Border Practices

in Landscapes and Labscapes

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print November 2002 | ISBN: 9780226450094
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226450117 | DOI:
Border Practices

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Biologists in the lab–field border zone could import practices of counting and measuring, or they could read nature's work as experiment. In either case, biologists remained dependent on the material culture or protocols of laboratory science. However, in the next two decades, practices evolved that were less dependent on laboratory methods and models. These practices were traditional field methods, but intensified and amplified in a lablike way. They possessed the analytical power of laboratory experiment, but they did not imitate experimental logic and were appropriate to field problems and conditions. The practices produced important conceptual advances in evolution and ecology and supported a general abandonment of ideas of equilibrium and orderly development in favor of stochastic views of nature permanently in flux. Border practices somewhat redressed the epistemological asymmetry between lab work and fieldwork, and evolved in the field as intensifications of traditional methods of observing and comparing. Most were invented by field naturalists and perpetuated the traditional aims and methods of natural history by giving it some of the analytical force of laboratory precision and causal analysis.

Keywords: border practices; biologists; laboratory science; field naturalists; evolution

Chapter.  16406 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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