Helen Verran

Helen Verran
Charles Darwin University | CDU · The Northern Institute

About

66
Publications
34,764
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1,770
Citations
Additional affiliations
August 2014 - present
UiT The Arctic University of Norway
Position
  • Professor II
Description
  • I travel to Tromsø twice each year (Spring and autumn) to teach and run seminars
January 2013 - present
Charles Darwin University
Position
  • University Professorial Fellow
Description
  • I supervise postgrad students and run the Research Higher Degree Network. I am actively involved in project work with Indigenous researchers
January 1988 - present
University of Melbourne
Position
  • Senior Research Associate
Description
  • I taught history and philosophy of science for nearly 25 years, retiring from full time teaching in 2012

Publications

Publications (66)
Chapter
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Growing out of ethnographic participation in the atelier of the Berlin based artist Katja Pudor, this chapter develops the claim that art studio practices embed particular epistemic practices
Article
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Number studies have featured often in past STS scholarship. We offer six papers each of which we see as broaching a novel issue in STS number studies. They attend to a very wide range of sociotechnical situations where numbers and/or algorithms feature. Contributors reflect on the analytic framing they have been using to make their STS number study...
Article
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In this article, we describe teaching through experimental writing workshops designed to introduce students to a way of writing that expresses Indigenous methodologies in recognizing multiple epistemic authorities. We propose an alternative configuration of the “author in the text” who comes to life in analytic texts generated with and through Indi...
Article
Review book Science and an African Logic
Research
Full-text available
Numbers matter in science, technology and in myriad further fields. Relating to the ubiquitous presence of numbers and numbering, STS has been developing and drawing on a range of analytics in generative studies of numbers and numbering (e.g. Lave 1988, Porter 1995, Verran 2001). Among recent innovations in STS analytics of numbers and numbering, f...
Article
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A poster promoting policy change in Australia’s fisheries, which features a list of seven numbers in its effort to persuade, serves as occasion to do ontology. A performativist analytic is mobilized to show the mutual entanglements of politics and epistemics within which these numbers, agential in policy, come to life. Three distinct types of entan...
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In Paulshoek, Namaqualand, three research projects focusing on medicinal plants were developed concurrently. The projects were based in the disciplines of anthropology, botany and chemistry. In this paper, we explore how these projects related to one another and describe the conversations that occurred in the process of searching for transdisciplin...
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In 2013 a perplexity we had been experiencing for some time around the apparently unstoppable proliferation of contexts in which “the public problem” of Indigenous governance emerged came to a head. As members of an informal consultancy team established within the Contemporary Indigenous Knowledge and Governance Group in the policy research institu...
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This short essay is a review of Bruno Latour's An Inquiry into Modes of Existence: An Anthropology of the Moderns (Harvard University Press, 2013) and a commentary on the wider move that accompanies the book.
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This essay is one of three published in response to Casper Bruun Jensen's article “Experiments in Good Faith and Hopefulness: Toward a Postcritical Social Science” (Common Knowledge 20, no. 2 [Spring 2014]: 337 – 62), which concerns the “postcritical” work of Helen Verran, Richard Rottenburg, and Hirokazu Miyazaki. Verran's response clarifies the s...
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Yolŋu Aboriginal understandings of the body, health, life and sickness, and roles their ancestral epistemologies and knowledge practices play in making agreement have seldom been taken seriously in the biomedical world. In this paper, we describe how insights developed in three different cross-cultural collaborative transdisciplinary research proje...
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In this article, the authors relate brief stories of episodes spanning a period of 10 years when they worked with Australian Aboriginal groups and individuals as they incorporated digital technologies into their cultural practices. Their story telling is leavened with a dissonant working imaginary designed to interrupt both itself and the stories....
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Located within classic and more recent works in STS the paper grapples with the question of how to write ethnographic stories that generalize particular spacetime places, and simultaneously generalize about their own modes of existence. Growing as a prolonged, cross-generational, and transcontinental conversation between the two authors the paper d...
