Priestess or Ruler? Gendered Assumptions in Science

A great conversation from 2012 has caught my eye, which raises questions about the sociology of science. Jeff Baker questioned whether the artefacts found at an archaeological site in Peru led the researchers to conclude that the woman was a priestess rather than a ruler.

In the comments thread, Jeff writes that archaeologists tend to assume that ancient cultures separated religion from governance. Interestingly, he also notes that these assumptions are gendered:

“I’m wondering if a similar argument may be going on in South America. And, with the burial being a woman, there is the sexual biases that woman weren’t rulers, even though there are ample examples throughout the world of woman who assumed the throne, or held equal power with their spouses.”

This makes me think about the work of Dorothy Smith, who analysed the idea of the “disembodied knower.” That is, she looked at how scientific disciplines and institutions, including the law, medicine, history and even Marxism, produce knowledge without critical reflection about the cultural and gendered assumptions underlying their practices.

Read Smith’s work here.

First published on Science on Google+.