A collection of STS news items, in the order submitted, including grants and awards, new books and other publications, and people news.
Last updated 09/12/2014 by Jay Burlingham.
New Book: Politics of Invisibility: Public Knowledge about Radiation Health Effects after Chernobyl
Updated: September 12 2014
The Politics of Invisibility: Public Knowledge about Radiation Health Effects after Chernobyl
Olga Kuchinskaya, University of Pittsburgh
Hardcover: 264 pages
Publisher: The MIT Press (July 25, 2014)
Before Fukushima, the most notorious large-scale nuclear accident the world had seen was Chernobyl in 1986. The fallout from Chernobyl covered vast areas in the Northern Hemisphere, especially in Europe. Belarus, at the time a Soviet republic, suffered heavily: nearly a quarter of its territory was covered with long-lasting radionuclides. Yet the damage from the massive fallout was largely imperceptible; contaminated communities looked exactly like noncontaminated ones. It could be known only through constructed representations of it. In The Politics of Invisibility, Olga Kuchinskaya explores how we know what we know about Chernobyl, describing how the consequences of a nuclear accident were made invisible. Her analysis sheds valuable light on how we deal with other modern hazards -- toxins or global warming -- that are largely imperceptible to the human senses.
Kuchinskaya describes the production of invisibility of Chernobyl's consequences in Belarus -- practices that limit public attention to radiation and make its health effects impossible to observe. Just as mitigating radiological contamination requires infrastructural solutions, she argues, the production and propagation of invisibility also involves infrastructural efforts, from redefining the scope and nature of the accident's consequences to reshaping research and protection practices.
Kuchinskaya finds vast fluctuations in recognition, tracing varyingly successful efforts to conceal or reveal Chernobyl's consequences at different levels -- among affected populations, scientists, government, media, and international organizations. The production of invisibility, she argues, is a function of power relations.
The Politics of Invisibility by Olga Kuchinskaya opens up debate about the state of expert knowledge on not only the Chernobyl disaster but also other current and future disasters and makes clear the inseparability of these questions from more general struggles over livelihood. Kuchinskaya gives a nuanced reading of the production of both problematic invisibilities and problematic visibilities in knowledge-making, refusing a romantic assumption that laypeople or activist NGOs will necessarily know better. This is an original and important contribution, and one that deserves a wide audience.
- Michelle Murphy, Professor of History and Women and Gender Studies, University of Toronto
Confronted with the dangers of radiation we have turned a blind eye. But we also know exactly what the consequences in the case of catastrophic nuclear meltdown are, namely that not only the affected populations but also the unborn generations will suffer. Here the politics of manufactured invisibility is put into praxis: by the industries that produce these risks; by the administrative bodies that do not regulate them; by international experts that simply do not look for Chernobyl's health effects beyond strictly limited methodological and conceptual framings. The Politics of Invisibility changes our view on the world at risk we live in.
- Ulrich Beck, University of Munich
Kuchinskaya highlights a vital but neglected issue -- the 'dark side' of world-shaping technoscientific infrastructural orders. This inverse condition silently afflicting all such worldly technoscientific knowledge, namely its unacknowledged ignorance, releases uncontrolled consequences that are taboo to the power that science serves. This is brilliantly illustrated through the continuing debacle, the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
- Brian Wynne, Science Studies, Lancaster University
This meticulously researched and sensitively argued book shines a light on the little-known public health crisis Chernobyl created in Belarus and the coping strategies adopted by local citizens, largely abandoned by their government, who had to live in an environment haunted by invisible radioactive contamination. The efforts of local researchers, activists, and health officials to make the extent of the catastrophe visible were overwhelmed by regional politicians, international organizations, and journalists telling a story about the 'radiophobia' of Chernobyl's victims. Drawing adeptly on the science studies literature, Kuchinskaya makes an important and original argument about the effort that is required to make a disaster visible. This book will be of interest to readers in environmental studies, public health, Russian politics, communication studies, and nuclear policy.
- Hugh Gusterson, Professor of Cultural Studies, George Mason University; author of Nuclear Rites and People of the Bomb
National Academy of Engineering: New Report on Climate Change Educational Partnership Workshops
Updated: September 12 2014
The NAE's Center for Engineering, Ethics, and Society (CEES) has just released a new report summarizing three workshops on the interactions of climate change with engineered systems in society and the educational efforts needed to address them. The workshops were the result of a NSF funded Climate Change Educational Partnership focused on defining and characterizing the societal and educational challenges posed by the interactions. The report includes discussion on defining the problems; examining sociotechnical responses; cross cutting issues such as governance, sustainability, justice, trust, and public engagement; informal and formal education efforts, and perspectives from educators, engineering professional societies, business and industry, policy makers, and Native Americans.
