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Objectivity in Social Research

5. Sandra Harding and Standpoint Epistemology

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About this Lecture


In this module we think about standpoint epistemology as an approach to objectivity, exemplified through Sandra Harding’s notion of strong objectivity. In particular, we focus on: (i) the roots of standpoint epistemology in Marxist thought and the idea that marginalised groups have epistemological privilege; (ii) the adoption of this idea by feminist scholars in the late-twentieth century and the critique of traditional notions of objectivity they developed; (iii) Harding’s notion of strong objectivity as the bringing together of the multiple perspectives of different marginalised groups.


In this course, Professor Martyn Hammersley (The Open University) explores the concept of objectivity within sociology and social research. In the first module, we think about the development of the concept from the early twentieth century and some key questions associated with it. In the second, we examine Max Weber’s notion of value freedom, before looking in the third at the objectivist version of objectivity as the adoption of standardised, replicable research methods. In the fourth and fifth modules, we consider Alvin Gouldner’s critique of value freedom and his idea of objective partisanship, and standpoint epistemology through Sandra Harding’s work on strong objectivity. In the final two modules, we explore arguments that reject objectivity in its entirety, before concluding with a summary of key debates.


Professor Martyn Hammersley is Emeritus Professor of Educational and Social Research at the Open University. His work focuses on issues in sociological research methods, particularly relating to objectivity and bias. His recent publications include The Concept of Culture: A History and Reappraisal (2019), The Radicalism of Ethnomethodology: An Assessment of Sources and Principles (2018) and The Limits of Social Science: Causal Explanation and Value Relevance (2014).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Hammersley, M. (2021, August 24). Objectivity in Social Research - Sandra Harding and Standpoint Epistemology [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Hammersley, Martyn. "Objectivity in Social Research – Sandra Harding and Standpoint Epistemology." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 24 Aug 2021,

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