Scientific work strongly relies on the motivation and enthusiasm of researchers and research groups, but is also shaped by organisational, institutional and cultural contexts. Researchers learn what being responsible may mean and how to reflect upon their everyday practices while being socialized into specific scientific cultures. To understand how far researchers experience themselves as being in the position to act responsibly, we thus study how researchers’ self-understanding develops in their particular contexts.


For understanding how researchers experience their rooms of manoeuvring, and particularly their freedoms and delimitations of acting responsibly, we turn to recent theory-building in the Labour Studies. From this perspective, research cultures are understood as “subjectified work” cultures, meaning that the tasks involved in knowledge production (choosing a research topic and questions, building hypotheses, gathering of data, analysing data, theory building, writing processes, interpreting readings, etc.) require high levels of investment of subjective factors such as self-motivation, affectivity, creativity and communicative skills (Lazzarato 1998; Lohr/Nickel 2009; Moldaschl/Voß 2003; Moosbrugger 2008). How researchers decide to use these subjective factors and let value propositions influence their research (or not), is closely linked to processes of subjectification and internalised understandings of societal responsibility.
This perspective conceptually fits with theory-building that emphasise that researchers act and take decisions along a specific “politics of positioning” (Haraway 1988), “bias” (Harding 1993) or “handwriting” (Reichertz 2015). In that sense, processes of subjectification (how researchers learn to relate to themselves and to their environment) are a locus of observing how far, and why, societal responsibility is made powerful in epistemic work (Blackman et al. 2008; Sigl 2016). As an analytical category it brings into view how subjects and their practices are co-constitutive of each other and recognises researchers as critical-reflexive actors (cf. Alkemeyer 2014) that use their rooms of manoeuvring to arrange their practices along certain notions of responsibility.


Alkemeyer, T. (2014). Why the need for the Concept of Subjectification of the Practical Theories. Allgemeine Zeitschrift für Philosophie, 39(1), 1-10.

Blackman, L., Cromby, J., Hook, D., Papadopoulos, D., & Walkerdine, V. (2008). Creating Subjecitivities. Subjectivities, 22(1), 1-27.

Haraway, D. (1988). Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective. Feminist Studies, 12(3), 575-599.

Harding, S. (1993). Rethinking Standpoint Epistemology: What Is "Strong Objectivity"? In L. Alcoff & E. Potter (Eds.), Feminist Epistemology (pp. 49-82). New York/London: Routledge.

Lazzarato, M. (1998). Immaterielle Arbeit. Gesellschaftliche Tätigkeit  unter den Bedingungen des Postfordismus. In T. Atzert (Ed.), Umherschweifende Produzenten. Immaterielle Arbeit und Subversion (pp. 53-66). Berlin: ID-Verlag.

Lohr, K., & Nickel, H. M. (Eds.). (2009). Subjektivierung von Arbeit. Riskante Chancen: Westfählisches Dampfboot.

Moldaschl, M., & Voß, G. (Eds.). (2003). Subjektivierung von Arbeit (2 ed.). München: Hampp Verlag.

Moosbrugger, J. (2008). Subjektivierung von Arbeit: Freiwillige Selbstausbeutung. Ein Erklärungsmodell für die Verausgabungsbereitschaft von Hochqualifizierten. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.

Reichertz, J. (2015). Die Bedeutung der Subjektivität in der Forschung. Forum qualitative Sozialforschung (Forum Qualitative Social Research), 16(3).

Sigl, L. (2016). On the Tacit Governance of Research by Uncertainty: How Early Stage ResearchersContribute to the Governance of Life Science Research. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 41(3), 347-374.

Sigl, L. (2019). Subjectivity, governance, and changing conditions of knowledge production in the life sciences. Subjectivity,