Associate Professor

Cross appointment with Anthropology|Sociology and Legal Studies Department 

Contact: 519-888-4567 x42553,

PhD Sociocultural Anthropology (Freie Universität Berlin)
MSc Physics (University of New Mexico)
Vordiplom in Physics, BSc equivalent (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen)

Goetz Hoeppe profile picture

Research and Teaching areas

  • Anthropology of science, technology and digital media
  • Environmental anthropology
  • Ethnography, ethnomethodology and conversation analysis
  • Responsible research and innovation
  • India

Current Research

My research concentrates on the social lives of data and representations in scientific practice with a focus on the environment. I use qualitative approaches (in particular ethnography and ethnomethodology) as well as archival sources.

I am currently finishing a study of an international research collaboration in astronomy, a global epistemic culture that has pioneered the open access to data and software. I have been interested in how the transition from analog to digital media since the 1960s and other influences have transformed the social organization, scientific practice and data use in astronomy. This includes the reflexivity of scientific practice, the epistemic generativity of digital data, praxeological and infrastructural uses of digitally mediated objects and environments, extensions and limits of calculability, the sharing of data and intellectual property, and ethical tensions between scientists and technicians in distributed work. This work was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Foundation.

Based on this work I have begun the project “Making sense of data re-use in environmental science.” Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, this project considers how the sharing and reuse of open-access data is embedded in the social and material work of scientific laboratories. Drawing on a detailed ethnographic study of exemplary work in a climate science research laboratory, it focuses on how junior climate scientists are instructed to produce, use, and re-use digital data using diverse technologies and material probes. The project aims to contribute to improving the re-usability of climate science research data.

A third focus of my research are digital media uses and practices of representation by citizen scientists in Canada and India as well as their role in social and environmental activism. This work builds on my earlier ethnography of how fishers make sense of environmental change in Kerala, south India.

Opportunities for MA Projects

I particularly welcome applications from prospective MA students who are interested in the ethnography of scientific practice, digital media and climate science. I seek to fill two MA student fellowships as part of the SSHRC-funded research project “Making sense of data re-use in environmental science.” These students shall be guided to conduct detailed ethnographic case studies of exemplary work in a climate science laboratory, focusing on how junior climate scientists learn to produce, use, and re-use digital data. Available funding for these students includes travel and accommodation expenses for conducting ethnographic fieldwork in Germany as well as conference travel.

I am also very interested in supervising students who want to explore citizen science and digital media (including smartphone apps), especially (but not only) in relation to the environment, and there especially to the monitoring of biodiversity and pollution (air, water, soil) in southern Ontario and elsewhere.



2007 - Conversations on the Beach: Fishermen's Knowledge, Metaphor and Environmental Change in South India.  New York/Oxford: Berghahn Books.

2007 - Why the Sky is Blue: Discovering the Color of Life. Princeton/Oxford: Princeton University Press.

  • Louis J. Battan Author’s Award, American Meteorological Society (2010)
  • Honorable Mention, Atmospheric Science Librarians International Choice Award (2008)
  • German edition published in 1999, Korean edition in 2009

Papers in refereed journals and book chapters

2021 – “Encoding Collective Knowledge, Instructing Data Reusers: The Collaborative Fixation of a Digital Scientific Data Set.” Computer Supported Cooperative Work

2020 – “Members Doing Ethnography? On Some Uses of Irony and Failed Translation, Witnessed in an Episode of Data Sharing in Open Science.”Ethnographic Studies 17: 1 – 21.

2020 – “Sharing Data, Repairing Practices: On the Reflexivity of Astronomical Data Journeys.” In: Sabina Leonelli and Niccoló Tempini (eds.) Data Journeys in the Sciences. Chur: Springer, pp. 171 – 190.

2020 – “A Sky to Work With: Astronomers, Media, Infrastructures.” Roadsides 3: 15-22 (Issue ‘Infrastructure on/off Earth’) 

2019 – “Medium, Calculation, Play: On Digital Images in Scientific Practice.” Social Studies of Science 49 (5): 758 - 784.

2019 – “Mediating Environments and Objects as Knowledge Infrastructure.” Computer Supported Cooperative Work 28 (1-2): 25-59.