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This paper examines the work that measures and values do in policy in the context of an epochal change in the relations between knowledge and policy in Australia. I tell a story of successive attempts to rehabilitate a dying Australian river. The first attempt employs policy as the application of theoretically justified natural knowledge about rive...
Article
With the advent of environmental ‘governance by commission’, associated with evidence-based policy and market mechanisms, there is a need to (re)imagine Australia's nature politics. I identify two distinct domains of nature politics – one associated with distribution of goods produced in nature, and another concerned with constituting nature itself...
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This comment argues that Isabelle Stengers, in her article “Comparison as a Matter of Concern,” is justifiably concerned about the future of science in an imperium of commerce where epistemology has no clout. Agreeing with Stengers that we should focus attention on comparison-as-participant, this comment relates Stengers’s argument to Verranâ...
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This introduction to the Common Knowledge symposium titled “Comparative Relativism” outlines a variety of intellectual contexts where placing the unlikely companion terms comparison and relativism in conjunction offers analytical purchase. If comparison, in the most general sense, involves the investigation of discrete contexts in order to elucidat...
Conference Paper
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The paper begins with a brief outline of the ways science’s relations with its publics have changed over the course of its history. I identify a recent move stressing the importance of research programs engaging with their publics, which has been described as a “new deal” between science and society. We can understand this move as tied up with the...
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Taking number as material and semiotic, this article considers the enumeration of Australia’s water resources as both a form of audit and a form of marketing. It proposes that a scientific enumeration utilizes the relation one/many while an economic enumeration utilizes the relation whole/parts. Working the tension between these two forms of enumer...
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We tell stories of the knowledge work of a contemporary environmental Aboriginal land management organisation, the Dhimurru Land Management Aboriginal Corporation (Dhimurru), taking Yolŋu1 Aboriginal knowledge seriously, understanding it in its own terms, and showing how Aboriginal knowledge can link up with contemporary land and sea management kno...
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In this paper I juxtapose the work of the 2003–2006 Australian Research Council Project ‘Indigenous Knowledge and Resource Management in Northern Australia’ (IKRMNA) and the British imperial expedition of HMS Investigator (1800–1803) to scientifically reconnoitre what would become Australia. The first project explored the use of digital technologie...
Chapter
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In this paper I imagine how a piece of software that is yet to be built might contribute to learning of being in-place by Aboriginal Australian children. Growing out of a project researching how digital technologies might support knowledge management in Aboriginal Australian communities, as yet TAMI exists only as a proof of concept. Imagining TAMI...
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This contribution to the special issue of ASR on Jane Guyer's Marginal Gains (2004) takes up two recent, and radically different, constructivist contributions to the field of economic sociology—those of Phillip Mirowski and Michel Callon. The article makes use of Marginal Gains to interrogate both these analytics, asking if they can meet the challe...
Article
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The paper describes an approach to digital design grounded in processes of Indigenous collective memory making. We claim the research should be understood as performative knowledge making, and accounting it should also be performative. Accordingly we present four texts generated in the course of our research as an exhibit. They attest design proces...
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Indigenous Australians are often keen to use digital technologies in their local knowledge practices as part of a struggle to develop sustainable livlihoods on-country. They want to use digital technologies to ensure that 'history stays in-place', seeing their knowledge practices as expressing the remaking of an Ancestral reality. This paper tells...
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Is it possible to learn and simultaneously articulate the metaphysical basis of that learning? In my contribution to the forum I tell of how I came to recognise that bilingual Yoruba children could articulate the contrasting metaphysical framings of Yoruba and English numbering. The story introduces an arena I call 'ontics' that recognises the cont...
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Nanda’s irresponsible book carelessly prescribes for the U.S a return to Cold‐War science politics; and for India, nothing less than a cultural revolution which would install science as the arbiter. She sees this as smashing the backwards looking metaphysics of Hindu thought. I argue that her iconoclasm carries with it a purist fetishism deriving f...
