2017 – Karin Knorr Cetina

University of Chicago

Karin Knorr Cetina is Otto Borchert Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology and Sociology at the University of Chicago. Her academic biography shows us a true cosmopolitan and interdisciplinary researcher. After her Ph.D. in cultural anthropology at the University of Vienna and a post-doctoral diploma in sociology at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Vienna, she worked at several American universities, before coming to the University of Bielefeld where she acted as professor of sociology for almost twenty years. In 2001, she moved to the University of Konstanz and since 2010, she has been acting as distinguished professor of sociology and anthropology at the University of Chicago.


(fltr) Stefan Müller-Stach, Vice President for Research and Early Career Academics of JGU, Karin Knorr Cetina, winner of the 2017 Gutenberg Research Award, Thomas Hieke, GRC Director (photo/©: Simon Büttner, brikettfilm)

Knorr Cetina is known, among other things, for her innovative studies of the working methods and practical rationality employed by natural scientists and foreign exchange traders. In 1981, Karin Knorr Cetina has published the pioneering monograph "The Manufacture of Knowledge: An Essay on the Constructivist and Contextual Nature of Science." She used ethnographic and anthropological methods to analyze the scientific practices within a laboratory in order to understand how natural scientists produce facts and knowledge in their everyday work. This groundbreaking study marked the breakthrough of a whole new field of research called “social studies of science.” She inspired generations of students and their empirical studies of the social construction of scientific knowledge. In 1999, she published "Epistemic Cultures. How the Sciences Make Knowledge." By thoroughly investigating and comparing scientific practices in high-energy physics and in molecular biology, she highlighted the importance of knowledge cultures in the generation of scientific knowledge.

In the 1990s, Karin Knorr Cetina started her research on another highly influential form of knowledge and analyzed how financial markets create economic knowledge. She and her team accompanied market participants at work, mainly traders on foreign exchange markets, and analyzed the interaction between trading transactions, the economic knowledge of the dealers and the visual presentations of the virtual market on the screen. Knorr Cetina published the results of her studies in several widely received articles. Soon her new book "Maverick Markets: The Virtual Societies of Financial Markets" will sum up many results of her research on financial markets in the last decades.

Karin Knorr Cetina has produced many new insights on science and financial markets as two of the most influential fields of modern societies. Recently, she has published several articles and is preparing a book where she intends to draw a theoretical synthesis from her seminal empirical studies. She analyzes modern society as a "synthetic society" that may be characterized by the coupling of human action with technical artefacts and virtual systems.