2018 – “Practical Cosmologies.” Ethnologies 40 (2): 75-92.

2018 – “Tensions of Accountability: Scientists, Technicians and the Ethical Life of Data Production in Astronomy.” Science as Culture 27 (4): 488-512.

2016 – “An Instructive Return to Laboratory Ethnography.” Symbolic Interaction 39 (1): 158 - 161.

2015 – “Representing Representation (Review Essay).” Science, Technology & Human Values 40 (6): 1077 – 1092.

2014 – “Working Data Together: The Accountability and Reflexivity of Digital Astronomical Practice.” Social Studies of Science 44 (2): 243 - 270.

  • 2017 Melvin Pollner Prize in Ethnomethodology, Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis Section, American Sociological Association

2012 – “Astronomers at the Observatory: Place, Visual Practice, Traces.” Anthropological Quarterly 85 (4): 1141-1160.

2012 – “Geschichte der Astronomie.” In: Hans-Heinrich Voigt/Hermann-Josef Röser/Werner Tscharnuter (Eds.) Abriss der Astronomie. Weinheim: Wiley/VCH, p. 1063 – 1093.

2011 – “Extended Vision: Finding Fish Like South Indian Fishermen.” In: Marie-Claude Mahias (Ed.), Construire les savoirs dans l'action: Apprentissages et enjeux sociaux en Asie du sud, Purusharta, vol. 29, Paris: Editions de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, p. 205 – 235.

2011 – “Atmospheric Ozone and Colors of the Antarctic Twilight Sky.” Applied Optics 50 (28): F161 – 171. (with Raymond L. Lee and Wolfgang Meyer)

2009 – “Appropriating "Science" and "Relatedness": Environmental Conflict and Environmental Knowledge in the Fishery of Kerala (South India).” In: Kato, Tsuyoshi / Uyar, Aysun (Eds.), The Question of Poverty in Conflict and Conflict Resolution, Kyoto: Ryukoku University, p. 39 – 52.

2008 – “Knowing the Sea in the "Time of Progress": Environmental Change, Parallel Knowledges and the Uses of Metaphor in Kerala (South India).” In: Casimir, M. (Ed.), Culture and the Changing Environment: Uncertainty, Cognition and Risk Management in Cross-Cultural Perspective, Oxford/New York: Berghahn Books, p. 301 – 324.

2006 – "Knowledge Against the State: Local Perceptions of Government Interventions in the Fishery (Kerala, India)." In: Cederlöf, Gunnel/Sivaramakrishnan, K. (Eds.), Ecological Nationalisms: Nature, Livelihoods, and Identities in South Asia, New Delhi: Permanent Black/Seattle: University of Washington Press, p. 233 – 254.

2005 – “Sky.” In: Bron Taylor and Jeff Kaplan (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature, London/New York: Thoemmes Continuum Press, p. 1554 – 1556.

2004 – “What happened to the chaakara? The Formation of Coastal Mud Banks and the Reformation of Local Environmental Knowledge in Kerala (South India).” In: Dilger, Hansjörg/Volker-Saad, Kerstin/Wolf, Angelika (Eds.), Moderne und postkoloniale Transformation: Ethnologische Schrift zum 60. Geburtstag von Ute Luig, Berlin: Weißensee-Verlag, p. 242 – 257.

2004 – “Die Wanderung der Sardinen: Lokales Umweltwissen und Kolonialismus in Indien.” Historische Anthropologie, 12 (3): 397 – 414.

2003 – “The work of fishing and the moral constitution of space in Kerala (South India).” Proceedings of the conference “People and the Sea II”, publication on CD-ROM, Amsterdam.

2003 – “Blaue Luft? Die Geschichte einer „falschen“ Idee.” In: Busch, Bernd (Ed.), “Luft,” Cologne: Wienand, p. 97 – 110.

2002 – “An den Rand gedrängt? Die wechselhafte Rolle des Menschen im astronomischen Weltbild der Moderne.” In: Natur in der Moderne: Interdisziplinäre Ansichten, Eds. Ute Luig/Hans-Dietrich Schultz, Berliner Geographische Schriften, Vol. 93, Berlin: Humboldt-Universität, p. 23 – 38.

