Date: 21 Apr 2011

Habitus, Hierarchien und Methoden: „Feine Unterschiede“ zwischen Physik und Chemie


Research methods and their developers play a crucial role in bringing together scientific fields. Scientists, who wish to have their methods acknowledged and used in another discipline have to bridge the gaps between different practices and worldviews, and they often experience hostility, incredulity, and in general feelings of ‘otherness’, while changing the established practice in a scientific field. Researchers representing newly emerging fields such as materials science have to overcome obstacles that are caused more by feelings of threat and fear than by arguments rooted in epistemic or social considerations. In using the habitus concept of Pierre Bourdieu, I analyze in this article statements and observations of the scientists who in the 1950s and 1960s have introduced physical methods into chemistry and in so doing merged characteristic features of research communities into a new unit. The habitus of physicists, chemists and method-oriented researchers are shaped by hierarchical relationships inside the disciplines, and between them. Studying emotional expressions in interviews and self-descriptions gives access to hitherto neglected parts of the historical processes leading to new disciplines and fields. The brief case studies presented are seen as exemplars, and the analysis offered is intended more to provide a possible model for further research than as giving conclusive answers.