Table of Contents:
Introduction and Overview
Interactions: Defining the Problems
Interventions: Examining the Range of Sociotechnical Responses
Formal Education Interventions on Climate Change, Engineered System, and Society
Informal Education on Climate, Engineered Systems, and Society
Perspectives of Engineering Professional Societies, Business and Industry, Local Government, and Native Americans
This publication and the meetings it summarizes are the result of a collaboration between CEES, Arizona State University, the Museum of Science-Boston, the University of Virginia, and the Colorado School of Mines, to develop a Phase I Climate Change Education Partnership (CCEP) funded by the National Science Foundation.1 The partnership aims to catalyze educational efforts that prepare current and future engineers, policymakers, and the public to meet these challenges.
National Academy of Engineering: New Videos on Climate Change and Infrastructure
Updated: September 12 2014
The NAE's Center for Engineering, Ethics, and Society (CEES) has just released two new videos on climate change and infrastructure, based on interviews conducted during the January 28-30, 2013 national meeting on "Climate Change and America's Infrastructure: Engineering, Social, and Policy Challenges." At this conference, leaders in climate adaptation, city management, engineered systems, public engagement, and other key fields gathered to work through the wide-ranging implications of climate change for infrastructure.
The videos highlight participant views regarding the impacts and importance of addressing current and potential climate change and extreme weather events, and the various types of expertise that will be needed to adequately address stresses to engineered systems. Both videos are designed to serve as a starting point for discussion and enable educators and others to inform engineers and the public about the issues the nation faces and what can be done to respond.
These videos and the meeting are the result of a collaboration between CEES, Arizona State University, the Museum of Science-Boston, the University of Virginia, and the Colorado School of Mines, to develop a Phase I Climate Change Education Partnership (CCEP) funded by the National Science Foundation.1 The partnership, created in 2010, focuses thematically on the impacts of climate change for engineered systems. It aims to catalyze educational efforts that prepare current and future engineers, policymakers, and the public to meet these challenges.
London-based Academic Publisher
Updated: September 12 2014
Rowman & Littlefield International a new, independent, London-based academic publisher. We are backed by Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group in the US, although editorially independent and global in our scope and ambitions. We aim to be a pioneering and innovative publisher at the cutting edge of our disciplines (Philosophy, Politics, Economics and Cultural Studies). It is our intention to focus our publishing at research level – monographs, collections, serious supplementaries and some reference – and to identify emerging trends in the most dynamic and forward-looking fields within those disciplines. We are particularly intrigued by the interdisciplinary nature of these fields and the ways in which they relate to the wider Humanities and Social Sciences. You can read more about our plans at our website. The relationship between STS and the Humanities is a particular area of focus for our list and I would be delighted to hear from any 4S members regarding monographs, edited collections or even series ideas in this area. If you have any queries about the RLI programme or would like to discuss a potential book project, please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Book: Beyond Imported Magic: Essays on Science, Technology and Society in Latin America
Updated: August 28 2014
Edited by Eden Medina, Ivan da Costa Marques, and Christina Holmes
Foreword by Marcos Cueto
MIT Press, 2014, 396 pp.
ISBN: 9780262526203 (paperback)
Also available in hardback and Kindle
Amazon URL: http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Magic-Science-Technology-Society/dp/0262526204/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1409104674&sr=8-1&keywords=beyond+imported+magic
The essays in this volume study the creation, adaptation, and use of science and technology in Latin America. They challenge the view that scientific ideas and technology travel unchanged from the global North to the global South -- the view of technology as "imported magic." They describe not only alternate pathways for innovation, invention, and discovery but also how ideas and technologies circulate in Latin American contexts and transnationally. The contributors’ explorations of these issues, and their examination of specific Latin American experiences with science and technology, offer a broader, more nuanced understanding of how science, technology, politics, and power interact in the past and present. The essays in this book use methods from history and the social sciences to investigate forms of local creation and use of technologies; the circulation of ideas, people, and artifacts in local and global networks; and hybrid technologies and forms of knowledge production. They address such topics as the work of female forensic geneticists in Colombia; the pioneering Argentinean use of fingerprinting technology in the late nineteenth century; the design, use, and meaning of the XO Laptops created and distributed by the One Laptop per Child Program; and the development of nuclear energy in Argentina, Mexico, and Chile.
