Linguists first used the term backchannel to refer to the spontaneous responses and signals that provide interactivity to what is only apparently a one-way communication. Social media users have adopted the term to refer to the unofficial, multi-directional online conversation that parallels formal academic exchange at a lecture or conference. The Backchannels blog is intended to have a similar relationship to scholarly discourse in STS. It provides an outlet for alternative-format scholarly communications, publishing shorter, timelier, media-rich communiques of interest to the global STS community. The editors welcome proposed contributions.



Citizen Starling: political and ornithological imaginations of an invasive bird

May 13 2024

Natalie’s current book project is a critical history of the “invasive” European starling in the US. In this piece, she describes how one twentieth-century ornithologist characterizes the bird as communist, and how this narrative bolstered ornithology and later invasion biology.

Categories as Prisons: or How Not to Write the History of the Scientific Revolution, Part II

May 6 2024

In the second of a two-part Backchannels post, Amanda Domingues and Rogelio Scott-Insua interview Professor Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, Alice Drysdale Sheffield Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin. They continue the conversation on narratives within the history of science that apply categories originally conceptualized in Europe and North America to understand events that transpired across the globe.

Follow the Photographs: Networks in and beyond the medical archive

Apr 28 2024

Michaela Clark explores the UCT DoS Collection of clinical photographs, produced at South Africa’s first medical school. She submits that its photographic contents testify to connections between historical actors and institutions. Following the collection outside the settler-colonial medical archive offers insight into how clinical photography crossed scientific and lay terrains, and continues to bridge local and global space and time.

“Laughable Science”: The Irish Government’s Response to the Crumbling Homes of Donegal

Apr 22 2024

In this reflection based on fieldwork in Donegal, Ireland, Kaitlyn Rabach shows how a defective concrete disaster is changing the ways homeowners and activists demand governmental policies be driven by expertise and evidence-backed science.

Spiders, Sex, and Slippages

Mar 25 2024

Jumping spider "song and dance" can serve as a generative entry point for staging broader disruptions in the misogyny and cisheterosexism that have long underwritten scientific studies of animal behavior.

Humanity in Symbiosis: Lessons from the Deep

Apr 15 2024

Scuba diver and anthropologist Jakkrit Sangkhamanee explores the multispecies, symbiotic relationships in coral reefs, drawing parallels to human-technology interactions and emphasizing the need for ecological awareness in the Anthropocene era.

Categories as Prisons: or How Not to Write the History of the Scientific Revolution, Part I

Apr 1 2024

In the first of a two-part Backchannels post, Amanda Domingues and Rogelio Scott-Insua interview Professor Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, Alice Drysdale Sheffield Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin. They discuss his research on the formative role of "Latin America" in US colonial history and the history of "Western" modernity as a whole.

The Scope of Ayurveda Oncology

Mar 20 2024

The global discourse on diseases and treatment is dominated by the positivistic approach of biomedicine, leaving little room for dialogue with other medical epistemes of the body. This post discusses the clinical approach of Ayurveda system of medicine in treating what is known as cancer today.

Posthuman Symbiosis Masterclass: [Un]learning with Donna Haraway and Rosi Braidotti

Mar 11 2024

In this exceptional collaboration, seven participants of the Posthuman Symbiosis Masterclass take us through a collective effort of (un)learning the ways we produce knowledge.

When ‘access’ is not enough: diversification of high school programs and the maintenance of social inequalities

Mar 4 2024

The following piece offers a brief cautionary tale on how the inclusion of full-time programs and increased access to the public high education system in Brazil do not necessarily create new opportunities for social mobility but can rather reinforce old structures that perpetuate inequalities.

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