Critical social science with public health: Agonism, critique and engagement

Critical social science with public health: Agonism, critique and engagement


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This article is about a mode of scholarly practice we call critical social science with public health. The article responds to our dissatisfaction with established approaches to social science engagement with public health that have developed out of Straus’ early distinction between sociology in and of medicine. By critical social science with public health we mean a set of research practices that orients to epistemological and political differences between social science and public health as productive opportunities. We draw on Mouffe’s notion of agonism to ground our argument conceptually and on our collaborative research with tobacco control to substantively illustrate our case. As we imagine it, critical social science with public health unsettles knowledge relations that position social science either as a conceptual resource for public health or as a source of negative critique of public health activities. Critical social science with public health engages directly with public health actors, while remaining committed to the specificity of social science theory and methodology. It aims to transform public health, often by seeking to lessen the harmful effects of public health practice, while, at the same time, contributing to critical social science scholarship.


Citation

Mykhalovskiy, Eric, et al. “Critical Social Science with Public Health: Agonism, Critique and Engagement.” Critical Public Health, vol. 29, no. 5, Oct. 2019, pp. 522–533, doi:10.1080/09581596.2018.1474174.


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