Pedro Ignacio Alonso, Morgan G. Ames, Javiera Barandiarán, João Biehl, Anita Say Chan, Amy Cox Hall, Henrique Cukierman, Ana Delgado, Rafael Dias, Adriana Díaz del Castillo H., Mariano Fressoli, Jonathan Hagood, Christina Holmes, Matthieu Hubert, Noela Invernizzi, Michael Lemon, Ivan da Costa Marques, Gisela Mateos, Eden Medina, María Fernanda Olarte Sierra, Hugo Palmarola, Tania Pérez-Bustos, Julia Rodriguez, Israel Rodríguez-Giralt, Edna Suárez Díaz, Hernán Thomas, Manuel Tironi, Dominique Vinck
Table of Contents
1 Introduction: Beyond Imported Magic// Eden Medina, Ivan da Costa Marques, and Christina Holmes
SECTION I: Latin American Perspectives on Science, Technology, and Society
2 Who Invented Brazil? // Henrique Cukierman
3 Innovation and Inclusive Development in the South: A Critical Perspective // Mariano Fressoli, Rafael Dias, and Hernán Thomas
4 Working with Care: Experiences of Invisible Women Scientists Practicing Forensic Genetics in Colombia // Tania Pérez-Bustos, María Fernanda Olarte Sierra, and Adriana Díaz del Castillo H.
5 Ontological Politics and Latin American Local Knowledges // Ivan da Costa Marques
6 Technology in an Expanded Field: A Review of History of Technology Scholarship on Latin America in Select English-Language Journals // Michael Lemon and Eden Medina
SECTION II: Local and Global Networks of Innovation
7 South Atlantic Crossings: Fingerprints, Science, and the State In Turn of the Twentieth Century Argentina // Julia Rodriguez
8 Tropical Assemblage: The Soviet Large Panel in Cuba // Hugo Palmarola and Pedro Alonso
9 Balancing Design: OLPC Engineers and ICT Translations at the Periphery // Anita Chan
10 Translating Magic: The Charisma of OLPC's XO Laptop in Paraguay // Morgan G. Ames
11 Nanoscience and Nanotechnology: How has an Emerging Area on the Scientific Agenda of the Core Countries been Adopted and Transformed in Latin America? // Noela Invernizzi, Matthieu Hubert, and Dominique Vinck
12 Latin America as Laboratory: The Camera and the Yale Peruvian Expeditions // Amy Cox Hall
SECTION III: Science, Technology and Latin American Politics
13 Bottling Atomic Energy: Technology, Politics, and the State in Peronist Argentina // Jonathan Hagood
14 Peaceful Atoms in Mexico // Gisela Mateos and Edna Suárez Díaz
15 Neoliberalism as Political Technology: Expertise, Energy and Democracy in Chile // Manuel Tironi and Javiera Barandiarán
16 Creole Interferences: A Conflict on Biodiversity and Ownership in the South of Brazil // Ana Delgado and Israel Rodriguez-Giralt
17 The Juridical Hospital: Patient-Citizen-Consumers Claiming the Right to Health in Brazilian Courts // João Biehl
At one level the term 'beyond imported magic' situates this collection as a contribution to the critique of the traditional North-South diffusionist stories of science and technology, but at another level the essays take the reader beyond the 'imported magic' of Northern theories of STS. By connecting us with the reflexive and critical voices of Latin American STS scholarship, this book is a great introduction to contemporary modes of rethinking STS from Latin American perspectives."
-David J. Hess, Sociology, Vanderbilt University
This astonishing collection provides for both science and technology studies and postcolonial students and scholars valuable new pathways for thinking and illuminatingly different conceptual approaches. These authors usher in a much-needed expansive era for historians, philosophers, sociologists, political theorists, and ethnographers of science as well as for readers in other fields. I can't wait to teach it.
-Sandra Harding, Distinguished Professor, Departments of Education and Gender Studies, University of California, Los Angeles; Distinguished Affiliate Professor, Department of Philosophy, Michigan State University; and author of Sciences from Below
In this enchanting book, leading scholars conjure up surprising and gripping new configurations of science and technology in Latin America. These essays reveal brilliantly how local and regional histories haunt so-called global scientific projects. Beyond Imported Magic brings Latin America into contemporary conversations about what makes technoscience appear so worldly and cosmopolitan, even as it is experienced as situated and place-bound in practice. This book will cast a spell on anyone who wants to understand the multiple ways in which we try, and often fail, to be both modern and global.
-Warwick Anderson, University of Sydney, author of The Collectors of Lost Souls
This exciting and thought-provoking volume shows how analyzing Latin America through an STS lens allows us to peer more closely at known histories and uncover new and in some cases existing but understudied connections. Once we divest ourselves of outdated adjectives such as 'peripheral' to explain the role of Latin America in science we invariably begin to see the region as a center with a long history of scientific production and with the many complexities that this entails. By placing Latin America into longer narratives of (redefined or reemphasized) scientific research, the authors crucially demonstrate science as ever-present and not a relatively new, imported phenomena of the nineteenth/twentieth centuries.
