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Society for Social Studies of Science

4S News

‘The State of Latin American STS’ editors and ‘4S/ESOCITE joint conference’ pre-planning meeting

01/18/2011

Since the 4S meeting in Montreal in 2007, over 30 STS scholars from various disciplines and countries have participated as organizers, discussants and/or presenters in sessions focused on Latin American science and technology issues. We continue these gatherings at the next 4S annual conference in Cleveland, November 2011 with six paper sessions that feature the Latin American region.

Last year the 4S Latin American Network was granted 4S New Initiatives funds to host a regional meeting during June 2011 in Buenos Aires, Argentina for the purpose of (1) developing an edited volume on the state of Latin America STS and (2) to pre-plan a proposed 2014 joint conference in Buenos Aires with 4S and its Latin American counterpart ESOCITE. The following summarizes this meeting and gives further background on the 4S Latin American Network.

The June 2011 Meeting Recap


The June 17-19, 2011 Buenos Aires workshop featured a balance of about 10 representatives from each association distributed across two sub-committees. Over an opening and closing plenary and various breakout sessions in between, we managed to set out the key objectives that we wanted this 4S/ESOCITE 2014 pre-meeting and book initiative to achieve. First, the sub-committee responsible for the first objective estimated that a 2014 joint conference could attract up to 500 ESOCITE and 700 4S members for a total of 1200 attendees. In addition, it settled on a suggested working conference title, and identified two advantageous dates that will eventually determine the type of venue and session proposal submission time-line we settle on. This sub-committee also outlined alternatives for a conference super-structure with three possible sub-structures to include key opening and closing plenaries, multiple symposiums, and multilingual break-out sessions.

With regard to the edited volume, the sub-committee responsible for this objective set out an ambitious time line in order to have the book ready for the joint 4S/ESOCITE conference in Buenos Aires during 2014. Participants in this sub-committee were able to narrow the structure of the edited volume down to two options and identified potential unique themes that the Latin American experience and scholarly perspective brings to mainstream Science and Technology Studies. In addition, participants discussed language and translation issues. This sub-group is currently in the process of forming a scientific committee that will guide the specific content of the book and identify possible publishers.

We left Buenos Aires with an agreement to continue to develop our two objectives (and to communicate 4S's parameters for a joint conference) over Web 2.0 communication and in a second face-to-face meeting immediately following ESOCITE's next conference, which takes place during June 2012 in Mexico City. We plan to follow up this Mexico pre-meeting with continued Web 2.0 communication and another face-to-face meeting in Buenos Aires June 2013 to finalize the 2014 joint conference venue and structure and the proposal submission process and time-line, as well as wrap up any additional details having to do with the edited volume.

ESOCITE LEAD REPRESENTATIVES

Hebe Vessuri: Department of Science Studies, Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Research (Venezuela)

Pablo Kreimer: Instituto de Estudios Sociales de la Ciencia y la Tecnología, Universidad Nacional de Quilmes (Argentina)

Lea Velho University of Campinas (Brazil)

List of ESOCITE Participant Representatives

4S LEAD REPRESENTATIVES

Christina Holmes, Le Centre national de la recherche scientifique (France)

Ivan da Costa Marques, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)

Rick B Duque, University of Vienna (Austria)

List of 4S Participant Representatives

The Region


What makes Latin America so key to the full understanding of global science and technology is its unique language(s), cultural and ethnic diversity, and historical economic and political development. From its modern inception since the conquest, the region has been a node where peoples, artifacts, and hybrid processes have migrated from afar to irreversibly change the physical and social landscape. In many ways, the study of cross-cultural technology transfer and co-production alone reflects the modern history of the region.

Latin America is also the origin of many products and processes vital throughout the present world. Gold, silver, copper, chocolate, corn, plantains, and potatoes are just a few of the physical and biological products, and the accompanying extraction and agricultural sciences that have forever impacted Global culture and environments. More recently, the physical/biological variety of its geology and forests/jungles has been the focus of global bioengineering and energy interests as well as inspired region-wide environmental concerns.

Complicating a general understanding of the region is the rich diversity among and within distinct sub-regions. In each nation exists a heterogeneous display of landscapes and microclimates, and with these come various immigration histories that have produced a kaleidoscope of hybrid ethnicities, social traditions, and cultural orientations towards indigenous knowledge versus global science and technology. This has often led to political and economic discord among classes and sub-regions that have in turn resulted in a continual state of social revolution within some nations. These have not been the most advantageous environments within which to develop or innovate in a highly competitive global climate.

Moreover, physical and social forces often mediate the traditions of science and technology within sub-areas of Latin America along with their regional foci (i.e, primary resource production research over basic science and new technologies). The institutionalization of modern science based on Northern models is all but complete across the breath of the southern continent; yet within a global context, the research and academic institutions in Latin America struggle to compete where resources are few, sector networks uncoordinated, indigenous cultures often reticent to change, and scientific visibility and prestige in little supply. As a result, this region often loses its best and brightest to the developed nations of the North or to other more lucrative local careers outside the sciences. This cycle overlaps into succeeding generations, representing a cornerstone of what Latin American STS scholar Fransisco Sagasti has termed the ‘Sisyphean Challenge’ facing science and technology communities in the South.

The Network


Since the 4S meeting in Montreal in 2007, over 30 STS Latin American scholars from various disciplines and countries have participated as organizers, discussants and/or presenters in sessions focused on Latin America. A range of topics relevant to the study of science and technology in this region have been covered including: Theory and Methodology, Biotechnologies, Information and Communication Technologies, Environment and Technology, Health Technologies, Science Communication and Policy, and Public Engagement in Science. Participants are based in a variety of disciplines: anthropology, sociology, science studies, Latin American studies, political sciences, communication, studies and engineering sciences. Moreover, they have traveled from as far as Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Holland, Austria, Canada and the United States to attend. Unfortunately, many other scholars originating from Latin America have hoped to join us at 4S meetings in the past, but because of immigration and financial obstacles, they were unable to do so. This has led to an informal perception that the region is not interested in STS. Yet, the study of science and technology in Latin America has a long and rich tradition that even includes regional associations and journals. One of these associations is ESOCITE - Estudios Sociales de la Ciencia y la Tecnología.

During our June 2011 planned activities, we extend the 4S Latin American network into this regional association. We also expect to gain a better understanding of local, and perhaps ideological, constraints that limit the participation from particular sub-region in 4S and other science studies meetings conducted in the North. A bi-lingual volume on the state of Latin American STS, edited jointly by members of the 4S Latin American Network and ESOCITE, is another step in this unifying direction. Then, with a pre-planning meeting of a proposed joint 4S/ESOCITE conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2014, we aim to solidify a bridge network between the two associations to facilitate future joint meetings in the tradition of EASST/4S conferences.

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Comments and or suggestions can be directed to the principle co-organizer Rick B. Duque at rbduque@stcloudstate.edu. You are welcome to join the dialogue on the STS in Latin America by sending a blank email message to 4sla+subscribe@googlegroups.com or visiting http://groups.google.com/group/4sla.

Acknowledgment: The organizers of this pre-meeting would like to thank the University of Massachusetts for its assistance in processing the 4S New Initiatives grant.