Tag Archives: Cherish not Perish

Science as Culture

Our culture is a scientific one, defining what is natural and what is rational. Its values can be seen in what are sought out as facts and made as artefacts, what are designed as processes and products, and what are forged as weapons and filmed as wonders.  In our daily experience, power is exercised through expertise, e.g. in science, technology and medicine. Science as Culture explores how all these shape the values which contend for influence over the wider society. The journal encompasses people’s experiences at various sites – the workplace, the cinema, the computer, the hospital, the home and the academy. The articles are readable, attractive, lively, often humorous, and always jargon-free. SaC aims to be read at leisure, and to be a pleasure.

So reads the mission statement of the journal since its foundation in 1987. The focus has been publicly important topics, especially ongoing controversies or potential ones. Such topics become the rationale for engaging with concepts from STS, cultural studies and wider political debates. These linkages have made the journal attractive to a broad readership across and beyond academic disciplines.

From Critical Theory to cultural studies and STS

SaC was the successor of the Radical Science Journal (RSJ), which had emerged from 1970s critical science movements. This flourished under the broad umbrella of the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science, which published the magazine Science for People. As its activists argued, technical fixes were defining societal problems in ways that strengthen elite agendas for class exploitation, gender oppression and environmental degradation, while technicising and thus depoliticising such issues (Bell, 2013; Werskey, 2007; see http://www.bssrs.org/home).

Contributing theoretical perspectives to those strategic debates, the Radical Science Journal drew on concepts from counter-cultural, feminist, environmentalist and alternative health movements. From Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School tradition, the key concepts reification and fetishism were extended to technique and expert knowledge. As already noted by historians, basic scientific concepts have always depended on old or new metaphors; RSJ analysed how these naturalise specific values as properties of facts or artefacts. The critique drew on Marx’ insight, ‘This fetishism of commodities has its origin in the peculiar social character of the labour that produced them…’ By analogy, scientific facts likewise were shaped by social relations of scientific labour yet were fetishized as products of Nature (Young, 1977).

Members participated in the Labour Process Group within the Conference of Socialist Economists, informing analyses of science and technology as a labour process. ‘Capitalist science’ resulted from a labour process constituted by capitalist social relations, e.g. a division of labour, professional hierarchy, proprietary knowledge, etc. (RSJ Collective, 1981; Werskey, 2007: 439). Together these concepts highlighted the implicit politics in elite agendas, while linking diverse cases around a common framework. Labour process perspectives were further elaborated in a two-volume collection (Levidow and Young, 1981 and 1985).

The Editorial Collective had close links with social movements and political campaigns, which generated topics for RSJ’s monthly series of public events.  Members included academics (in the Sociology, Philosophy and History of Science), medics, science teachers, psychotherapists and various political activists. The Radical Publications Group provided a wider platform for regular discussions amongst critical journals on science, statistics, history, philosophy, social work, political economy, etc.

RSJ Editorial Collective members also attended an annual international meeting of critical journals. These included Naturkampen (Denmark), Cahiers Galilee (Belgium), Science for the People (US), Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parshad (India) and Contrainformazione (Italy), as well as mass-circulation magazines such as Wechselwirkung (Germany) and Sapere (Italy).  These annual discussions helped to sharpen critical perspectives on issues such as chemical disasters, automation, nuclear power, nuclear weapons, techno-torture, new reproductive technologies, etc. (Levidow and Vitale, 1981).

RSJ drew on perspectives from early STS, cultural studies and feminist studies. For example, a 1985 special issue analysed ICTs as Compulsive Technology, a title which has even greater relevance today (guest editors: Tony Solomonides and Les Levidow). A 1987 special issue explored how power is gendered and mediated through notions of science, technology and nature (Gender and Expertise, guest editor: Maureen McNeil). Meanwhile cultural studies were analysing how technoscientific developments set agendas for expert authority, social identity and social order. These interdisciplinary synergies provided a basis for the successor journal.

New journal: Science as Culture

For most of the UK’s critical journals in the 1970s, an Editorial Collective handled the entire production process including subscriptions and bookshop distribution. From the early 1980s onwards, however, Thatcher’s neoliberal Britain was closing down the spaces for such political alternatives and work modes. Critical journals depended heavily on substantial voluntary labour, which was becoming more difficult to sustain. For their public exposure and sales, they depended on bookshop distribution, but fewer journals were being stocked. For these reasons, most of the UK’s critical journals turned to commercial publishers, even whilst recognising that these might limit readers’ access through copyright restrictions and commercial pricing.

Given those general constraints on critical journals, alongside new opportunities for interdisciplinary exchanges, the Editors decided to replace RSJ with a new journal, Science as Culture (henceforth SaC). In the mid-1980s the Editors had founded a new press, Free Association Books, which now became the SaC publisher, but depended on at least five journal distributors across several continents.  These arrangements were soon simplified by switching publisher to Guilford Publications (NY) and then Carfax (UK), which in turn was acquired by Taylor & Francis; its STS journals list helped to raise the profile of SaC.

Why science as culture? As noted in the first issue, our everyday mundane and aesthetic experiences are already mediated by technologies, becoming ‘so much part of household furniture that we no longer experience them as technologies’. Although technological applications were sometimes debated as issues of values and power, their design priorities rarely underwent such scrutiny. And scientific knowledge remained largely invulnerable to critique, especially in the wake of science popularisation.