-Gabriela Soto Laveaga, author of Jungle Laboratories: Mexican Peasants, National Projects, and the Making of the Pill
New book by Kyonghee Han and Gary Lee Downey: Engineers for Korea
Updated: August 07 2014
Kyonghee Han, Yonsei University
Gary Lee Downey, Virginia Tech
Paperback ISBN: 9781627050760, $40.00
eBook ISBN: 9781627050777
July 2014, 197 pages
“The engineer is bearer of the nation’s industrialization,” says the tower pictured on the front cover. President Park Chung-hee (1917–1979) was seeking to scale up a unified national identity through industrialization, with engineers as iconic leaders. But Park encountered huge obstacles in what he called the “second economy” of mental nationalism. Technical workers had long been subordinate to classically trained scholar officials. Even as the country became an industrial powerhouse, the makers of engineers never found approaches to techno-national formation—engineering education and training—that Koreans would wholly embrace.
This book follows the fraught attempts of engineers to identify with Korea as a whole. It is for engineers, both Korean and non-Korean, who seek to become better critical analysts of their own expertise, identities, and commitments. It is for non-engineers who encounter or are affected by Korean engineers and engineering, and want to understand and engage them. It is for researchers who serve as critical participants in the making of engineers and puzzle over the contents and effects of techno-national formation.
"This book is an in-depth study of and effective introduction to Korean engineering and engineers. It links the historical process of industrialization to the formation of engineers across Korea, differentiated from other countries. Not only engineering educators in Korea, but all other kinds of researchers and engineers who are interested in the Republic of Korea will be fascinated by the priceless information, knowledge, and great insights in this book." – Kim Moon Kyum, Vice-President, Yonsei University; member, National Academy of Engineering in Korea; President-Elect, Korean Society of Civil Engineers
"This is a ground-breaking work that shows how two scholars from different countries can work together to achieve compelling results. The analyses of Korean engineers in the past and present that Han and Downey have woven together into a unique narrative are sure to evoke attention and curiosity, even sympathy, from readers all over the world.” – Lee Euy-soo, President, Korean Society for Engineering Education
“Through this remarkable book you can understand not only Korean engineers but also much about the country that has raised them. Korean politics, economy, and history have all been interconnected in Han and Downey’s account of the development of Korean engineers. – Lee Eun Kyung, Professor, Department of Science Studies, Chonbuk National University; Vice-President, Korean Association of Science and Technology Studies.
Series: Synthesis Lectures on Global Engineering
Series Editor: Gary Downey, Virginia Tech
Use of this book as a course text is encouraged, and the texts may be downloaded without restriction by members of institutions that have licensed accessed to the Synthesis Digital Library of Engineering and Computer Science or after a one-time fee of $20.00 each by members of non-licensed schools. To find out whether your institution is licensed, visit
This book can also be purchased in print from Amazon and other booksellers worldwide.
Amazon URL: http://amzn.to/1pNNbUp ($38.00 Prime)
Individual subscriptions to Synthesis are available for just $99.00 per year. This subscription will provide individuals with unrestricted access to all Synthesis titles: http://www.morganclaypool.com/page/subscribe
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Race Decoded wins ASA Cox Book Award
Updated: July 16 2014
Race Decoded: The Genomic Fight for Social Justice (Stanford University Press, 2012) by Catherine Bliss has won the 2014 American Sociological Association Oliver Cromwell Cox Award.
Go to www.sup.org/book.cgi?id=20299 to order your copy of Race Decoded: The Genomic Fight for Social Justice
See its latest review in Science: www.sciencemag.org/content/337/6099.toc
Conf Report: Mapping Science and Technology in Africa: Travelling technologies and global dis\orders
Updated: July 14 2014
Mapping Science and Technology in Africa: Travelling technologies and global dis\orders
Date: 12-15 February 2014
Location: Wits Institute for Social & Economic Research (WISER), Johannesburg, South Africa
Richard Rottenburg (University of Halle, LOST)
Keith Breckenridge (University of the Witwatersrand, WISER)
The conference “Mapping Science and Technology in Africa: Travelling technologies and global dis\orders” was held from 12-15 February 2014 at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER) in Johannesburg, South Africa. It had two main objectives: 1) It’s goal was to stimulate academic discussions about African perspectives on global science and technology and its global entanglements. It specifically sought to contribute to theoretical debates on the role of circulating technologies and different types of knowledge practices in contemporary political, economic and societal processes of ordering in African countries. 2) The other main objective was to initiate a platform for interdisciplinary scholarship devoted to the study of science and technology, the so-called Network on Science and Technology Studies in Africa (STS-Africa network). More than fifty invited scholars and guests, mainly from African but also European and American universities and research institutes, attended the conference.
