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Message posted on 14/03/2019

SHOT CfP: Engineering Modernity, Nationalism, and Colonialism (Milan Oct 2019) - Deadline March 20

Dear all,

I am circulating a CfP for the Meeting of the Society for the History of
Technology that will take place in Milan, 24-27 October. The deadline
for submitting individual proposals to any open session as this one is
March 20. You can find the proposal here:

Engineering Modernity, Nationalism, and Colonialism

Mara Dicenta
Science and Technology Studies
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy (NY)

The institutionalization of science came together with the
solidification of the modern State as
legitimate actors for organizing knowledge and governance throughout the
19th century
(Foucault, 2003, 2009). Along with an imperialist drive, States aimed to
reach every realm of life
within and across borders to expand and secure its own interests.
Knowing populations,
organisms, and geographies became the path for success and stability
while structuring an
archaeology of knowledge that enabled governments to unfold regulations
to, ultimately,
optimize its populations and territories. Since then, rights´ struggles
became inseparable from the
scientific knowledges of the human as a biological, psychological, or
ecological domain. At that
time, the process of civilizing justified a mode of doing colonial
science, one that was validated
through the inferiorization of Others (peoples, lands, epistemologies).
At that time, scientists
involved in exploring, taxonomizing, and doing cartographies,
participated in mapping and
uncovering the world (Giucci, 2014). Classifying came along with
drawings and other
representation techniques that enacted ideals, hierarchies, and
politics. How did these forms of
ordering the world were accompanied by aesthetic values that helped
reconfigure societies,
natures, landscapes, and modes of coexistence? What were the tastes of
scientific colonialism?
Which symbolic species, lands, or humans composed the narratives and
devices (coins, flags) of

An intensification of State planning through science marked the
beginning of the 20th
century. The Second Industrial Revolution and the World Wars motivated
narrower ties between
Science, Industry, and the State in a period when economics was
dominated by the import-export
paradigm. From right to left nationalist ideologies, Nations at that
time centered science as a way
to actively engineer its societies, landscapes, and productivity (Scott,
1998: 5). From Argentina
to the URSS, Germany and the US, engineers and dams became figures of
modernity. At the
same time, introduction and experimentation of species became normalized
as a vehicle for
engineering nature and society and plants, seeds, and animals
participated in nationalist projects
as agents of modernity. However, those state-planned utopian engineering
projects were also
accompanied by failures due to the combination of administrative
management of nature and
society, a high modernist ideology, utopic technological optimism,
authoritarian methods, and
disavowal of local histories (Scott, 1998). Besides, failures took
particular forms in Southernized
regions, where biopolitics is not a story of heroes and successes but
rather one of failures and
dependency (Vessuri, 2007). The back and forth between high modernist
optimism and the
narrative of failure, in Latin American countries, has provoked distrust
towards science and the
State, suspect of responding to foreign interests (Barandiarán, 2018;
Kreimer, 2011) and of
justifying authoritarianism in the name of modernity (Vessuri, 2007).
Which were the icons of
the industrial modernity of the time and how were they utilized for
national projects? Which
visions did this technologies, animals, humans, and representations
portrayed and how did they
intervene sociomaterial worlds? How are they today reconfigured through
power structures in the
form of memory, revival, or ruination?

In this panel, we explore the intersections between nationalism,
colonialism, science, aesthetics,
and social and natural engineering. How do imported landscapes get
translated in other regions?
How do these designs respond to production, aesthetic, colonial,
historical, modern drives? How
do they survive and changes? How can we trace nature transitions from
agroindustry towards
visions of apocalypse, collapse, and devastation? Which are the
aesthetic values and tastes
involved in those unifying visions? And what colonial practices do they
convey, if we
understood colonialism as the making of Others inferior to validate the
We seek contributions that examine different regions, methods, and time
periods while
considering the updating of Reaganist-Thatcherist-Pinochetist´s politics
across the world.
The US-Mexico Wall or the Microsoft Submarine Data Centre are symbols of
politics: a form of liberalism which is ‘nationalist, authoritarian, and
racist’ (Therborn 2018).
How are past and present dreamscapes of modernity (Jasanoff and
Sang-Hyun Kim, 2015)
represented, aestheticized, and technologized and for which political
projects? And how have
they mediated, transformed, and reconfigured more-than-human worlds?

Barandiarán J (2018) Science and the environment in Chile. The politics
of Expert advice in a
neoliberal democracy. MIT Press.
Foucault M (2003) Society Must Be Defended. Lectures at the College de
France 1975-76.
Bertani M and Fontana A (eds). Picador.
Foucault M (2009) Security, Territory, Population. Palgrave Macmillan.
Giucci G (2014) Tierra del Fuego: La creación del Fin del Mundo. Buenos
Aires: Fondo de
Cultura Económica.
Jasanoff S and Sang-Hyun Kim (2015) Dreamscapes of Modernity:
Sociotechnical Imaginaries
and the Fabrication of Power. The University of Chicago Press.
Kreimer P (2011) Ciencia y periferia. Nacimiento, muerte y resurrección
de la biología
molecular en la Argentina. Buenos Aires: Eudeba.
Scott JC (1998) Seeing like a state. How certain schemes to improve the
human condition have
failed. Yale University Press.
Vessuri H (2007) “O inventamos, o erramos”. La ciencia como ideafuerza
en América Latina.
Universidad Nacional de Quilmes.

Best Regards,

Mara Dicenta
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