Areas of specialization: philosophy of the social and historical sciences; feminist philosophy of science; history and philosophy of archaeology; research ethics; science and technology studies.

Publication abstracts and preprints: available via Sync or through PhilPapers.

As a philosopher of the social and historical sciences I’m committed to philosophical analysis that is grounded in an understanding of research practice in the fields I study, informed by the social/contextual histories of these sciences, and normative in orientation. I’m particularly interested in epistemic issues raised by archaeological practice and by feminist research in the social sciences, and in issues of accountability to those affected by social and historical research. These three areas overlap with and inform one another, reinforcing my appreciation of the need for philosophical analysis of research practice that transgresses traditional boundaries between epistemology and value theory, and between philosophical, historical and social/cultural science studies.

Where the epistemic issues raised by archaeology are concerned, I work on questions about evidential reasoning that come into sharp focus when you consider the challenges faced by historical scientists who work with enigmatic trace evidence. The central question here is: How do historical scientists establish credible claims about the past? Focusing on archaeology I have developed models of evidential reasoning that emphasize strategies of triangulation and the role of background knowledge in an iterative process of stabilizing empirical claims about facts of the record and facts of the past. My most recent work in this area is an article on “Radiocarbon Dating: Triangulation and Traceability” (2020) which builds on my collaboration with Bob Chapman, a UK-based archaeologist with whom I co-edited, Material Evidence: Learning From Archaeological Practice (Routledge 2015), and a co-authored, Evidential Reasoning in Archaeology (Bloomsbury 2016). My earlier work along these lines is best represented by the essays that appear in Thinking From Things: Essays in the Philosophy of Archaeology (University of California Press, 2002), and by “Critical Distance,” a contribution to Evidence, Inference and Enquiry (edited by Dawid, Twining, Vasilaki, 2011). An aspect of evidential reasoning in archaeology that particularly interests me is how archaeologists put ‘legacy’ data to work addressing new questions. This the focus of chapters I have contributed to Agnotology (edited by Proctor and Schiebinger, 2008) and How Well do ‘Facts’ Travel? (edited by Howlett and Morgan, 2010), and of an article entitled, “How Archaeological Evidence Bites Back” that appeared in a special issue of Values in Science and Technology on “Data Shadows” (2017).

The second cluster of issues I work on is animated by the question: What are the implications for norms of justification and objectivity of contextualist challenges to the ideal of ‘value free’ science? I join a growing contingent of philosophers of science who recognize that situated interests and non-epistemic values play a role in all aspects of scientific practice but I argue that this does not entail corrosive relativism; contextual factors are not only or necessarily a source of compromising bias. Pluralists of various stripes, feminist and critical race scholars, and the advocates of community-based collaborative research make a compelling case that situated knowledge and, indeed, explicitly partisan interests, can play an epistemically productive role in scientific inquiry. The challenge, then, is to articulate norms of research practice that specify when and how contextual factors contribute to epistemic goals. I find feminist standpoint theory to be a valuable resource for meeting this challenge and set out a framework for standpoint-informed analysis in my 2012 APA (Pacific Division) Presidential address, “Why Standpoint Matters,” and in an earlier paper that appeared in Science and Other Cultures, (edited by Harding and Figuero, 2003). I am developing this account into a monograph, Standpoint Matters, anchored in analysis of several case studies that I have explored in articles on, for example, the formation and impact of feminist archaeology (in Doing Archaeology as a Feminist, co-edited with Conkey, 2007; my 2016 Katz Lecture), the feminist method debate (in The Handbook of Feminist Research, edited by Hesse-Biber, 2006), the articulation of a feminist standpoint in ‘chilly climate’ activism (in Feminist Epistemology and Philosophy of Science, edited by Grasswick, 2011), and in articles comparing feminist research programs in the social and life sciences that appear in Primate Encounters (edited by Strum and Fedigan, 2000), and in Value-Free Science? (co-edited with Kincaid and Dupré, OUP 2007). I am currently working with a group of UBC graduate students on a workshop and podcast series, “Standpoint Theory: Formation, Contestation, Legacies,” and I anticipate completing a book manuscript, Standpoint Matters, in the next year.

