Literature relevant to knowledge practices (starting points)

During my PhD I developed a stronger interest in knowledge practices as something that can be empirically studied and theorised. This page provides some starting points if others would also like to explore this concept or investigate related issues and questions.

Firstly, by ‘knowledge practices’ I don’t simply mean activities involved in conducting research (though these are often part of such practices); the notion seeks to emphasise the real-world activities of actors. For instance, Camic et al (2011) suggest that the concept of knowledge practices refers especially to the day-to-day activities of actors – or the on-the-ground ‘work’ – involved in producing, evaluating, disseminating and/or using knowledge claims (broadly speaking). These practices can be highly formalised (e.g. research practices in a laboratory) or much more informal. To give an example, we might be interested in the practices involved in the production of climate scenarios and how these have evolved or, more specifically, how such scenarios are used to assess the benefits of (or need for) climate policy. We might be interested in the diverse real-world activities through which such scenarios get ‘deployed’ by actors for different purposes. Or we might be interested in how new climate-related data and knowledge claims are responded to by actors.

The examination and theorisation of knowledge practices and related theory and research can benefit from drawing on multiple fields including those listed below. Under each category I note books and articles I’ve found to be especially interesting and/or useful (NOTE: this is a working list that I intend to revise and expand over-time).


Psychology and cognitive sciences

  • Alcock, J.E. (2018), Belief: What It Means to Believe and Why Our Convictions Are So Compelling, Prometheus Books.
  • Mercier, H. & Sperber, D. (2017), The Enigma of Reason, Harvard University Press. (Though this is a book on cognitive mechanisms an interesting chapter applies a theory of reason to scientific practices and critiques the notion and role of “solitary geniuses”). 
  • Sloman, S. & Fernbach, P. (2017), The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone, Riverhead Books.
  • Tavris, C. & Aronson, E. (2015), Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me), Mariner Books.

Sociology of knowledge

    • Beckert, J. (2016), Imagined Futures: Fictional Expectations and Capitalist Dynamics, Harvard University Press. (This is an economic sociology book but some chapters examine economic forecasting practices and the use of related methods)
    • Camic, C., Gross, N. & Lamont, M. (eds) (2011), Social Knowledge in the Making, The University of Chicago Press.
    • Camic, C. & Gross, N. (2008), ‘The New Sociology of Ideas,’ in The Blackwell Companion to Sociology, pp.236-249.
    • Cerulo, K. (2006), Never Saw it Coming: Cultural Challenges to Envisioning the Worst, University of Chicago Press.
  • Fligstein, N., Brundage, J.S. & Schultz, M. (2017), ‘Seeing Like the Fed: Culture, Cognition, and Framing in the Failure to Anticipate the Financial Crisis of 2008’,  American Sociological Review, Vol. 82, Issue 5, pp.879-909.
  • Hulme, M., & Dessai, S. (2008), ‘Negotiating future climates for public policy: a critical assessment of the development of climate scenarios for the UK’, Environmental Science & Policy, Vol. 11, pp.54-70.
  • Hulme, M. (2018), ‘The first climate scenario: a drama in three acts’ (link).
  • Yearley, S. (2014), The Green Case: A Sociology of Environmental Issues, Arguments and Politics, Routledge. (This book considers the relationship between science and green movements, including the question of whether scientific evidence is “an impartial resource for resolving a dispute” [p.115] and for achieving political success).

Political sociology of science and STS

  • Erickson, M. (2016), Science, Culture and Society: Understanding Science in the 21st Century, Polity Press.
  • Hackett, E. J. et al (2007), The Handbook of Science and Technology Studies (Third Edition), The MIT Press.
  • Sismondo, S. (2010), An Introduction to Science and Technology Studies (Second Edition), Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.

Philosophy of Science

  • Godfrey-Smith, P. (2003), Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science, The University of Chicago Press.
  • Misak, C. (2016), Cambridge Pragmatism: From Peirce and James to Ramsey and Wittgenstein, Oxford University Press.
  • Rosenbaunm P.R. (2017), Observation and Experiment: An Introduction to Causal Inference, Harvard University Press.