The mass media eagerly cater for a growing market which looks to scientific knowledge for enlightenment, entertainment, diversion…. Thus we have an abundance of science-as-culture, but it is primarily for consumption, much less often for debate about choices of values and priorities. The alternative to science-as-consumption is cultural critique (SaC Editors, 1987).

Hence SaC has analysed ‘the production of meanings in scientific culture and in the broader culture as influenced by science’ (ibid).

Although now positioning itself as an academic journal, SaC articles always went beyond academic disciplines and issues. Articles analysed power relations, labour processes, cultural meanings, their naturalisation and societal conflicts in diverse forms and sites. SaC presented itself as an STS journal critically analysing technoscience in its many manifestations.  Open to diverse disciplinary perspectives, SaC became a crucible for the interdisciplinary exchanges characterising STS.

Going further, the journal has had a transdisciplinary orientation to societal conflicts:

Transdisciplinarity explicitly orients its knowledge production not only around disciplinary problem-definitions but also around other definitions, derived from pressures, ‘applications’ or from societal stakeholders…. [Yet] different stakeholders may have different views about what the problem at stake actually is… (Maasen et al, 2006: 396).

Starting from such societal conflicts, SaC articles have analysed agendas for reordering society, their stabilisation through expertise, and their destabilisation through resistances including counter-expertise (e.g. Fortun and Cherkasky, 1998). This transdisciplinary perspective has many resonances with critical STS (e.g. Jasanoff, 2004; Jasanoff and Kim, 2015; Kleinman and Moore, 2014; Pellizzoni and Ylönen, 2012).

Beyond research articles and book reviews, SaC has analysed tensions within STS. According to one critic, STS epistemological debates about truth or objectivity obscure contests over power and alternative futures (Hamlin, 2007).  Johan Söderberg (2017) contrasts a ‘political economy’ tendency with a post-structuralist one, while tracing their differences to legacies from 1970s Marxism. SaC welcomes more articles on such tensions, especially why these matter for practice.

For the journal’s remit on the wider culture, a recurrent focus has been popular media and exhibitions, particularly how they celebrate technoscience. A 1995 special issue analysed Science on Display (guest editor: Sharon Macdonald). Other essays on exhibitions include Angela Last (2017), ‘Making nature, making energy, making humans’. More such contributions are sought.

SaC special issues and Forums

Special issues have generated and juxtaposed diverse perspectives on a topic. Through early discussion with the SaC Editors, the guest editors have sharpened the conceptual approach, drawing on more critical perspectives from STS and beyond. Reviewers of the papers include fellow contributors, whose own papers have benefited as a result.

Amongst the most popular special issues has been ‘Energy Transitions’ (guest Editors: Clark Miller, Alastair Iles & Christopher Jones, 2013). As the guest Introduction argues, ‘the key choices involved in energy transitions are not so much between different fuels but between different forms of social, economic, and political arrangements built in combination with new energy technologies’. Across the various articles, socio-technological systems perspectives linked three questions:

“What does it mean that energy systems are at once relatively hidden from public scrutiny and yet deeply structuring of social and economic arrangements that can stifle alternatives without our realizing it? Who knows about energy systems, what and how do they know, and whose knowledge counts in governing and reshaping energy futures? And what does it mean to implement a just energy transformation that will neither perpetuate the existing negative impacts of energy production and use nor create new ones?” (Miller et al., 2013).

‘Agro-Food Crises’ (guest Editors: Anne Loeber, Maarten Hajer and Les Levidow, 2011) examined the late 20th century agro-food disasters that were experienced as societal crises. Key actors made sense of these crises through specific risk framings that linked social and natural (dis)order in new ways. Contributors took a discourse-analytic approach to those societal conflicts and incipient agendas for institutional change.

Energy Transitions (2013)
Agro-Food Crises (2011)


To sharpen debate, SaC Editors have introduced topical Special Forums. These bring together articles of under 6k words, many written by non-academics, with a fast review procedure. This format provides a flexible means to scope new topics, to gather multiple critical approaches and to highlight their political relevance.

Public unease or antagonism towards some technoscientific developments has been a recurrent topic in SaC. Readers showed great interest in an article by Ian Welsh and Brian Wynne (2013), ‘Science, scientism and imaginaries of publics in the UK: passive objects, incipient threats’. They argued that elite strategy has shifted away from incorporating public unease, instead treating it as politicised threats requiring state control or even suppression. This article became the focus for a Forum on ‘Publics as Threats to Technoscientific Progress’ (2015).

Forums have taken up several other topics. ‘Embedding Social Sciences?’ (2014) critically analysed policy roles of the Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH). This started from an article questioning whether SSH were being appropriated for dominant policy agendas: ‘the call for “embedding SSH”, within lines of reasoning already predefined by sciences and engineering, translates a hierarchy and potentially limits SSH in developing its full potential’ (Felt, 2014). The Forum on ‘Contested Technology from the 1970s to the Present’ (2016) reflected on the 1970-80s radical science movements, drawing lessons for today’s analogous agendas. ‘Techno-Economic Assumptions’ (2017) analysed economic assumptions that pervade expert judgements about knowledge, technology design and government policy.

