meet: an annual conference and a journal. I consider these devices as a place of encounter, or 'boundary encounter', between amateurs and professionals. These encounters provide for a combination of several practices - practices of naming, assuring linguistic heterogeneity and thematic flexibility, exchanging knowledge and symbolic gifts - that enables the museum to keep the heterogeneous group of the amateurs somehow together. Since the connections between amateurs and professionals are not permanent, nor strong, but rather partial and fragile, they have therefore to be nurtured and cultivated with care. In fact, the museum and its professionals cannot continue to control - to use technical and 'cold' devices to discipline subjects - but have to care by fostering a 'warm' world of people. As I will show then, beyond their role as a place that brings together an epistemic collective, the encounters described in this paper also function as devices that nurture weak ties.
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https://hal-mines-paristech.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-00490486
Contributor : Catherine Lucas <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, June 8, 2010 - 5:26:25 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, January 6, 2021 - 7:42:03 PM

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Morgan Meyer. Caring for Weak Ties: The Natural History Museum as a Place of Encounter Between Amateur and Professionnal Science. Sociological Research Online, SAGE Publications, 2010, 15 (2), 20 p. ⟨10.153/sro.2149⟩. ⟨hal-00490486⟩

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