93. Reclaiming Expertise for the Future

Amrita Kurian, University of Pennsylvania;

The flailing response of experts around the world to a string of disparate challenges, including the 2008 financial crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the unfolding climate emergency, has drawn attention to what in many quarters is being referred to as a global crisis of expertise. In responding to these and other emerging threats, expertise is today more critical than ever. There is less consensus on how to go about it. We cannot ignore relevant criticisms about experts' proximity to power and authority and the violence it has perpetuated in many places. And yet, to abandon expertise altogether is to give in to the populist politics of charismatic leaders that aim to exploit the resentment against experts to perpetuate the anti-democratic politics and neo-liberalization riding on the coattails of right-wing populism. Sociologist Gil Eyal has called this conundrum the 'pushmi-pullyu effect,' a fallout of our historical overreliance on science and technology to resolve questions of a social nature (2019). The problem with expertise is that it has worked anti-democratically within the realm of politics without developing a broader consensus on 'what ought to be done' (Shapin 2007; 2019). This panel taps into such critiques to reclaim expertise. It attempts to understand what expertise is, how it operates today, and to humanize the affective dissonance faced by the experts who are ensconced within neoliberalizing institutions. The goal is to rethink what expertise is and can be toward rebuilding it as an ally working for our collective futures

Contact: aakurian@sas.upenn.edu

Keywords: Forms and Practices of Expertise

Published: 04/07/2023