Future special issues will include the following topics: ‘Alter-Standardising Clinical Trial’s (guest editor: Achim Rosemann), ‘Techno-security Cultures’ (guest editors: Jutta Weber and Katrin M. Kämpf), ‘Urban Techno‐Politics’ (guest editors: Thaddeus Miller and Rider Foley) and ‘Justice and Counter-Expertise’ (guest editors: Sharlissa Moore and Logan Williams). This builds on a 1988 special issue, ‘Strategising Counter-Expertise’ (guest editors: Kim Fortun & Todd Cherkasky).

Trans-Atlantic cover picture for 2016 SaC Forum, ‘Contested Technology from the 1970s to the Present’

Future opportunities 

SaC is widely available through e-journal systems. Most publishers have shifted their business models from individual subscriptions to thematic ‘bundles’, e.g. STS and cultural studies, several of which include SaC. Its downloads have been rising every year; some papers of broad interest are available as free downloads.

The journal has two levels of organisation. Everyday operations have been run by four people: the Editor Les Levidow, two Associate Editors in Kean Birch and Uli Beisel, and Book Reviews Editor Martin Savransky (previously David Tyfield). Advisory Panel members play important roles in advising on strategy, publicising the journal and reviewing submissions. Advisory Panel meetings are held regularly at EASST and 4S conferences.

Both the special issue and Forum formats offer opportunities for early-career academics to serve as guest editors. They gain experience in editorial judgements and responsibility, working with the SaC Editors. Several guest editors have joined the SaC Advisory Panel.

The journal invites submissions and proposals for special issues or Forums. These usually begin with a set of potential papers from an academic event, as the basis to formulate an open call for contributions. Proposals should be sent to the Editor, L.Levidow@open.ac.uk



SaC articles are searchable at http://www.tandfonline.com/csac; see also the page listing special issues, http://explore.tandfonline.com/page/est/csac

Bell, A. 2013. Beneath the white coat: the radical science movement, The Guardian, 18 July, https://www.theguardian.com/science/political-science/2013/jul/18/beneath-white-coat-radical-science-movement

Felt, U. 2014. Within, across and beyond: reconsidering the role of Social Sciences and Humanities in Europe, Science as Culture 23(3): 384-396, http://tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09505431.2014.926146

Fortun, K. and Cherkasky, T. 1998. Guest Introduction: Strategising counter-expertise, Science as Culture 7(2): 141-144.

Hamlin, C. 2007. STS: Where the Marxist critique of capitalist science goes to die?, Science as Culture 16(4): 467-474.

Jasanoff, S. (ed). 2004. States of Knowledge: The Co-Production of Science and Social Order. London/NY: Routledge Taylor & Francis.

Jasanoff, S. and Kim, S.-H. (eds). 2015. Dreamscapes of Modernity: Sociotechnical Imaginaries and the Fabrication of Power. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Kleinman, D. and Moore, K.(eds) 2014. Routledge Handbook of Science, Technology and Society, https://www.routledge.com/Routledge-Handbook-of-Science-Technology-and-Society/Kleinman-Moore/p/book/9780415531528

Last, A. 2017. Making nature, making energy, making humans: two exhibitions at the Wellcome Trust, Science as Culture, http://tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/09505431.2017.1339684

Levidow, L. and Vitale, B. 1981. International meeting of radical science journals, Radical Science Journal 11: 101-110.

Levidow, L. and Young, R.M., eds (1981) Science, Technology and the Labour Process, vol.1, London: CSE Books.

Levidow, L. and Young, R.M., eds (1985) Science, Technology and the Labour Process, vol.2, London: Free Association Books.

Maasen, S., Lengwiler, M., Guggenheim, M. 2006. Practices of transdisciplinary research: close(r) encounters of science and society, Science and Public Policy 33(6): 394–398, https://doi.org/10.3152/147154306781778830

Miller, C., et al. 2013. The social dimensions of energy transitions, Science as Culture 22(2): 135-148, http://tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09505431.2013.786989

Pellizzoni, L. and Ylönen, M. 2012. Neoliberalism and Technoscience: Critical Assessments. Farnham/Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

RSJ Collective. 1981. Science, technology, medicine and the socialist movement, Radical Science Journal 11: 3-70, http://human-nature.com/rmyoung/papers/pap100.html

SaC Editors. 1987. Editorial, Science as Culture 1(1): 7-11, http://tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09505438709526176

Söderberg, J. 2017. The genealogy of empirical post-structuralist STS, retold in two conjunctures: the legacy of Hegel and Althusser, Science as Culture 26(2): 185-208, http://tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09505431.2016.1223029

Werskey, G. 2007. The Marxist critique of capitalist science: a history in three movements, Science as Culture 16(4): 397-461, http://tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09505430701706749

Young, R.M. 1977. Science is social relations, Radical Science Journal 5: 65-129,


Journal “Sociology of Science and Technology”: 
a Russian Platform from Conventional Social Studies to STS

The Russian-based journal “Sociology of Science and Technology” (SST) aims at international visibility and welcomes contributions in social and interdisciplinary studies of science and technology worldwide. SST develops a network of authors and reviewers and often experiments with special issues and guest editors in order to facilitate international discussion accessible to both Russian and non-Russian readers. The journal follows current turns in Russian social studies to science and technology studies (STS) and represents both conventional and new research agendas.