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I juxtapose a story of Aboriginal landowners demonstrating their firing strategies with a story of environmental scientists elaborating their regimes of burning. The firings are profoundly different, and maintaining those differences is crucial for both Aborigines and scientists. Yet it is also important for both these groups to develop links betwe...
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Does 2 + 2 = 4? Ask almost anyone and they will unequivocally answer yes. A basic equation such as this seems the very definition of certainty, but is it? In this captivating book, Helen Verran addresses precisely that question by looking at how science, mathematics, and logic come to life in Yoruba primary schools. Drawing on her experience as a t...
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I juxtapose a story of Aboriginal landowners demonstrating their firing strategies with a story of environmental scientists elaborating their regimes of burning. The firings are profoundly different, and maintaining those differences is crucial for both Aborigines and scientists. Yet it is also important for both these groups to develop links betwe...
Article
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The meeting of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, held in London on 9th March 1886, passed a motion that the paper, ‘Notes on the Numeral System of the Yoruba Nation’, prepared by Adolphus Mann Esq., be taken as read. The published report of that meeting, which includes the text of Mann’s paper, does not enable us to...
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A mathematics lesson in a school recently moved to new, cyclone-proofed buildings at the top of a hill behind the Yolngu Aboriginal settlement of Yirrkala in the far northeast of Australia’s Northern Territory. The teacher, Mandawuy Yunupingu, a young man in his final year of BA(Ed) studies, is set to become, in 1989, the first Aboriginal school pr...
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A front page report in The Australian newspaper of 10th August 1994 began Cape York pastoralists and Aborigines have jointly called for state and federal governments to legislate … a form of statutory co-existence of title on pastoral leases … A marathon seven-hour meeting in the Queensland town of Coen last week … sought to address the uncertainty...
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Growing from my years as a lecturer in a Nigerian university in the early 1980s, the stories which begin this paper evoke puzzling, small moments in the life of contemporary Nigerian (Yoruba) classrooms, particularly in the teaching of mathematics and science. Conventional wisdom would pass these by as irrational glitches, yet because they challeng...
Article
Growing from my years as a lecturer in a Nigerian university in the early 1980s, the stories which begin this paper evoke puzzling, small moments in the life of contemporary Nigerian (Yoruba) classrooms, particularly in the teaching of mathematics and science. Conventional wisdom would pass these by as irrational glitches, yet because they challeng...
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The abstract for this document is available on CSA Illumina.To view the Abstract, click the Abstract button above the document title.
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Since 1972, the direction of policy concerning development of Aboriginal Australian communities has been towards adoption of the notion of self-determination. This paper presents a case study of how one particular Aboriginal community has combined local knowledge with non-Aboriginal knowledge to develop an alternative mathematics curriculum that wi...
Article
My contention is that `natural number' is a cultural construct, differently formulated in different societies. I argue that the categories adopted by mature language users become evident when one understands that predication leads language users to refer in particular ways and thus determines what kinds of objects their language defines as constitu...
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Working within the framework of a Wittgensteinian view of number, I exp the learning of English speaking and Yoruba speaking children as they work towards mean ful use of number names. I find that English speaking children and Yoruba speaking child appropriate different types of concepts in their development towards number use. The conc differ beca...
Article
Full-text available
This contribution to the special issue of ASR on Jane Guyer's Marginal Gains (2004) takes up two recent, and radically different, constructivist contributions to the field of economic sociology—those of Phillip Mirowski and Michel Callon. The article makes use of Marginal Gains to interrogate both these analytics, asking if they can meet the chal...

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Projects (6)
Project
GroundUp is an approach to research and service delivery which develops tools, methods, understandings and practices appropriate for the people, places and organisations with whom we work. We design and negotiate collaborations within and across in a variety of institutional settings, including traditional Indigenous institutions. We work in urban and remote Aboriginal communities with government and nongovernment organisations to develop research and service delivery approaches suitable to diverse participants. Often this will include processes for careful reassessment of the categories and values assumed by academic researchers and funding bodies from the outset.
Project
Collected essays contributed to blogs