A new release from the Center on Democracy and Organizing, “Epistemological Bias in the Study of Political Behavior in the United States,” marks the second in its series of four white papers advocating for a major shift in the means by which scholars pursue knowledge.
“Politics is the method through which we work together to solve our collective problems; our job is to shed light on how to address those problems,” argues author Dr. Lisa García Bedolla, a Principal Investigator at the Center and Director of the Institute for Governmental Studies at University of California, Berkeley. The white paper discusses deeply rooted biases found within the field of political behavior and academic scholarship more broadly, highlighting contradictions between general assumptions regarding individual behavior and what the historical evidence shows, and sketching a path for future research that changes this paradigm.
Most academic models unreflectively treat white (cisgender male) individuals as the norm and fail to take an intersectional approach, thereby working less effectively for explaining the behaviors and decisions of populations that fall outside this assumed norm. “CDO seeks to make visible the implicit assumptions and norms of research on political behavior that erase the experiences of people of color, women, and other vulnerable populations,” García Bedolla writes. “We seek to reorient scholars toward an engaged scholarship that first recognizes the roots of the problem of epistemological bias.”
“As a center advocating an engaged approach to scholarly work on democracy and organizing, our job is not simply to describe the world as it is, but also to help people imagine the world as it might be. To do that we need to be able to talk about power, about what matters within our democracy in terms of the distribution of influence and research, and conduct research that is relevant to the problems of today and the future.”
García Bedolla and CDO’s co-principal investigators are available for interviews on this subject. Contact Alex DiBranco, firstname.lastname@example.org, to arrange.
Dedicated to challenging the academic status quo by encouraging collaboration between researchers and practitioners, CDO is a new research center at UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies spearheaded by co-Principal Investigators Lisa García Bedolla, Hahrie Han, and Taeku Lee. The center’s mission focuses on improving research on effective organizing to help advance democracy.