Alison Wylie

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Alison Wylie
Professor, Departments of Philosophy and Anthropology, University of Washington

Alison Wylie received her Ph.D. from SUNY -Binghamton(Program in History and Philosophy of the Social and Behavioral Sciences) and holds an M.A. in Anthropology.

“My new project, tentatively entitled, Standpoint Matters: Feminist Philosophy of Science, explores feminist standpoint theory. In this work I analyze how gendered social locations function, not only as epistemic liabilities, but also as resources in systematic empirical inquiry. I argue that feminist standpoint theorists need not embrace gender essentialism nor attribute automatic epistemic privilege to those who are typically discounted as knowers (as socially and epistemically marginal). Entrenched systems of social differentiation (including gendered systems) make a pragmatic difference to what epistemic agents can know, and a critical (feminist) standpoint on these differences may significantly improve the specificity, the reach, and the integrity of our best knowledge. I propose to rearticulate conventional ideals of objectivity and to explain how it is that an explicitly political, engaged standpoint can enhance objectivity. In this work, I focus on the details of research practice in three rich and provocative examples of feminist social science: the development of "chilly climate" research on the workplace environment; the formation of an archaeology of gender in anthropological archaeology; and the much disputed "feminization" of primatology.

My interest in standpoint theory grows out of a longstanding concern, as a philosopher of social science, with the role of values in science, ideals of objectivity, and evidential reasoning. In the past I have focused on these issues as they arise in archaeological practice and as raised by feminist critics of science. The essays included in Thinking from Things (2002) present an historically situated analysis of evidential reasoning in archaeology that takes into account the central and ineliminable role of contextual values in the research process. By extension of this epistemic analysis, I also publish on ethics issues in archaeology; "The Promise and Perils of an Ethic of Stewardship" is forthcoming in Beyond Ethics: Anthropological Moralities on the Boundaries of the Public and the Professional, and I am a contributing co-editor of Ethics Issues in Archaeology (1995/2000). My interest in questions about the implications of feminist research for ideals of objectivity and conceptions of scientific practiceÐthe issues central to my current projectÐis reflected in contributions to collections such as Science and Other Cultures (2003), The Cambridge Companion to Feminism in Philosophy (2000), Primate Encounters (2000), Changing Methods: Feminists Transforming Practice (1995), and Women and Reason (1992). I also have a deep interest in equity issues for women in academia, as co-organizer of a recent conference on "Women, Work and the Academy" sponsored by the Barnard Center for Research on Women ( and as a contributing editor to Breaking Anonymity: The Chilly Climate for Women Faculty (1995) and to Equity Issues for Women in Archaeology (1994)."

Alison Wylie was a research fellow at the Clayman Institute during the 2005-06 academic year.