The SST journal is a quarterly professional journal, published both in Russian and in English. It was established in 2009 by the St. Petersburg branch of the S.I. Vavilov Institute for the History of Natural Science and Technology at the Russian Academy of Sciences, in collaboration with the “Nestor-Istoriya” publishing house. SST was designed as a platform for social scientists and researchers and to experiment with formats in addition to more classical types of publications. Despite its Russian-based origins, the journal strives for global recognition: the editorial advisory board includes scholars not only from Russia but also from European, Asian, and American countries. The journal collaborates closely, and develops partnerships, with related institutions and organizations, including international professional associations such as the International Sociological Association’s Research Committee 23 for the Sociology of Science and Technology. SST is now on its way to becoming an international publication platform following recognition in Russian journal rankings. It is experiencing a ‘rebirth’, in terms of technological changes and transfer to a new platform, in order to become more visible and appropriate for English-speaking audiences.

SST was intended as a platform for social scientists and researchers dealing with the issues of sociology, history, philosophy, and the anthropology of science and technology in general, and STS in particular. In order to serve the purposes and demands of the professional community and to remain on the cutting edge of STS trends, it is relatively flexible with formats and thematic issues. Traditionally, it collects theoretical and research articles, assembles topical issues and special editions, publishes conference papers, book reviews, conference reports, roundtables conversations, and interviews with scientists and researchers, as well as other open-ended contributions.

The major focus of SST is the social and interdisciplinary study of science and technology across a huge range of approaches, methodologies, and empirical results. The scope of topics includes problems of science and technology located in various areas, including: science, technology and society; science policy and science communication; science and education; technology and innovations; scientometrics and science governance; technological development and technology transfer; professional communities of scientists and academic mobility; gender issues in science and technology; social effects of technologies; the social role and status of scientists; and the sociology of knowledge and studies of expertise. The relatively recent (in Russia) turn to STS has facilitated the spread of interest in non-conventional and experimental writings, though the most frequent sections are still devoted to the history of science, science policy in Russia and abroad, scientific knowledge production, empirical studies, interviews with scientists, scientific life notes, and the first steps for young researchers.

The last special issue (No 4, 2015) gathered papers from the first St. Petersburg seminar which was organized by the Section for Sociology of Science and Technology at the St. Petersburg Association for Sociologists. The idea of the seminar was to bring together researchers from various institutions to represent the scope of studies and to facilitate future collaborations. There were eight articles devoted to information technologies, networks and flows, state and innovations, material objects in everyday interactions, comparative analysis of Latour and Lyotard, trust in science, and scientific boundaries. Other special issues have been devoted to “25 Years of Sociological Education in Russia” (No 2, 2014), “Russian-Chinese Seminar on the History of Science” (No 1, 2013), “Science, Technology and Social Processes in India: Sociological Discourses” (No 4, 2012), or the 100th anniversary of Robert Merton’s birth (No 4, 2010).

Our readers are students and scholars in STS, sociology, anthropology, history, and the philosophy of science and technologies; researchers dealing with various aspects of science functioning and technological development, governing of science and technology, and academic life and relationships with industry and government. Practitioners and policy-makers might also be interested in the journal articles, as they often represent the analytical and critical perspective of the current state of affairs in terms of science policy.

As the SST journal is on its way towards increased international visibility, it invites participation from a larger professional community of scholars working in the area of science and technology studies. The journal welcomes research in the areas of social and interdisciplinary studies of science and technology. Papers analyzing national aspects of science and technology development might be especially interesting in the framework of comparative studies. The SST journal seeks submissions that engage with traditional and shaping matters and welcomes participation in an ambitious plan – to construct a bridge between the global agenda in STS and its locally driven contributions with a Russian flavor.

Original manuscripts (either in English or in Russian) can be submitted via e-mail directly to the editor (school_kugel@mail.ru). Author guidelines are available on the official web-site.

Somatosphere: a medical anthropology website

Somatosphere is an online forum focused on medical anthropology, as well as the humanities and social sciences of health and medicine more broadly. The site aims to raise critical questions, debate and commentary about contemporary and historical matters of science, healing, illness, and the body. One of our key goals is not only to publish engaging essays, reviews, and new research in medical anthropology and social science, but to incorporate the flexibility and networking capabilities of digital media, generating new and rich links in and among ideas and across disciplinary boundaries. While there are a number of such disciplinary links and boundaries that we have actively worked around over the years, the relationship between medical anthropology and science and technology studies (STS) is among the most significant for us.

The site was founded in mid-2008 by a small number of then-fledgling medical anthropologists, including Erin Koch, Anne Kelly, Stephanie Lloyd, Todd Meyers, Matthew Wolf-Meyers, and me. We were impressed with the success of general anthropology blogs such as Savage Minds, and we all felt that medical anthropology needed a distinct space online. But it was also the case that most of us were inclined to a particular kind of medical anthropology: one that was closely engaged with questions of epistemology, history, and politics. For many of us neighboring disciplines and problem areas such as STS and the history of medicine were not only vital sources of inspiration, but domains in which we were interested in developing closer engagements and conversations. For some of us, working on the site also became a way of exploring both how medical anthropology was situated in a wider landscape of medical humanities and social sciences and thinking about what it could become.

