Neo-tribalism, epistemic cultures, and the emotions of scientific knowledge construction
Emotion, Space and Society , Volume 7 - Issue 1 p. 54- 61
Maffesoli's (1996) metaphor of the neo-tribe is useful for analyzing the emotions and spatial dynamics of group life. However, the idea of neo-tribes is not explicitly designed for making sense of the work of scientists in laboratories. To supplement Maffesoli and further understand the group dynamics of scientific knowledge construction, we draw from Knorr-Cetina's (1999) concept of epistemic cultures to highlight the ritualistic character of lab science. By showing how Maffesoli and Knorr-Cetina can supplement one another, we create an encounter between the sociology of emotions and the sociology of science to demonstrate the centrality of emotions in laboratory life. In-depth interviews and on-site laboratory observations with physicists, earth scientists, biologists and chemists form the empirical basis of this study. Commenting on the ritualistic nature of scientific lab work, as well as the emotional experiences of scientists, we analyze the role of emotions in scientists' work. We introduce the concept of value-proxemic emotions to account for the role of specific emotions in binding members to the group. We also examine the emotional experience of the creation and maintenance of group and lab boundaries, which we conceptualize as inter- and intra- tribal cooperation and conflict. Our analysis suggests that emotions are a crucial component of knowledge construction and group life in laboratory work.