In certain settings, social research becomes embedded in a form of bureaucratic politics that revolves around contests for status, power, and autonomy among participants in the research process. Written and verbal discourse are key resources in such contests. This paper develops a conceptual framework for analyzing their uses and employs this framework in a case study analysis of bureaucratic politics on a large federally funded educational research project. The study suggests that much of the political activity in such situations revolves around attempts to manipulate "stocks" of knowledge (objectified, institutionally sanctioned bodies of knowledge) by reinterpreting them, reconfiguring their elements, and detaching them and reattaching them to different realms of practical activity. The study explores some of the ways these ends are accomplished, and looks in particular at tactics used by subordinate members of the research staff to gain and maintain autonomy vis-a-vis project administrators: The redefinition of substantive issues in narrow instrumental terms, and the use of discourse strategies to generate ambiguity and forestall unwanted decisions.

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