Of course, by 2008 the relationship between anthropology and STS was well-established. Indeed, the relationship had been decades in development. Pioneers in feminist science studies included anthropologists like Emily Martin and Rayna Rapp, and anthropologists of biomedicine such as Allan Young and Margaret Lock were already engaging with science studies literatures in the early 1980s. If the 1990s had still seen the publication of works with titles like David Hess’s “If You’re Thinking of Living in STS….A Guide for the Perplexed” (1998) by the late 2000s many anthropologists were familiar with key STS scholars and texts. The broader project was no longer one of establishing connections but of asking new questions and developing new approaches on the basis of a medical anthropology which had one foot firmly set in the STS world. Indeed, new kinds of inter- and trans-disciplinary work was being proposed and carried out at the time, such as the Critical Neuroscience project, which drew partly on the tools of STS to enable both critique of and active engagement with the neurosciences. This kind of orientation to the horizons of medical anthropology has shaped the direction of Somatosphere from the beginning.

In the early days, the problem of finding contributions for the site was solved largely by drawing on our own networks of colleagues and friends, but as the readership for the site grew, we were increasingly able to use methods such as open calls for contributions and social media to reach scholars who had no prior connections to us. We also worked to expand the size of the editorial team. In 2014 we established an Editorial Collaborative of scholars who work together to develop the overall vision for the site. We now have an editorial team of some 50 rising and established scholars, and have published the work of some 500 contributors in all. We have one paid position, that of Managing Editor, currently occupied by the indefatigable Gregory Clinton, but otherwise all of the work put into Somatosphere is volunteered, part of the gift economy of the scholarly world.

While the website runs a range of pieces or posts, at its core are a variety of substantive pieces written by anthropologists and other social scientists, including research or fieldwork reports, conceptual pieces, interviews, and conference reports. And of course we publish many book reviews, thanks to the hard work of Seth Messinger, our book reviews editor. Substantive pieces are generally more polished than a typical academic blog post, with many undergoing several rounds of revision prior to publication. The site also runs monthly summaries of the latest academic literature in the social sciences of health and medicine (in a section currently edited by Anna Zogas) and a web round-up series which focuses on a different theme every month (edited by Lily Shapiro). Another popular series include “Top of the heap”, (currently compiled by Hannah Gibson) in which we ask scholars to recount what they have been reading or what they intend to read. Somatosphere has also increasingly taken on the task of facilitating current discussions and debates on the methods, arguments and politics of social science, both by extending discussions that occur at academic conferences as well as by publishing point-counterpoint pieces. Finally, in a series that was conceived of and is edited by Todd Meyers, we have been organizing book forums in which several contributors write open-ended responses to a recent book and the author responds. This has proved to be a very productive genre and we hope to run many more of them in the future.

I see the site as also providing a space for experimentation with form and genre at a moment when the ecology of academic publication and communication is rapidly changing. Particularly successful series in this regard have included “Commonplaces” – a series of short reflections on medical “keywords” written by leading scholars edited by Tomas Matza and Harris Solomon, and “The Ethnographic Case” – a series of short essays on the tensions between the general and the particular in the production of ethnographic knowledge, edited by Christine Labuski and Emily Yates-Doerr. Both of these series present relatively short, carefully written and edited reflections which are compelling to our specialist readers, but also, judging from the feedback we have received, very accessible to a range of non-specialists as well. We’re hoping to continue exploring the possibilities for online publication, especially in regard to the potential for employing multiple media, including image, video, and sound. Recent work that the journal Cultural Anthropology has been doing in this area is especially inspiring.

The speed of online publication allows Somatosphere and other similar venues to respond to unfolding events of concern in a way that is more challenging for traditional academic publications. To take one notable example, during the Ebola outbreak of 2014, Somatosphere ran a series of posts titled “Ebola Fieldnotes”. One of these pieces, a co-authored post by Almudena Marí Sáez, Ann Kelly and Hannah Brown, a group of anthropologists involved in conducting ethnographic research on the social, cultural, and material conditions shaping the outbreak, was picked up and reported on in an NPR (National Public Radio) Weekend Edition story titled, “The Experts the Ebola Response May Need: Anthropologists”. The Somatosphere piece was also later translated and published at La Marea, a Spanish-language news site. The reach of this piece highlights the site’s particular strengths: namely, as a web-based platform, Somatosphere is able to facilitate scholars’ interventions into public debate over compelling contemporary events in a timely way. The example of this piece about Ebola also speaks to the role of the site as a one of the public faces of medical anthropology and its neighbors. Many of our readers are non-specialists—whether scholars in other disciplines, clinicians, undergraduates, or simply readers interested in the perspective the site offers on issues of medicine, health, and society. In editing our posts, we try to keep in mind non-specialists and we encourage our contributors to write in a way which engages such readers.

In addition to our efforts to engage across disciplinary and specialist boundaries, we’ve made an effort to build a global academic community and facilitate conversation across national and regional boundaries in medical anthropology and adjoining fields, pushing against the insularity of many scholarly networks. I should add that this project is very much a work in progress. Most of our initial contributors were based in North America, and while we’ve made a concerted effort to assemble a geographically diverse Editorial Collaborative, and to solicit posts from scholars in a range of countries, there is still much work to do. We hope especially to expand our links to scholars in East Asia, Africa and Latin America, while continuing to work with those based throughout Europe. In addition to regular contributions, one of the ways in which we have attempted to do this is with a series called “Foreign Correspondents” edited by Stephanie Lloyd, which features reviews of significant books published in languages other than English.

