Sandra G. Harding
|Born||March 29, 1935|
|School||Feminist philosophy, post-colonialism|
|Epistemology, philosophy of science, standpoint theory|
|Strong objectivity, feminist epistemology|
Sandra G. Harding (born 1935) is an American philosopher of feminist and postcolonial theory, epistemology, research methodology, and philosophy of science. She directed the UCLA Center for the Study of Women from 1996 to 2000, and co-edited Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society from 2000 to 2005. She is currently a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Education and Gender Studies at UCLA and a Distinguished Affiliate Professor of Philosophy at Michigan State University. In 2013 she was awarded the John Desmond Bernal Prize by the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S). (Earlier recipients of this prize include Robert Merton, Thomas S. Kuhn, Mary Douglas, and Joseph Needham.)
She has developed the research standard of "strong objectivity," and contributed to the articulation of standpoint methodology. This kind of research process starts off from questions that arise in the daily lives of people in oppressed groups. To answer such questions, it "studies up", examining the principles, practices and cultures of dominant institutions, from the design and management of which oppressed groups have been excluded. She has also contributed to the development of feminist, anti-racist, multicultural, and postcolonial studies of the natural and social sciences, asking the extent to which paradigms like feminist empiricism are useful for promoting to goals of feminist inquiry. She is the author or editor of many books and essays on these topics, and was one of the founders of the field of feminist epistemology. This work has been influential in the social sciences and in women/gender studies across the disciplines. It has helped to create new kinds of discussions about how best to relink scientific research to pro-democratic goals.
In her 1986 book The Science Question in Feminism, Harding questioned why—based on the pervasiveness of rape and torture metaphors for the scientific method in the writings of Francis Bacon and others—Newton's laws could not be referred to as "Newton's rape manual" rather than "Newtonian mechanics". Harding later said she regretted the statement. This statement, among others, have caused Harding's work to be controversial within scholarly circles. During the "Science Wars", a debate regarding the value-neutrality of the sciences, of the 1990s, her work became a main target of criticisms of feminist and sociological approaches.
She was criticized by mathematicians Michael Sullivan, Mary Gray, and Lenore Blum, and by the historian of science Ann Hibner Koblitz. Her essay on "Science is 'Good to Think With'" was the lead article in the issue of the journal Social Text that also included the Sokal Hoax, which focused on her work among others. Her work was also a main target of Paul Gross and Norman Levitt's Higher Superstition.
Sandra Harding received her undergraduate degree from Douglass College of Rutgers University in 1956. After 12 years working as legal researcher, editor, and fifth-grade math teacher in New York City and Poughkeepsie, N.Y., she returned to graduate school and earned a doctorate from the Department of Philosophy at New York University in 1973.
Her first university teaching job was at The Allen Center of the State University of New York at Albany, an experimental critical social sciences college which was "defunded" by the state of New York in 1976. She then joined the Department of Philosophy at the University of Delaware, with a joint appointment to the Women's Studies Program. She was promoted to Associate Professor in 1979, and to full Professor in 1986. From 1981 until she left Delaware in 1996, she held a Joint Appointment to the Department of Sociology. She was Director of the Women's Studies Program at Delaware 1985-91 and 1992–93.
From 1994 to 1996 she was Adjunct Professor of Philosophy and Women's Studies at UCLA on a half-time basis. In 1996 she was appointed Director of the UCLA Center for the Study of Women, which is a research institute. She held that position until 2000. Meanwhile, since 1996 she has been a Professor in the Graduate Department of Education and the Department of Gender Studies at UCLA. In 2012 she was appointed Distinguished Professor of Education and Gender Studies. From 2000 to 2005 she also was co-editor of Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society.
She has held Visiting Professor appointments at the University of Amsterdam (1987), University of Costa Rica (1990), the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH) (1987), and the Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok (1994). In 2011 she was appointed a Distinguished Affiliate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Michigan State University, East Lansing.
She has been a consultant to several United Nations organizations including the U.N. Commission on Science and Technology for Development, the Pan American Health Organization, UNESCO, and the U.N. Development Fund for Women. She was invited to co-edit a chapter of UNESCO's World Science Report 1996 on "The Gender Dimension of Science and Technology:" This 56 page account was the first such attempt to bring gender issues in science and technology to such a global-scale and prestigious context. She was invited to contribute a chapter to UNESCO's World Social Science Report 2010 on "Standpoint Methodologies and Epistemologies: a Logic of Scientific Inquiry for People."
She has served on the editorial boards of numerous journals in the fields of philosophy, women's studies, science studies, social research methodology, and African philosophy. Phi Beta Kappa selected her as a national lecturer in 2007. She has lectured at more than 300 colleges, universities, and conferences in North America as well as in Central America, Europe, Africa and Asia. Her books, essays and book chapters have been translated into dozens of languages and reprinted in hundreds of anthologies.