The conference programme was designed to fulfil both goals, enabling intellectual exchange on contemporary developments in the study of science and technology in Africa and the advancement of a network for scholars and institutions working in the field. It consisted of a keynote address, eight thematic sessions, wherein Ph.D. and senior researchers presented 25 papers based on recent empirical research, a public round table discussion, two plenary meetings and a strategic discussion on the forms of institutional and intellectual commitment needed to strengthen the nascent Network on Science and Technology Studies in Africa. Participants engaged lively in the debates and endorsed the importance of the networking initiative.
The conference started from the assumption that analyses of the African present and futures have to account for the translation of inherited, local knowledge and technologies across the continent and beyond. Many contributions also outlined the converse, how the science-driven project of modernity in Africa relocates local knowledges and societies in more encompassing and complex global interrelations. Technology was understood as a broad analytical category including material devices, but also as forms of organisation and governance, procedures of standardisation, and technologies of the self. Our assertion was that since melioristic enterprises predominately rely on technology transfers, following the translation and creative adaptation of technologies from elsewhere offers a fitting starting point for analysis. This approach on travelling technologies encouraged participants to examine recent adjustments of transferred epistemic, normative and material elements from one context to another and types of effects that the institutionalisation of imported technologies produces in political, economic and legal orders. This perspective allowed exploring the contingent outcomes of meliorism, how the local and the global are negotiated in these endeavours and how people in African settings adapt to new insecurities and risks that science and technology co-produce.
II. Intellectual Outputs
An important point of departure for the conference was a demanding debate, which – informed by postcolonial and feminist studies – challenges the centrality of Euro-American techno-science in STS. Much of the most influential STS scholarship was devoted to the epicentres of western science, marginalising Africa (and other parts of the world too). The conference stressed the interconnections, contacts and exchanges with Africa as crucial to the development of modern knowledge, technologies, modes of production or regimes of governance, and, conversely, it also highlighted how African techno-scientific products are implicated in global trajectories and forms of life.
The keynote and round table discussion formulated a number of key issues and propositions on what it means to do Science and Technology Studies in and on Africa and why this is significant. One such proposition was that an African vantage point is important as it allows unique insights into the workings of global science and technology. The conference opened with Richard Rottenburg's keynote address on “Travelling Technologies, Institutions, Critique.” The keynote ventured from the observation that techno-economic networks (TEN) (i.e. networks of technology, science, organisation, law and economy) continue to drive the most relevant developments for human life around the globe. While often globally connected through calibrated standards, measurements and other equivalences, TEN have different local institutionalisations, relating to disparate webs of institutions and beliefs, infrastructures and organisational networks. Following travelling technologies, their translation from one scale to another, one site to the next, place to place and from time-space to time-space enables investigating these institutionalisations, because when technologies travel they do so without their institutional contexts, which thereby are made visible. Rottenburg's suggestion was that techno-economic networks can neither be condemned as iron cages that exert a uni-directional domination of African life worlds, nor should they be idolised as modernising forces, which emancipate humanity. Drawing inspiration from pragmatic sociology of critique, which has reconfigured the understanding of institutions by conceiving them as semantic devices built on a dialectic of confirmation and critique, the talk rather pointed another way out, namely the old and intricate work to contribute to emancipation through critique without secure foundations and means of predicting outcomes. This raised pungent questions about possibilities of emancipation and critique in African contexts and more generally the shape of scholarly critique in a setting, where more productive answers are needed than mere critical deconstruction.
The senior scholars on the round table likewise immersed themselves in a critical and reflexive conversation about the importance of Science and Technology Studies (STS) as a scholarly field for the African continent. Accordingly, STS offers important theoretical and methodological tools to capture the role of scientific knowledge production and technology on African politics, economics and legal orders. For example, it was argued that addressing science means formulating questions about truth/untruth and thus fundamentally about the authorisation of knowledges. Or that a focus on the notion of onto-epistemological politics, the politics of bringing categories, which structure reality, into and out off existence, is a relevant tool to study the global entanglements of African knowledge production. Many comments highlighted that this more reflexive approach to the status of knowledges is particularly vital to generate a type of “theory from the South,” which could lead to new forms of democratic participation in Africa, while contesting some types of expert knowledge.
Aside from these two highlights of the conference, which set a theoretically ambitious tone for the entire conference, the programme was organised into eight main conceptual sessions: S1 Experiments, S2 Travelling Technologies, S3 Inscriptions, S4 Interventions, S5 Biosocialities, 6S Knowledge Production, S7 Science Power and Law, S8 Science and Policies. The empirical papers were based on original research in Africa and they ignited many lively conversations in the eight different panels. In the following we concentrate on the most crucial topics and summarise the main points of discussion in the panels and the final plenary meeting.
