Stretching Situated Knowledge: From Standpoint Epistemology to Cosmology and Back Again

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This article is driven by the belief that there is great potential benefit in carefully considering the implications of ‘situated knowledge’ in IR scholarship. This can be helpful not just for scholars thinking through meta-theoretical puzzles in International Relations (IR), but also for shaping concrete knowledge practices in international political practice today. Yet, there seems to be something of an unresolved puzzle at the heart of the situated knowledge paradigm: a puzzle relating to what the situatedness of knowledge entails and how we should ‘deal with it’. This piece suggests that philosophical and social theoretical, and by extension also IR theoretical, engagements with situated knowledge can benefit from being considered anew: from the point of view of theoretical physicists and cosmologists. While not always reflexive concerning ‘social’ situatedness, the physicists and cosmologists considered here have reflected on aspects of situatedness that have been under-emphasised in standpoint philosophy. Crucially, physics and cosmology framings of situated knowledge can help to show why dealing with situated knowledge should mean more than attentiveness to various knowers and their positionality, and more than reflexive ‘dialogue’ between knowers; it also seems to require ‘stretching beyond’ the horizons of ‘situated knowers’. It is suggested that science is and, perhaps even ‘scientifically aspirant’ IR then should be, about imaginative conceptual ‘stretching’ rather than merely ‘situating’. This stretching should go hand in hand with opportunistic but critical methodological probing, seeking to push us ‘beyond’ how we understand the world from our situated perspectives. The provocations developed here have three main audiences in IR: scholars engaged in meta-theoretical debates in IR, those studying international politics through the situated knowledge approach, and also critical theorists seeking to understand conditions of critique.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)779-797
Number of pages19
JournalMillennium: Journal of International Studies
Issue number3
Early online date27 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - 09 Jun 2015


  • Methods
  • Philosophy of science
  • Situated knowledge


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