While many of the pieces which appear on Somatosphere are invited, we always welcome unsolicited proposals for posts of various kinds, including (but not limited to) thought-pieces, essays, research reports, conference reports, interviews, photo essays, videos, and other multimedia projects. Not only are these great opportunities for students and young scholars to circulate their ideas and to begin publishing, writing a piece for Somatosphere can also be a first step toward developing an idea into a journal article. Indeed, a number of pieces which first appeared on Somatosphere were later reworked into articles for peer-reviewed journals or into book chapters for edited volumes. If you’d like to write a piece for Somatosphere, send us a brief proposal to admin@somatosphere.net.


The following scenario is most likely recognizable to many readers of EASST review. You are with a group of colleagues and friends. You are possibly in a bar, in a basement, or a conference hotel. The voices heard in the room are deep in discussions about an obscure band from the 80s, the latest sci-fi craze or the interpretation of some French theorist. Critical voices delve into the state of the academic publishing system and university policies, as well as the prospects of achieving proper academic tenure any time soon. In sum, you feel slightly uneasy about the state of academia, STS and the world surrounding the ivory tower. The red wine, IPAs and umbrella drinks do nothing to help the situation. The next day you wake up with cottonmouth and a headache, but the world remains the same.

This was our situation, and of course, it still is in many ways. Four years ago, we decided to use the frustration as a catalyst for creative work. The outcome was the launch of what we considered a much-needed scientific journal, catering for the steadily growing, but somewhat disconnected Nordic STS communities, whose scholarship often falls outside the scope of disciplinary journals, while its Nordic field of enquiry sometimes come across as too exotic for the international STS mainstream. This is a paradox in a field where locally anchored and embedded knowledge has always been valued. While NJSTS is an internationally oriented journal, we also want to acknowledge that scholarship emerges from locally situated actions, networks and arenas, and that the importance of this for the scholarship produced should not be ignored.

Further, we wanted to construct an arena where upcoming and established scholars of the north could engage in each other’s work, as well as with the work of interested scholars from other regions. A related question that emerged was the following: is there anything distinctly “Nordic” about our shared breed of STS, and if so – what would this “nordicness” constitute? Thus, the idea of a Nordic Journal of Science and Technology Studies was borne.

Surprisingly, we soon learned that the formal requirements for establishing a scienti c journal were quite relaxed. They concerned avoiding institutional inbreeding, and setting up a peer review process. So we did it! At the first bi-annual Nordic STS conference in 2013, fittingly located in Hell (!), Norway, our journal was launched with serious academic discussions on the agenda. The real launch however, took place at late night hours in an overcrowded hotel room in the very same non-metaphorical Hell.

While the formalities of setting up shop are not an obstacle, we had – and still have – high ambitions for the contents of our entity. We wanted to make a journal like no other, with interesting content in innovative contexts. Now, in the journals fourth annual volume, we can look back at great individual articles and book reviews from scholars in close to all major Nordic STS communities and beyond, special issues exploring exciting themes, and interviews with big international STS-names. Our papers have spurred controversy, been debated, cited, put on curriculums and have been read and downloaded across the globe. In an age where the term “impact” seems omnipresent as academic currency, this is not too shabby for a small, independent journal. In the years ahead, we want to build on this, to make sure the journal stays an open, democratic and relevant arena for high-quality scholarly exchange in the Nordics and beyond, and an outlet that is open to engagement across arenas like science, the arts and industry. Open access on open platforms is key to this, a strategy we will continue to pursue.

To retain the vibrancy of the journal we are interested in manuscripts of different kinds. First, we seek theoretical or empirical research papers. As we do not doubt for a second that ‘the north’ is part of the globe, authors do not need to work in Nordic institutions or have a specifically Nordic focus to publish with us; we are seeking diverse scholarly contributions engaging broadly with both traditional and emerging issues in STS and surrounding scholarly fields. Second, we seek book reviews. On the one hand, we seek authors interested in reviewing specific books; on the other, we seek hints about which books we should explore. Thus, publishers and authors with new books at the intersection of science, technology, arts, media, society etc. should feel free to get in touch.

Figure 1: The front page of vol. 1, issue 1, NJSTS (2013)
Figure 1: The front page of vol. 1, issue 1, NJSTS (2013)

Thirdly, we are interested in more open-ended contributions. These could be short commentaries, essays, interviews, conference reports and other reflections – in principle imagination is what stops you here. Finally, we are always interested in dialogues about the possibili- ties of special issues, sections or other ideas that you might have. As a teaser, we can point out that a thematic, guest edited issue on feminist technoscience is on the agenda, so keep your eyes open for an exciting call for papers soon!

STS is increasingly becoming a global endeavor. At the same time, the local settings where STS is enacted, produce local variants, locally anchored traditions of methodology, theory development and analysis. We want contributions that balance the need to address a global audience, with care for the situatedness of the work presented. Thus, while we have mainly published contributions in English, we are also open for manuscripts in other Nordic languages.

We are a small journal, and we will not be able to compete with top journals on matters like impact factor or rating. However, we are dedicated to being better than such journals on matters of author communication, feedback and reviews. We are also quite friendly people. Therefore, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you want to discuss a manuscript or for any other reason!

Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience


Catalyst Issue 4
Catalyst: Issue 1, Vol. 1, Fall 2015



Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience is a new online, open-source, peer- reviewed journal that has created a publication platform for the ongoing re- activation and remixing of the field of feminist science and technology studies. Catalyst explicitly embraces work that falls within the rubric of called feminist science and technology studies even as it propagates that work within a broader panoply of geographic sites and disciplines as well as through myriad practices, including art, maker culture, and new media praxis. The journal publishes both conventional monographic articles as well as a variety of experimental writings, roundtable conversations, and digital and new media projects. Moreover, Catalyst recognizes the dispersed, divergent, and intersectional political commitments that constitute feminist STS by purposefully moving beyond gender and sexuality as discrete topics to invite scholarship engaged with militarism, blackness, decoloniality, anti-racism, queer politics, political economy, and disability. The journal acknowledges feminist STS as an intersected, many-sited, under revision, and heterogeneous field.

This extensive vision of what might count as feminist engagements with technoscience is signaled by the journal’s name. Etymologically, the word “catalyst” is constructed out of the Greek word katálusis, which means “dissolution.” This sense of coming apart, or coming undone has been reversed in the contemporary usage of the term in social and political discourse, where to catalyze means to stimulate social change or precipitate an event. Catalyst embraces the word’s contradictory associations, including its use as a technical term within chemistry. In chemistry, a catalyst is a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction by changing the amount of activation energy required without itself undergoing any permanent chemical change. The addition of a catalyst, in other words, sparks an alternative pathway for a chemical reaction to occur. In practice, this means that a catalyst can be used to trigger a reaction that would otherwise not happen because it requires too much energy. In other words, a catalyst stimulates other routes and relations. Drawing on this plurality of histories and meanings, the journal mobilizes the word Catalyst to describe the task of supporting the ongoing remaking of feminist STS constituted in the uneasy mixture of many trajectories of critical thinking, and towards the political project of a changed world. For instance, tracing an historical itinerary for the term “catalyst,” one could route through the work of the Scottish female chemist Elizabeth Fulhame, who in 1794 published An Essay On Combustion with a View to a New Art of Dying and Painting, wherein the Phlogistic and Antiphlogistic Hypotheses are Proved Erroneous, a text credited with the first description of a chemical catalyst. Aptly, Fulhame’s work in chemistry took as its experimental concern artistic practices, studying chemical processes used within photography, dying, and the creation of metallic fabrics. Thus, routed through Fulhame, the very genealogy of the concept of catalyst brings together the entwined histories of science and art practice, as well as the creation of technoscientific projects in the margins of imperialism and patriarchy.

The desire to create Catalyst came from the acknowledgement that scholars in feminist STS consistently struggled to find journals amenable to their work, and that this especially affected younger scholars who were often undertaking their research in the marginal corners of more conventional disciplines. Thus, it was important to the editorial board that Catalyst be a peer- reviewed journal that would strive to publish work at the cutting-edge of the field. With these ambitious in mind, Catalyst is also a project built out of the labor of a small circle of academic colleagues and graduate students who work transverses the areas of feminist, queer, postcolonial, and antiracist STS and media studies in the US and Canada. The development of Catalyst was not launched by a professional society or academic press, but instead was created out of the work and commitment of people drawing on local and ephemeral sources of funds at their various universities. The journal is made possible by graduate student labor and creativity from UC San Diego, NYU, Emory, UCLA, and the University of Toronto, as well as a modest one-year grant provided by the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S). Thus, the journal currently straddles DIY feminist praxis, where unwaged labor is mobilized to create possibilities otherwise institutionally foreclosed, and a commitment to scholarly rigor and recognition of work in the field.

We are keenly aware that our own composition of US and Canadian academics provides only a partial entry into the efflorescence of critical feminist STS work, and that our itineraries of feminist, anti-racist STS have emerged from particular resistances to American empire and settler colonialism, which are not necessarily the points of departure for critical, political, feminist scholarship generated in other locations. This self-reflection is another reason to embrace the name Catalyst, as a recognition that the work which is submitted to the journal may very well spark a rearrangement of the very terms and boundaries of constitutes feminist STS.

Catalyst publishes two issues a year. It launched its inaugural issue, which included a mixture of both established and newer scholars including graduate students, at the 2015 meeting of 4S in Denver. Its second issue, on Digital Militarism, edited by Lucy Suchman, Isra Ali, Marisa Brandt, Andy Rice, is about to be released in Spring 2016. The Fall 2016 issue, on the theme of Black Feminism and Feminist Technoscience, is coordinated by guest editors Kimberly Juanita Brown, Jared Sexton, and Cristina Visperas. In elevating the ongoing work of black captivity in a range of technoscientific practices, this special issue in particular provokes the question: “What would the end of the world of science – what would the end of science as we know it – do for feminist technoscience, and for science and technology studies more broadly?” A forthcoming special issue on “Science out of Feminist Theory,” guest edited by Banu Subramaniam and Angela Willey, begins from genealogies of postcolonial and queer theory to open spaces for reconceptualizing science itself. Here the contributors will shift the focus from feminist STS to how feminisms and feminist theory can be “generative sites for producing new imaginations and theories of science and the work of knowing our worlds.”