Panels S1 Experiments, S4 Interventions and S5 Biosocialities in particular highlighted the long history of Africa as a sort of laboratory for scientific knowledge production. Since colonial times many African countries were involved in a series of consecutive experiments in modern government, health management and technology-driven economic development. Some papers linked to contemporary debates about experimentality in Africa. A prominent argument is that politically and legally defining a state of emergency signals a moral urgency to act and to intervene (hunger, AIDS, war, etc.) in spite of lacking assurance about grounds and possible outcomes, which results in testing, trying, experimenting to find a solution. Manjari Mahajan, for example, focussed on a large-scale social experiment in South African: the so-called treatment-as-prevention programme as a solution to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The introduction of a new antiretroviral drug displaced moral and organisational concerns of HIV/AIDS transmission, reducing them to technical troubles of drug efficacy and supply. Another example was Luisa Reis De Castro’s discussion of a publicly controversial experiment, namely the release of genetically modified mosquitoes in the fight against dengue, and compared experimentality in Brazil and different African countries. The discussion highlighted that the optimism about technologies – even when they come as solutions to serious health problems, such as the GM mosquitoes or HIV-treatment-as-prevention – is not necessarily shared by affected people (“beneficiaries”). Rather the unpredictable impacts of travelling technologies also raise a whole new set of ambivalences and moral questions.
Papers in panels S2 Travelling Technologies, S3 Inscriptions and S6 Knowledge Production underlined that science and technology do not only play an important role in these transformations, but also shape the ways in which they are analytically captured. Various papers analysed the increasing use of performance measures and neoliberal techniques of management across various domains from developmental interventions, governmental service provision to scientific performances itself and the types of realities these new measurements produce. For instance, Norman Schräpel scrutinised the performance-based financing of health services in Rwanda in the frame of the implementation of the Millenium Development Goals and outlined how numbers and other data about patients function as scientific evidence in support of new technologies of impartial, rational government.
Papers in panel S7 Science, Law and Power and S8 Science and Policies drew out new intersections between development, capitalist enterprises, African governments and science, which tend to crystallise around issues of global concern, like climate change, HIV/AIDS or womens' rights. At these intersections new strategic visions are inscribed into development paradigms, global standards and protocols are moulded, and new cooperative models take their shape, such as public private partnerships or multi-stakeholder co-operations to pursue specific joint goals. Addressing new forms of governance in the Global South, Kevin Donovan presented an intriguing case of Kenyian grass roots and nonetheless transnational techno-politics around the construction of an infrastructure for cash transfers for the poor. Discussion centred on the implications of such new configurations for African self-determination and it pointed out that there is a need for studies to examine how regulations emerge from novel intersections of business, science, government and development cooperation.
A hotly debated issue were the forms, origins, dynamics and outcomes of ongoing societal, economic and political reconfigurations of postcolonial and globalised Africa and the role that inherited knowledges and technologies play and should play in this. Overall, participating scholars noticed a rise of African self-reliance and a heightened awareness for African actors, ideas and choices in the project of modernisation at all levels. Drawing on a wide range of historical, sociological, anthropological, economical, geographical, religious, and artistic accounts of science and technology in Africa – while always recognising their deep implication in global techno-scientific and economic networks – may give rise to new forms of critique of contemporary political agendas and may be more attuned to everyday actors' voices and concerns for a better future. Others opined that historical processes in many African countries have brought about a situation where reformist critique and resulting conflicts are already widespread and the main problem is not finding new forms of critique but rather helping to stabilise legal, economic and political orders. They were referring to the experience of colonisation, the fragility of formal institutions, the vulnerability of populations towards environmental and other insecurities, marginal positions in global processes of politico-economic ordering, a dependence upon foreign aid to assume basic governmental responsibilities, and an experimental mode of governance.
The most controversial topic was how Africa tends to epitomise “the south” and is presented as the counterpoint to the north. It was pointed out that the criteria of debates on how to tell “norths” from “souths” are often not explicitly elaborated in STS, although these terms are gaining currency. The discussions asked how we can talk about differences without essentialising distinctions between Africa and other world regions, without brushing aside historical, societal, linguistic and environmental diversity on the African continent. To understand what Africa and African means in shifting global processes of ordering, other important contributions to the discussion emphasised the need to work out both similarities and differences (e.g. colonial history, linguistic, resources, cultural, geographical, etc.) that mark the heterogeneous African continent. The proposition was that more stringent conceptualisations of these differences are needed to give space to test and rework existing theoretical approaches in the field of STS and beyond. But overall, while the discussion pointed to the need for better critical understandings of the production of techno-science in global networks and on their differential impacts on African sites, scholars stressed the value of academic dispute in the field of STS and endorsed a pluralism of concepts without setting narrow confines for the STS-Africa network (i.e. either a focus on African knowledges or a certain theoretical paradigm).