In connection with my third area of interest – research ethics – I am developing models of accountable, reciprocal, and collaborative research practice that integrate epistemic analysis with value theory. I first engaged these issues as co-chair of a committee on “Ethics for Archaeology” convened by the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) in the early 1990s. The outcome was a set of ethics principles for archaeological practice that was adopted by the SAA in 1996. I assess the ideal of responsible stewardship that is central to these principles in “The Promise and Perils of an Ethic of Stewardship,” a contribution to Embedding Ethics (edited by Meskell and Pells, 2005), and I have published a number of other papers on research ethics issues in archaeology.

My primary interest in the last decade has been issues of accountability to descendant communities. This work is represented by two articles co-authored with George Nicholas on the ethics and politics of cultural appropriation: “Archaeological Finds” (in The Ethics of Cultural Appropriation edited by Young and Brunk, 2009), and “Do Not Do Unto Others” (in Appropriating the Past edited by Scarre and Coningham, 2012). It is also the focus of an analysis of the epistemic rationale for collaborative practice developed in “Community-Based Collaborative Archaeology,” in Philosophy of Social Science, (edited by Cartwright and Montuschi, 2014), and “A Plurality of Pluralisms,” in Objectivity in Science (edited by Padovani, Richardson and Tsou, 2015). Since I moved to UBC in 2017 I have been actively involved with a network of colleagues who are engaged in collaborative partnerships with regional Indigenous communities, the Indigenous/Science research cluster. I currently co-lead the “reflection node” of a SSHRC Partnership Development Grant, “Materializing Indigenous Histories.” Publications related to this work include an appraisal of critiques of collaborative practice, “Crossing a Threshold: Collaborative Archaeology in Global Dialogue” (Archaeologies 2019), “Bearing Witness: What Can Archaeology Contribute in an Indian Residential School Context” with Eric Simons and Andrew Martindale (Working With and For Ancestors 2021), and “Humanizing Science and Philosophy of Science: George Sarton, Contextualist Philosophies of Science, and the Indigenous/Science Project” (2022). My PSA Presidential Address, “Philosophy of the Field, In the Field” (2023, in press) sets out the rationale for this work which I see as the primary focus of my research going forward.

