Ben Nicoll, University of Melbourne has compiled exciting new material by and about Professor Helen Verran, Australian STS researcher and 2018 Dyason lecturer, for the Deakin STS exhibit of STS Across Borders. Here we share his overview essay and finding aid.
Helen Verran is Adjunct Professor at Charles Darwin University, Australia. She researches in Science and Technology Studies, with a particular focus on Australian Aboriginal culture, sociology of knowledge, governance, and research methods in sociology, anthropology, and STS.
Verran trained as a scientist and a teacher, earning her PhD in metabolic biochemistry at the University of New England in 1972. She then worked as a lecturer in science education at Awolowo Obafemi University in Ile-Ife Nigeria, before taking up a temporary appointment as a visiting fellow in Deakin University’s School of Humanities. For five years she worked alongside key figures in Deakin Science Studies, including Max Charlesworth, David Wade Chambers, and David Turnbull. Reflecting on her time working at Deakin in an essay entitled ‘Doing Difference Differently’ (included in the STS Across Borders Archive), Verran (2018, pp. 3-4) describes being fortunate ‘to find [herself] as a new member of a group seeking to explain difference as difference, rather than use difference to point to some underlying sameness of humanity, hence explicitly explaining the difference away’. Verran later took up the role of Associate Professor in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Melbourne, and after retirement in 2012, she became Adjunct Professor at Charles Darwin University. At CDU, Verran is co-coordinator of the Northern Institute Research Student Network.
In the STS Across Borders Archive, Verran has written an essay on Deakin Science Studies specifically for STS Across Borders, titled ‘Doing Difference Differently: Deakin STS in the Late 1980s’. This essay focuses on Verran’s five-year appointment at Deakin University, Australia, and discusses Deakin STS’s long-standing commitment to understanding ‘difference’. The STS Across Borders Archive also includes a two-part video interview with Verran, wherein Verran elaborates on her background, her views on Australian STS, and her research. More broadly, Verran’s research has focused on alternative knowledge systems of, for example, the Yoruba people of southwestern and north-central Nigeria and the Yolngu Aborignal people of north-eastern Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory of Australia. Examples in the STS Across Borders Archive include ‘Singing the Land, Signing the Land’, a digital publication (co-authored with David Wade Chambers and David Turnbull) that examines and compares Indigenous and European ways of understanding nature in Australia; and ‘Science and an African Logic’, which examines formations of science, mathematics, and logic in Yoruba primary schools.