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Building an Interdiscipline: Collective Action Framing and the Rise of Genetic Toxicology

Scott Frickel
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/sp.2004.51.2.269 269-287 First published online: 1 May 2004


Interdisciplines are hybridized knowledge fields that are constituted by intentionally porous organizational, epistemological, and political boundaries. To date, these processes are not well understood. This article uses the case of genetic toxicology and draws on framing theory to examine how interdisciplines are made. I argue that the concept of “collective action frames” and attention to framing processes (Snow et al. 1986) and frame resonance (Snow and Benford 1988) adds much needed refinement to sociologists' understanding of the permeable boundaries that accompany the development of interdisciplines. I develop this argument through an analysis of public lectures, expert testimony, articles, and editorials produced by scientists promoting genetic toxicology during the period 1968—1973. I show how these researchers made the rhetorical case for genetic toxicology by amplifying, extending, and translating a set of interrelated collective action frames and why, in the context of shifting institutional opportunities, framing processes were integral to the rapid consolidation of a new and intensely interdisciplinary environmental health science. The article concludes by noting the study's implications for integrative research on science and social movements.

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