The sociologist inside the whale... Observer/Observed...Object/Subject

Smith, Dorothy. (1987). The Everyday World as Problematic: a Feminist Methodology

The sociologist inside the whale

Dorothy Smith uses the metaphor of a sociologist as astronomer, both of and inside the cosmos. The sociological inquirer finds herself like Jonah, inside the whale. She is a member of the same world she explores. (Smith 1987:142)

"She is one among the multiplicity of subjects she seeks to understand. Her opportunities, her curiosities, as well as her limitations derive from this necessary standpoint. To discover and explicate its actual character and relations depend upon recognising that she is indeed located, that her seeing is mediated (by texts for example), that her work is located in definite social relations, that she is always and ineluctably an insider". The standpoint of women is not constrained by a "discourse organized for the theoretical subject tucking his own life out of sight, but for subjects situated outside discourse in the actualities of their everday worlds..." (Smith 1987:142)

In this print by Inuit artist Jessie Oonark the tail of the fish becomes the ulu, the woman's knife used to prepare fish. The woman, perhaps an angaqoq, although inside the giant fish appears to be riding the fish rather than swallowed like Jonah. Oonark has done numerous images on the theme of the fish-woman whose appendages transform. Compare this to Oonark's print of the fish whose tail looks like the head of a woman surrounded by an amaut, the hood of the woman's parka.

Traditional Ecological Knowledge

Flying Figures

Metaphorically in western science nature has also been visualized as female while science is male. The relationship between science and nature has been one of control and domination. Francis Bacon claimed that science should "lead[...] to you Nature with all her children to bind her to your service and make her your slave..." "...to conquer and subdue her, to shake her to her foundations."

Evelyn Fox Keller wrote that the need to dominate is a cultural construct of masculinity. (Keller 1982, 19??:35) Through our conscious selves we have choices to control or not, to dominate or not. We can have selfhood without the need to dominate. Knowledge construction, particularly scientific knowledge construction has been used as a means of domination. Knowledge as power becomes an expression of aggressivity that fuels a need for control. She used a sexual metaphor in which union (with nature) can provide eros/ectasy while domination of nature provides aggressive ectasy. (Keller 1982, 19??:36)





HOME | ANIMAL RIGHTS | ARTISTS | BIBLIOGRAPHY | CALENDAR INUIT | CHRONOLOGY | CITATIONS | GLOSSARY | WHY HYPERTEXT? | INDEX | INTRODUCTION | MAPS | OONARK | SMITH AND THE WHALE | THUMBNAILS | RISKS | VIEWPOINT | WEBLIOGRAPHY | WHO'S WHO? | AUTHOR | CONTACT




Maureen Flynn-Burhoe 2000. Last updated web design (not content) February 2002.
Contact for comments, corrections and copyright.