Inscriptions: Writing the Social Studies of Science

Posted by Chris Hart - Friday, 16 Jul 2021


Series Spotlight

with Series Editors: Des Fitzgerald and Amy Hinterberger


Over the last decade, the social studies of science, including the study of biomedicine, has become one of the most exciting and cutting-edge areas in the social sciences.  From human geographers working on animal models of human disease; to anthropologists writing about new ways of governing chronic disease in low-income countries; to sociologists charting the rise of new forms of cyborg embodiment – scholars across disciplines are researching at the frontiers of science and biomedicine, and using insights from these areas to innovate the field of science and technology studies.

With Inscriptions: Writing the Social Studies of Science our aim has been to create a series that is a space for writing, recording and inscribing the most exciting current work in sociological and anthropological – and any related – studies of science.


  1. Where did this series originate?

We had been talking (as had many others of course) for some time about the fact that while there were some excellent outlets for books in STS and social studies of biomedicine, the number and visibility was nowhere near commensurate with either the size or urgency of the field; it also struck us that, in terms of those outlets that did exist, they tended towards the North American market, and there were hardly any STS book outlets really explicitly interested finding in putting out texts, including texts by more junior people, in and about other bits of the world; it was actually Tom Dark form MUP who approached us – he had obviously been having similar thoughts from an editorial point of view – but we all quickly agreed   that this was something we wanted to do.

  1. What did you set out to achieve with this series?

Ultimately, we have set out to curate a series of books that we would want to read. This means looking to support books that are exciting, theoretically innovative and empirically rich. We both come from interdisciplinary backgrounds within the social sciences and humanities, and both work in interdisciplinary departments and research centres (with Des at the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health in Exeter, and Amy in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at King’s). To this extent we want our series to reflect the interdisciplinary spirit that we have both come to value and celebrate. This means the series is self-consciously hospitable in terms of its approach to discipline (all areas of social sciences are considered), topic (we are interested in all scientific objects, including biomedical objects) and scale (books will include both fine-grained case studies and broad accounts of scientific cultures).

  1. Why was MUP the right publisher for this series?

We really wanted to do this with a university press, and with a non-profit, for various reason; MUP is constituted as a department of Manchester University, and that just feels right for the series, as opposed to being attached to a tiny cog within some remorselessly profit-making global publishing behemoth (no disrespects to the behemoths).  Also of course there are neighbouring series at MUP (most obviously the social history of medicine) that we have admired for some time, so it just felt like a good fit,

  1. What have been the highlights? What have you most enjoyed about being a series editor for Inscriptions?

Some of the most fun and rewarding part of working on the series is that we can support both emerging and established scholars. To be associated with scholars like Anne Kerr, Choon Key Chekar, Emily Ross, Julia Swallow, Sarah Cunningham-Burley, Adam Hedgecoe and Gill Haddow is genuinely a pleasure and an honour. But also we are now at points in our careers where we both have relative stability, a little autonomy, some headroom – and are both keen to invest at least some of that (temporary!) space in contributing to scholarly infrastructure, in helping to create and hold together new pathways especially for junior, emergent, or established STS scholars to get their books out there.

  1. Have there been any challenges?

We are a relevantly young series, having just started in 2020. In this sense, part of our challenge is getting the word out, not just in the UK, but in Europe and internationally. This has been a big focus for us in terms of intending the series to have not only an international readership, but international authorship. And finding time! Like a lot of pieces of crucial scholarly infrastructure, book series editing is pretty invisible to the modern university, and is one of those things that tends to gets squeezed into stolen hours here and there,

  1. What do you hope for the future of the series?

For the series we hope to keep publishing books people want to read. But the future of the series is no doubt also tied to the future(s) of the social studies of science. To this degree, it’s a pretty interesting time for writing and thinking about the role of science in society, given the very sharp, often rather bizarre, debates that have taken place around the Trump presidency, claims about “expertise” in the Brexit debate in the UK, attacks on scientists and scholars in Hungary, Turkey, Russia and other countries, the global management of the COVID-19 pandemic, and so on.

We were both elated to see Professor Alondra Nelson appointed by President Biden to the position of Deputy Director for Science and Society in the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). As a sociologist and active scholar in the field of Science and Technology Studies, it’s incredibly heartening to see someone like Professor Nelson working at the intersections of science, politics, and social inequality having this appointment. With news like this the future of the social studies of sciences, but also the kinds of books people want to read about science and society, looks at least a little bigger and brighter.

For more information about the Inscriptions book series, please click this link

Inscriptions: writing the social studies of science – Manchester University Press



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