III. Organisational Outputs
The conference was not only an intellectual success, but also achieved its goal in initiating a network among scholars working on Science and Technology in Africa. The starting point for this initiative was the observation that the impact of Science and Technology Studies (STS) as an academic field in Africa is rather limited both in research and teaching– with few exceptions in South Africa. Moreover, until recently no professional association or network of people was successful in stimulating discussions or research in this direction. The organisers felt that such lacks were particularly disturbing since STS approaches, apart from their academic merits, perhaps have a more direct practical and critical impact on development in Africa.
This networking initiative was by no means the first attempt to advance Science and Technology Studies in Africa and genealogies of previous efforts were debated. Some participants were doubtful about the broad variety of perspectives on science and technology as presented during the conference and viewed the heterogeneity of disciplinary backgrounds, objects of study, expectations, and interests as challenge for the platform on STS in Africa. A suggestion most welcomed was to more clearly and narrowly define the topics and issues at stake in future STS workshops. Participants agreed that future workshops should address topics more closely related to political and practical concerns troubling African countries. Overall, however, most were committed to the idea of the STS-Africa network and optimistic about its prospects bridge disciplinary divides and to instigate a serious forum for intellectual exchange in the future.
The value and implicit goals of forming an African network were interrogated, given their doubtful implicit premise that many different countries of the continent face the same challenges. After establishing a need for a STS-Africa network as a common ground among conference participants, discussion focussed on how to stabilise the initiative, and how to relate it to more formalised STS networks and professional organisations. There was a long and broad debate on the way forward, specifically on the organisational form of the network should take. A representative from Brazil discussed the relative success of the Latin American STS network (ESOCITE), detailing the structure of the organisation and the frequency of meetings. Participants from Brazil highlighted the insights to be gained from comparing African-based scholarship to that emerging from Latin America.
Consensus was achieved that intellectual activities will be organised as a decentralised, pan-African endeavour (thus we call this network) that convenes bi-annual meetings to bring together the scholarly community engaged in STS in Africa. The suggestion was made that the next meeting should be held in a francophone country in 2016. Professor Aimé Segla's proposition to host the upcoming event at the Université d’Abomey-Calavi in Benin was welcomed enthusiastically. The meeting also recommended that the event in 2018 should be staged in a lusophone country, possibly in Maputo, Mozambique. Concomitant to the de-centred academic activities, the STS-Africa network will be further institutionalised through a process of formal affiliation of universities and research institutes on the African continent and international institutions with a strong research interests in Africa (http://sts-africa.org/institutional-members).
Overall, the conference's format fully achieved the main two objectives outlined above: it prompted an intense intellectual exchange among scholars from different countries, engaging with STS in Africa, and outlined cutting-edge theoretical debates; and it managed to enrol a lively participation and commitment to form a network on STS Africa. Although we had hoped for a even more regionally diverse African delegation, the conference still was highly successful in assembling talented young and high-profile senior scholars from different African and non-African countries. The gender balance among participants also was excellent.
New book from Steve Fuller and Veronika Lipinska: The Proactionary Imperative (Palgrave, 2014)
Updated: July 14 2014
Steve Fuller has just published the third volume of his trilogy on 'Humanity 2.0', which attempts to define humanity in terms that go beyond the biological species, Homo sapiens. The book focuses on the 'proactionary principle' introduced a decade ago as an antidote to the 'precautionary principle'. Whereas precautionaries believe that we are on the brink of environmental catastrophe because we're too willing to take risks, proactionaries believe that humans stand apart from the rest of nature by our capacity for successful risk taking. In terms of current environmental problems, therefore, solutions lie not in turning our backs on our love affair with technology but by intensifying it – through finding new energy sources or even looking at the possibility of inhabiting other worlds. Fuller and his co-author, the lawyer Veronika Lipinska, argue that, politically, both those on the right and the left contribute to different sides of the precautionary-proactionary debate. They contend that this distinction, between caution and action, will come to dominate the political landscape and create new political divisions. Drawing on perspectives from both theology and biology, Fuller and Lipinska endorse the proactionary position, which supports individuals taking risks – for example with new health treatments, as they try to expand their life chances. They accept that such a risk-taking culture may result in set-backs and failures, but argue that this simply requires a new conception of the welfare state. The results may be an incredibly diverse society that will challenge our notions of tolerance, creating a world where 'traditional' humans live side by side with those who have artificial organs or have received substantial genetic modification. Humans have yet to treat all 'normal' members of Homo sapiens with proper respect and dignity and the proactionary principle opens up new challenges to our conceptions of equality. The book ends with a Manifesto that draws together the arguments to present a challenging vision for the future.