2002 – “Von den realen Problemen einer imaginären Person: Über die Beziehung zwischen Feldforschern und lokalen Mitarbeitern.” In: Dilger, Hansjörg/Guzy, Lidia/Sieveking, Nadine (Eds.), Vielstimmigkeit als Konzept: Beiträge zur Theorie und Praxis der ethnologischen Forschung, Sozialanthropologische Arbeitspapiere, Nr. 93, Berlin: Verlag Hans Schiler, p. 39 - 45.

2000 – “When the Shark bites the Stingray: The Night Sky in the Construction of the Manus World.” Anthropos, 95 (1): 23 – 36.

1994 – "Radio-Continuum and Far-Infrared Observations of Low Surface Brightness Galaxies." Astronomical Journal, 108: 446 – 455. (with E. Brinks, U. Klein, C. Giovanardi, D. Altschuler, R.M. Price, H. Deeg)

Popular writings (selection)

2007 - (editor) "Kosmische Ursprünge: Wie Astronomen die Geschichte des Universums enträtseln" ("Cosmic Origins: How Astronomers Unravel the History of the Universe"), Dossier 5/2007, Spektrum der Wissenschaft. (84 pp)

2007 - "'Die Dunkle Energie bedroht die Kultur der astronomischen Forschung': Gespräch mit dem Astrophysiker Simon White." Spektrum der Wissenschaft, 8/2007, p. 56 – 60.

2006 - (editor) "Astronomie vor Galilei" ("Astronomy Before Galilei"), Dossier 4/2006, Spektrum der Wissenschaft. (84 pp) 

2006 - "Kolams: Technologie der Verzauberung." Spezial "Ethnomathematik." Spektrum der Wissenschaft, p. 52 – 59.

2006 - “Biertischtheologie ist nicht die Lösung – Ein Dialog zwischen Hans Küng und Gerhard Börner”, Spektrum der Wissenschaft 4/2006, p. 100-104 (with Reinhard Breuer).

 (Reprinted in Spanish in Investigacion y Ciencia, 6/2006, p. 6-10)

2005 - "Hubble in der Unterwelt: Die Ausstellung „Das halbe Universum“ in München." Sterne und Weltraum, 7/2005, p. 50 – 55.

2004 - "Projekt Epica: Zeitreisen in die Tiefe des Eises." Sterne und Weltraum, 12/2004, p. 34 – 38.

2004 - “'In diesen sechs Zahlen steckt eine neue Physik': Ein Gespräch mit dem Kosmologen David Spergel." Sterne und Weltraum, 11/2004, p. 24 – 31.

2003 - "Himmelslicht: Spiegelbild des Erdklimas." In: Themenheft „Licht + Finsternis“, FUndiert - Das Wissenschaftsmagazin der Freien Universität Berlin, 1/2003, p. 52 – 61.

2001 - "Der schönste aller möglichen Himmel." Natur & Kosmos, 5/2001, p. 32 – 36.

1999 - "Leben mit den Sternen – Die Astronomie der Manus in Papua Neuguinea." Sterne und Weltraum, 12/99, p. 1046 – 1051.

Book reviews (selection)

2019 – “Sareeta Amrute: Encoding Race, Encoding Class: Indian IT Workers in Berlin,” American Ethnologist 46 (1): 124-125.

2013 – “Hélène Mialet: Hawking Incorporated – Stephen Hawking and the Anthropology of the Knowing Subject,” American Ethnologist 40 (3): 600 - 601.

2010 - “Natasha Stacey: Boats to Burn – Bajo Fishing in the Australian Fishing Zone”, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.), 16 (1): 184 – 185.

2005 - “Francesco Bertola: Via Lattea – Un Percurso Nel Cielo e Nella Storia dell’Uomo”, in: Sterne und Weltraum, 10/2005, p. 98.

2004 - “Albert Einstein: Verehrte An- und Abwesende”, Audio-CD, Sterne und Weltraum, 4/2004, p. 98.

1999 - “Bernard Juillerat: Children of the Blood – Society, Reproduction and Cosmology in New Guinea”, Sociologus, 49, p. 136 – 137.

Contact information: 

Götz Hoeppe

University of Waterloo

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