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Society for Social Studies of Science

4S News

President’s Message January 2016

01/10/2016

As I mentioned in my brief remarks in Denver, over the next year I hope to convene a discussion around what it means for 4S to be an international association that is administratively based in the United States. A rough survey of our membership database (with apologies for all of the differences within that are erased by the categories) suggests that 676 or just over one half of 4S members are currently located in the U.S., with another 95 in Canada; 356 or just under one third are based in the UK and Europe; and 157 members are distributed across Asia and the Pacific, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. Our current Council comprises colleagues from Colombia, Singapore, and the UK as well as the U.S. and Canada.  How can we acknowledge the predominance of U.S.-based scholars in our society, while also recognizing the essential role of colleagues differently located in the society’s history, and in the emergent transnationality of STS in the present?  What does it mean for 4S to aspire to expansion beyond our historical geographies without reproducing colonizing ambitions, or forms of representational tokenism?  How can we address these questions in a way that helps to undo, rather than shore up, the simple mapping of connections and differences to geopolitical locations?  And most practically, given the lively proliferation of national, regional, and transnational STS associations, how might 4S work not competitively but rather in solidarity and complementarity with sister societies worldwide?

These are not questions to which I expect any ready answers, but rather ones that I look forward to taking up in discussion with 4S members and Council over the coming two years. I also hope to convene a working group to offer some conceptual, political and practical frameworks for thinking these questions through. We have rich resources to draw on from the writings of STS colleagues in the areas of postcolonial/anti-colonial scholarship, and from all of us who are interested in tracing the presence of imperial histories in contemporary science, technology and medicine, and documenting knowledge practices that challenge and decenter those histories. This includes both those who are writing on these topics, and those who are directly enacting relevant practices in their teaching and scholarship. The aim is not to have this become a project in STS origin stories, but rather a contribution to thinking about historical presents as multiple and political, calling for various, mutually sustaining STS collectives going forward. 

I’ll be providing updates on this discussion in subsequent issues of Technoscience.  If you have thoughts in the meantime I would welcome them warmly via email to l.suchman@lancaster.ac.uk.

regards and happy New Year,

Lucy

Secretary Note:

The approved minutes for the Summer 2015 4S Council Meeting held in August are now available at the 4S website: http://www.4sonline.org/minutes