New Book by Sal Restivo et al.: Worlds of ScienceCraft
Updated: April 03 2014
Worlds of ScienceCraft: New Horizons in Sociology, Philosophy, and Science Studies, by Sal Restivo, Sabrina Weiss, and Alexander Stingl (Ashgate, 2014). June 2014 publication date.
Available for pre-ordering on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Worlds-Sciencecraft-Horizons-Sociology-Philosophy/dp/1409445275/
Lakatos Award in Philosophy of Science, London School of Economics
Updated: January 11 2013
The Lakatos Award is given annually for an outstanding contribution to the philosophy of science, widely interpreted, in the form of a book published in English during the previous six years. The Award is in memory of Imre Lakatos and has been endowed by the Latsis Foundation. It is administered by the following committee: the Director of the London School of Economics (Chairman), Professor John Worrall (Convenor), and Professors Hans Albert, Nancy Cartwright, Adolf Grünbaum, Philip Kitcher, Alan Musgrave, and Michael Redhead. The Committee makes the Award on the advice of an independent and anonymous panel of selectors. The value of the Award is £10,000.
To take up an Award a successful candidate must visit the LSE and deliver a public lecture (naturally all relevant expenses are covered by the LSE). The Award, which may be shared if there are deemed to be two candidates of equal merit, has so far been won by Bas Van Fraassen and Hartry Field (1986), Michael Friedman and Philip Kitcher (1987), Michael Redhead (1988), John Earman (1989), Elliott Sober (1991), Peter Achinstein and Alexander Rosenberg (1993), Michael Dummett (1994), Lawrence Sklar (1995), Abner Shimony (1996), Jeffrey Bub and Deborah Mayo (1998), Brian Skyrms (1999), Judea Pearl (2001), Penelope Maddy (2002), Patrick Suppes (2003), Kim Sterelny (2004), James Woodward (2005), Harvey Brown and Hasok Chang (2006), Richard Healey (2008), Samir Okasha (2009), Peter Godfrey-Smith (2010), and Wolfgang Spohn (2012). No awards were made in 2007 and 2011.
For details of the nomination process, see http://www2.lse.ac.uk/philosophy/LakatosAward/lakatosawarddetails.aspx
4S Seeks Editors for 4th Handbook of Science and Technology Studies
Updated: November 17 2010
The Society for Social Studies of Science Publications Committee invites proposals for the fourth edition of The Handbook of Science and Technology Studies. The Handbook consists of state-of-the-art review articles, along with occasionally more specific articles, that cover the current range of research in science and technology studies. The 3rd edition was published in 2008. At this point we are looking for a team of four editors who will enlist authors to write the full range of articles.
New Program in Science, Technology, and International Development at U of Edinburgh
Updated: January 08 2010
The Science, Technology and Innovation Studies Subject Group at the University of Edinburgh is launching a new postgraduate programme in Science, Technology and International Development from September 2010. The MSc programme (coursework plus dissertation) can be completed full-time over one year or part-time over two or three years. Alternatively a shorter programme (coursework without dissertation) can be followed for a Diploma or Certificate. The MSc Science, Technology and International Development is designed to equip students with an advanced interdisciplinary understanding of the historical, sociological, political and policy aspects of science and technology as they relate to international development. The programme provides a conceptual and policy-oriented approach the relationships between science, technology and international development. The programme prepares students for specialised practical work in international development or further academic study. Further information: see http://www.sps.ed.ac.uk/stid or contact the Programme Director Lawrence Dritsas L.Dritsas@ed.ac.uk. The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in Scotland, with registration number SC005336.
Arthur L. Norberg Travel Fund
Deadline: January 15 2010
Updated: January 02 2010
The Arthur L. Norberg Travel Fund provides short-term grants-in-aid to help scholars with travel expenses to use archival collections at the Charles Babbage Institute. Each year we plan to award two $750 grants.
Applicants should send a 2-page CV as well as a 500-word project description that describes the overall research project, identifies the importance of specific CBI collections, and discusses the projected outcome (journal article, book chapter, museum exhibit, etc.). Applicants are strongly encouraged to examine the extensive on-line finding guides to CBI’s 200-plus archival collections at www.cbi.umn.edu/collections/archmss.html. Applicants should estimate how many days they plan to use CBI collections during their visit (travel should generally be in the calendar year of the award). To be eligible, scholars will reside outside the Twin Cities metropolitan region.
Notification of awards will be made within four weeks, and travel can commence directly thereafter. Questions pertaining to collection content and access can be directed to R. Arvid Nelsen, CBI Archivist, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please direct questions about the Arthur Norberg Travel Fund to Jeffrey Yost, CBI Associate Director, email@example.com. For additional information, see www.cbi.umn.edu.
Materials must be submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or postmarked no later than 15 January 2010.
Further Information: http://www.cbi.umn.edu/collections/archmss.html