For each special issue, Catalyst has instituted a practice of putting out a wide call for papers that seeks to expand beyond collegial networks and invite interventions into the questions it poses. While all these special issues are purposely crafted to spark the ongoing remixing of feminist STS, Catalyst also invites the submission of individual papers and digital projects looking for a platform from which to stir up of technoscience, feminism, theory, and politics. We hope scholars at EASST and beyond will view Catalyst as a forum where they are welcomed and challenged to the continual remixing of feminist technoscience studies.

Meson Press: Opening Up Book Publishing

meson press publishes research on digital cultures and networked media. Our open access publications challenge contemporary theories and advance key debates in the humanities of today.

Despite our admiration for books we believe they need to be reinvented. We face changing reading habits in the era of digital media: for academic reading as well as for public outreach ›searchability‹ has become central, and as such the pdf-format of the book. At the same time we face a rise in publishing (especially with edited volumes) leading to more and more books to be released under the increasing pressure to publish. This makes it necessary to experiment with new forms of book publishing that explore the books’ digital being, e.g. shorter formats of books as well as new forms of (still rigorous) peer review.


figure 1: »Modi der Exiszenz« by Souriau
figure 1: »Modi der Exiszenz« by Souriau
figure 3: »In Catastrophic Times. Resisting the Coming Barbarism« by Isabelle Stengers
figure 2: »Life and Technology beyond Simondon« by Barthélémy
figure 2: »Life and Technology beyond Simondon« by Barthélémy



These developments allow authors to shape their manuscripts in a different manner. Examples for this are future book projects like the upcoming »Symptoms of Our Planetary Condition«, a critical vocabulary developed by the group terracritica.net. Or the upcoming »Terms of Media Series«, an experiment initiated by Wendy Chun, Timon Beyes, Goetz Bachmann and Boris Traue, who reinvent conference proceedings as a series of short books rather than thinking of them as an edited volume.

Generally, books by meson press are timely and of high expertise while written in a style that openly engages the reader in the spirit of Open Access. We believe in openness. For us this means that all our books are released under an open license on our website www.meson.press free of charge and that our publications can be harvested by libraries and other content aggregators using the OAI-PMH inferface. Recent publications published in this spirit include topics like »No software, just services« (Kaldrack, Leeker 2015), »The Politics of Micro-Decisions: Edward Snowden, Net Neutrality, and the Architectures of the Internet« (Sprenger 2015) or »Rethinking Gamification« (Fuchs, et al. 2014).

meson press has also published a range of translations of theoretical classics, among those Isabelle Stengers’ »In Catastrophic Times« (co-published with Open Humanities Press), the Italian 1960s classic »The Cyborg« by Antonia Caronia, or the German translation of Étienne Souriaus »Les différents modes d’existence«. As one can see from this list, our books are not only written for media scholars and advanced students of cultural and media studies, but also address the serious reader interested in digital media.

In the spirit of digital media, all of our books are published in digital formats and as print-on-demand. The visual identity of the press, which is effectively optimized for both environments, has been developed in close collaboration with the book designer Torsten Köchlin and the digital designer Silke Krieg. Working with the print-on-demand provider Lightning Source allows our beautifully printed books to be available in flexible numbers worldwide far beyond Europe including the UK, US, and South America.

Publications have become cheaper in recent years, however, publishing still isn’t free. Recent developments show that the sales especially for smaller presses are not high enough to sustain a press and its editors. This means, presses rely on a charge – hopefully paid by funding agencies or academic institutions – generally known as ›author processing fee‹ or ›print support fees‹. In German speaking countries, academic book publishing is already heavily subsidized by those fees known as »Druckkostenzuschuss«.

meson press remains an optimistic experiment despite Open Access is still highly contested in many respects and faces challenges that cannot be ignored. Taking a closer look at current developments, the suspicion against open access as not rigorous enough or the one-sided focus on OA journals quickly becomes apparent. The latter might be historically explained by the fact that the idea for Open Access was first voiced in the MINT disciplines. However, one size does not fit all in scholarly publishing and it is therefore important to us to take part in the development of Open Access publishing models more suited to the publishing cultures in the humanities and the social sciences, which still rely heavily on the book as a powerful means of scholarly communication.


figure 4: »Cyborg« by Caronia
figure 4: »Cyborg« by Caronia
figure 6: »Politics of Micro-Decisions« by Sprenger
figure 6: »Politics of Micro-Decisions« by Sprenger
figure 5: »no software just services« by Kaldrack, Leeker
figure 5: »no software just services« by Kaldrack, Leeker

meson press is a spin off of the “Hybrid Publishing Lab” which was funded within the framework of the EU major project “Innovation Incubator” at Leuphana University Lüneburg from 2012 until 2015. Its aim was to investigate the future of scholarly publishing in digital environments and generating ideas, technologies as well as business models for supporting the development of the regional publishing industry. It is in this context that we, Mercedes Bunz, Andreas Kirchner and Marcus Burkhardt met. As a consequence, the aim of meson press is to develop an academically sound strategy for Open Access book publishing. Today, meson press is an experiment we continue with verve after our research time at Leuphana University. As academic nomads living at the moment in Munich, Cologne and London, we run meson press in a decentralized manner, while keeping our main office in Lüneburg. To stress this network-like structure as well as its participative and democratic character, we chose to organize meson press as a cooperative – a legal framework not only meeting our requirements for the moment, but also enabling us to include further members in our hopefully growing network.



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