Tapuya: Latin American Science, Technology and Society – Enacting Southern Perspectives on STS

by Leandro Rodriguez Medina

In August 2017 Tapuya: Latin American Science, Technology and Society was launched. This is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal affiliated to the Asociación Latinoamericana de Estudios Sociales de la Ciencia y la Tecnología (ESOCITE) and the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S), and published by Taylor & Francis. The word “tapuya” was used, on the one hand, by the Tupi in Brazil to designate people who do not speak the Tupi language as the Tupi do. On the other, some anti-colonial theorists have used the purported identity of this group as cannibals to articulate their own practice of “swallowing” northern practices and transforming them into something uniquely Latin American. By holding two differing definitions, the betrayals of translation and the productive tensions of simultaneously being part and not part of a specific community are concerns of this innovative new STS journal.

Tapuya was born more than a year earlier. In May 2016, a workshop titled “Postcolonial and Latin American STS,” organized by Tiago Ribeiro Duarte and Luis Reyes-Galindo, took place at University of Brasilia. After that, Sandra Harding and Leandro Rodriguez Medina, current Editor-in-Chief, started to think about creating a new journal, based in Latin America but with a global scope. The goal was to productively intervene in the colonial institutional structure of periphery social sciences as well as to contribute to increase the visibility of high quality Latin American scholarship in Science and Technology Studies. Rodríguez Medina and Harding spent several months interviewing editors and managing editors of other journals, securing the generous advice of a number of senior 4S and ESOCITE scholars, and making inquiries of leading English-language publishers. After positive feedback, a contract with Taylor & Francis was signed in June 2017.

In order to reach the widest audience, we made two difficult decisions. First, the journal would be published in English. Without ignoring the epistemic and political effects of the lingua franca, we decided that the need to engage in productive dialogue with other communities in the global South was a significant priority. Yet we also decided to continue to reflect on the language issue in STS. Future publications and clusters in Tapuya will be devoted to this topic. Secondly, the journal would be published by a global publisher, situated in the North. We believe that synergy can be produced between Tapuya and Taylor & Francis as long as they both recognize what they can provide. T&F has a long, successful tradition of publishing top quality journals, including five hundred in the social sciences. It has the technical capacity to deal with the entire process of publishing, from submission to marketing of articles. It also has experience in getting journals indexed in the most relevant scholarly databases, which has become a crucial, though controversial, requisite in many countries in Latin America and abroad. Tapuya, on the other hand, can provide a group of Latin American scholars committed to STS research, high quality scholarship, and a long tradition of reflection on science and technology, as our first published article makes evident (Kreimer and Vessuri 2017). Moreover, Tapuya is willing to become a node in a global network that can provide resources to begin to balance the long-unbalanced structure of the academic world. It will do so by shedding light on neglected subjects, topics and methodologies, thereby strengthening STS.

Tapuya aims to bring together Latin American and international researchers to focus on issues such as center/periphery relations, the dynamics and organization of scientific fields, connections between science, technology and social problems (e.g. poverty, social exclusion or inequality), the uses and modes of production of knowledge, including indigenous knowledge, the national, regional, and international mobility of scientists and engineers, their ideas, and normative systems, the relationships between universities, private sectors and the state (firstly theorized by Jorge Sábato in the 1960s), and the roles of STS within diverse Latin American societies. Accordingly, we expect to publish research articles, literature reviews and book reviews, as well as interviews and non-textual pieces (e.g. videos with authors’ comments). For literature and book reviews, we will encourage scholars to review scholarship originally published in English, Spanish and Portuguese. If possible, reviewed pieces in other European and non-European languages will be particularly welcome.  This entanglement of thematically-related works is an important way to make Tapuya the realm where provincializing STS, now reclaimed even by Northern scholars, can take place.

Thus, Tapuya has three interrelated missions. One is to engage diverse social, economic and political actors in debates around science, technology and analyze their influence in the future of Latin America. Secondly, it intends to be a gathering place to enact STS networks of scholars across the global south; it will strengthen what global northerners think of as “periphery studies”. Finally, the journal intends to foster global, wide-ranging dialogues between centers and peripheries. Yet Tapuya wants to problematize to what extent these last-mentioned categories are useful in current STS thinking. It will do so by focusing on how STS strategies in the global north have effects in Latin America and the global south, and how STS strategies in the global south have effects in the global north. In these several ways Tapuya will reposition Latin America as the conventionally disallowed subject  of thought about science, technology and society—not as the object of others thinking.

To achieve Tapuya’s goals, we have set up two academic boards: the Editorial Board and the International Advisory Board. Half of the Editorial Board, whose members were invited in August 2017, are made up of Latin American scholars, including one official ESOCITE representative, while the other half are from outside the region. For the International Advisory Board, appointments initially went to a small number of the many significant STS scholars, half Latin Americans and half from around the globe. Both boards will give advice to the journal and shepherd to Tapuya  appropriate manuscripts, books and book reviewers.

Tapuya has received funding support from generous institutions and scholars. Donations of start-up funds for Tapuya’s first five years have been provided by three University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) units, for which the journal is most grateful: the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, the UCLA Luskin College of Public Affairs, and the UCLA Latin American Institute. Meanwhile, Universidad de las Américas Puebla (UDLAP) is contributing resources to the Editor-in-Chief and Taylor & Francis is partially funding an editorial office in Puebla, Mexico. Further donations from within the STS community have helped to support the launch of the Journal.

Three editorial principles are especially important. First, Tapuya is a rolling, open access journal that always, in every case, prioritizes the quality of submissions over authors’ ability to pay the Article Publishing Charge (APC) that cover publication expenses. Authors of all accepted papers, regardless of background, will be able to request a fee-waiver, which will then be judged on its merits, with oversight from the Editor-in-Chief. Financial issues will never influence editorial decisions.  Secondly, Tapuya is a peer-reviewed journal. All non-commissioned submissions will be double- blind peer reviewed. Commissioned submissions, such as book and literature reviews, will be reviewed by the journal’s Editor-in-Chief, with the expectation that they will be accepted if they meet the journal’s publication standards. Thus, all submissions must meet international standards for high-quality American English. Yet we want to make clear that Tapuya does expect submissions from scholars who are not native English speakers; so the journal commits to embrace this diversity within the review process. Finally, Tapuya intends to have transparent processes and prompt communication with authors. The editors intend to make each manuscript’s journey through submission and review processes as quick as possible, and to keep authors informed of where their submission is in this journey.

Finally, we want to invite artists, scholars and readers to be part of Tapuya in another, but challenging, way. Every year, we want to change the two pictures that are on the cover of the journal. This year, the photo and painting were provided by Luis Reyes-Galindo, researcher at University of Campinas and one of the Associate Editors. As you can read in his introduction to the cover (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/25729861.2017.1359424) both images are connected to the origins of Tapuya, in Buenos Aires (2014) and Brasilia (2016). We want Tapuya’s cover to show how Latin American science, technology and society can be variously depicted and can illustrate the diversity of this region.

In conclusion, we hope you will enjoy joining us in this scholarly and socio-political adventure that is Tapuya as much as we are enjoying  bringing the journal to you.