In class today, we talked about Sir Edward Tylor’s progressive development model, as it addresses the issue of science vs. magic, especially where magic is understood as “survivals” based on the principle of “association of ideas” (Tambiah 1990:45). From our discussion in class, I asked everyone to think about this conclusion: “though magic may be a false technical act it is a true social act (i.e., it acts upon the human actors rather than upon nature)” (Tambiah 1990:82). This quote comes from Tambiah’s discussion of Kenneth Burke, who sees magic as “primitive rhetoric.”
As we read ethnographies of scientists and laboratories, think about the issue of scientific methodologies as rhetoric. Here’s an example that may help you understand what I mean by this.