  • “The Epistemic Relevance of Diversity: Standpoint Theory and the Achievement Thesis”: keynote address at the Institutional Epistemology Workshop, University of Helsinki (June 2023).
  • “Philosophy of the Field, In the Field”: Past-President’s Address, Philosophy of Science Association (Pittsburgh, November 2022).
  • “Critical Genealogies: Collaborative Archaeology in Settler-colonial Contexts”: 2022 Alberto Coffa Distinguished Lecture, History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine, Indiana University (October 2022).
  • “Bearing Witness: Collaborative Archaeology in a Settler Colonial Context”: 33rd McDonald Annual Lecture, McDonald Institute of Archaeology, Cambridge University (May 2022).
    Video Link
  • “Scientific Work with Communities”: online workshop on “Public Engagement with Science,” Center for Public Engagement with Science, University of Cincinnati (April-May 2021)
         PEWS Program
  • “Collaborative Practice as Witnessing”: 2020 George Sarton Memorial Lecture in the History and Philosophy of Science: American Association for the Advancement of Science: (Seattle, February 2020).
         Introduction and Powerpoint Slides
  • “Bearing Witness – Decolonization”: presentation in an online seminar series, What Is Epistemic Decolonization?, hosted by the London School of Economics (February 2021).
        Epistemic Decolonization podcast
  • “Witnessing and Translating: The Indigenous/Science Project”: Department of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin-Madison (April 23, 2021); UCLA Costen Institute of Archaeology (December 2019); 2019 Saunders Lecture (Australasian Association of Philosophy, July 2019), Konstanz Workshop on Archaeology and Community Values keynote (October 2018), Society for Philosophy of Science in Practice plenary (June 2018), VMTS Keynote (May 2018). Saunders Lecture radio podcast
         ABC radio broadcast: 2019 Saunders Lecture
  • “Radiocarbon Dating and Robustness Reasoning in Archaeology”: Australasian Association of Philosophy keynote (July 2019); also presented as the Annual UO Philosophy of Science Lecture (University of Ohio, February 2019), “Varieties of Data Journeys” (Exeter, November 2017), and “Data in Time,” Philosophy of Science Association biennial meeting (Atlanta, November 2016).
  • “The Philosophy Exception: The Costs of Exclusion / An (Im)perfect Storm”: conference keynote address, Excellence and Gender Equality: Critical Perspectives on Gender and Knowledge in the Humanities and Social Sciences (Australian National University, June 2019).
  • “Bruce Ferguson and Indigenous Philosophy”: Canadian Philosophy Association, Congress (May 2019).
  • “Histories of Science in and for Practice: Turning Points in Archaeology”: Forum for History of the Human Sciences Distinguished Lecture, History of Science Society (November 2018).
  • “From the Ground Up: Philosophy and Archaeology”: 2017 Dewey Lecture, American Philosophical Association, Pacific Division annual meeting (April 2017); 2017 Yeager Lecture (Archaeology, University of Washington, May 2017).
         Dewey Lecture: powerpoint slides
  • “What Knowers Know Well: Why Feminism Matters to Archaeology and Philosophy,” Katz Distinguished Lecture, University of Washington (May 2016); also presented as a Royal Institute of Philosophy Lecture, University of Nottingham (October 2017), and the 2015 New Enlightenment Lecture, University of Edinburgh (December 2015).
           Katz Lecture video
  • “How Archaeological Evidence Bites Back: Putting Old Data to Work in New Ways”: Philosophy, UC-Davis (April 2016); Philosophy, University of Calgary (March 2016); History and Philosophy of Science, Cambridge University (October 2015); originally developed for a conference on Dark Data (Exeter, December 2014).
  • “Scaffolding and Bootstrapping in Archaeology”: CLMPS 2015 Invited Speaker (Helsinki, August 2015); 2015 Res Philosophica Lecture (St. Louis University, March 2015); Rock, Bone and Ruin, conference keynote address (Sydney University, May 2014).
  • “Epistemic Diversity: The Advantages of Collaborative Practice”: 2013 Springer Lecture, European Philosophy of Science Association (Helsinki, August 2013). 
  • “Collateral Evidence: Ethnographic Analogy Revisited”: 2013 Mulvaney Lecture (Australian National University, March 2013); 2013 British Society for the Philosophy of Science, plenary lecture (University of Exeter, July 2013); Department of Anthropology, University of Queensland (May 2014).
  • “Feminist Philosophy of Science: Standpoint Matters”: 2012 Presidential Address, Pacific Division APA (Seattle, April 2012).

Sciences of Origin –  Oxford University (February 2021)

Binghamton University – BingU News | Interview with Steve Seepersaud (September 2019)

Philosopher’s Zone | ABC Radio (30 June 2019)

Cornell Institute of Archaeology and material Sciences | Interview with Allison Mickel (February 20, 2019) | RadioCIAMS (March 2019)

The Transect | Archaeology in the Northwest (January 2019):

SCI PHI Podcast | interviewed by Nick Zautra, episode 38 (April 22, 2018)

“Women in Philosophy of Science”: interviewed by Michela Massimi,” European Philosophy of Science Newsletter March 2016

“Arquelogia e a crítica feminist da ciêntica: Entrevista com Alison Wylie por Kelly Koide, Mariana Toledo Ferreira, and Marisol Marini” [Archaeology and Critical Feminism of Science: Interview with Alison Wylie], Scientiae Studia, Sao Paolo 12.3 (2014): 549-590. Portuguese publication | English translation

“Interdisciplinary Practice” in Archaeology in the Making: Conversations Through a Discipline, edited by William Rathje, Michael Shanks, Timothy Webmoor, and Christopher Witmore, Routledge, 2013, pp. 93-121. Routledge

“Personal Histories in Archaeological Method and Theory: An Oral History of Gendered Analyses in Archaeology,” The Personal Histories Project, Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (October 2007). Video

“Philosophy from the Ground Up,” interview with Kathryn Denning, Assemblage, 2000. Online Publication