Engaging Regimes of Technoscience, 2001

Engaging Regimes of Technoscience 

Montreal 2001

Held Jointly with the American Ethnological Association and the Canadian Anthropological Society/Société Canadienne d’Anthropologie

Program Chairs: Michael Silverstein (m-silverstein@uchicago.edu) and Deborah Heath (heath@lclark.edu)

As part of the overall joint meeting theme of "Culture, Difference, Inequality," the Society for Cultural Anthropology is focusing its program this year on "Engaging Regimes of Technoscience."

Increasingly, it seems, and throughout the world, inequalities of difference are locatable around fault-lines of access to, benefit from, control of technoscientific invention and deployment. Whether we are speaking of technosciences of medicine and health, information and communication technologies, "natural" industrial resources, or peace vs. hostilities, these departmental interests of people in first-world modernity shape humanity’s differences as much as they foster a global ecumene.

Through work in science studies inspired by variously feminist and subaltern studies, more clearly do we understand that the cultural dimensions of technoscience are central to the enterprise. Furthermore, the complex networks of association that link laboratories to wider worlds take shape within politicoeconomic fields of inequality and difference.Accordingly, we examine several of the key issues in peoples’ variously situated engagement with technoscience as culture and practice. Examining some exemplary sites of technoscientific regimes will, we hope, further our cultural understanding of its differentiating role in people’s lives, as well as of the various inflections of technoscientific power, knowledge and agency.

We are pleased to announce that, in keeping with the SCA theme, the David M. Schneider Memorial Lecture for 2001 will be delivered by Professor Paul Rabinow of the University of California, Berkeley, in a plenary session to the entire meeting.

The rest of the SCA preliminary program, in thematically organized sessions of papers, commentaries, and discussions, is organized around the following conceptual clusters:

Technoscientific NatureCulture: Ecologies of Power/Knowledge. Here, we are concerned with impacts of the insertion of technoscientific institutions into landscapes, whether "natural" or sociocultural, and the differential consequences for groups of people who are recruited as workers, clients, "neighbors," etc. How are landscapes of risk implied in technoscientific presence? How are institutional cultural ecologies fashioned in respect of such enterprises’ presence, and how do these relate to other ecologies?

The Geopolitics of Global Technoscience. Technoscience is pursued beyond, or even without respect to, boundaries of nation-states and their political divisions. As such enterprises have become "global" ones by virtue of a colonial or transnational trajectory of development, in what ways have they transformed the cultural imaginary of local subjectivities? For example how have they increased senses of vulnerability among local peoples? How have they been changing understandings of national (or equivalent) citizenship in relation to "humanity" or equivalent concepts of a worldwide ecumene?

Contesting Science, Contested Science, "People’s Science." How do groups of people engage scientific enterprise in terms of a concept of their own interests, especially as these are seen to differ from that of some official or otherwise institutional view? How does activism present itself as the face of such engagement? How are discourses of "rights," of abuses of such rights, and remedies of abuses invoked in such modes of contestation? What is the cultural construal of technoscience implicit in such engagement? And when do alliances contest conventional notions of expertise and activism?

Transspecific Biopolitics: Animals as Models and as Collaborators. Much of the research and development in bio-technoscience involves transspecific imaginaries and, arguably, cross-species social relationships. Increasingly, "animal models" act as human surrogates in the investigation of biological processes and medical treatments. Meanwhile, cloned or transgenic organisms challenge conventional understandings of Nature at the same time that their presence has been increasingly normalized. Both within the lab and beyond, such phenomena indicate more general cultural processes in which the social imaginary of the human Self is mediated by various animal Others in relation to our species.

Infotechnics and the Horizon of Virtuality. As technoscience is increasingly mediated by computation and regimes of digital electronics, so are the wider societies in which such enterprise occurs and reshapes all forms of social mediation. Infotechnics becomes a microcosm mediating a sociocultural macrocosm in a number of ways. Who has access to infotechnics? How is there differential mediation of people’s lives because of this? What utopian cultural visions emerge from the horizon of information technologies?

Program:

Thursday afternoon, 3 May @ 1.30 PM

The Geopolitics of Global Technoscience: 

Technoscience is pursued beyond, or even without respect to, boundaries of nation-states and their political divisions.  As such enterprises have become 'global' ones by virtue of a colonial or transnational trajectory of development, in what ways have they transformed the cultural imaginary of local subjectivities?  For example how have they increased senses of vulnerability among local peoples?  How have they been changing understandings of national (or equivalent) citizenship in relation to 'humanity' or equivalent concepts of a worldwide ecumene?

Chair: Lisa Rofel

Peter W. Redfield (Univ. North Carolina, Anthropology) redfield@unc.edu

Provincializing Outer Space: The Half-Life of Empire

Karen-Sue Taussig (Program in Social Studies, Harvard University) taussig@fas.harvard.edu

Global/Local Negotiating: Genetic Practices in The Netherlands

Marianne de Laet (Humanities & Social Sciences, California Institute of Technology) delaet@its.caltech.edu

Machines in Motion: Notes on Technology Transfer

Discussant: Sharon Traweek (Department of History, UCLA) traweek@history.ucla.edu

Thursday evening, 3 May @ 5.00 PM

David M. Schneider Memorial Lecture

Moderator: Virginia Dominguez, President, SCA. virginia-dominguez@uiowa.edu

Keynote Address: 'The Problem of Anthropology'

Paul Rabinow (Department of Anthropology University of California, Berkeley) rabinow@uclink4.berkeley.edu

Friday morning, 4 May @ 8.30 AM

Technoscientific NatureCulture: Ecologies of Power/Knowledge:

Here, we are concerned with impacts of the insertion of technoscientific institutions into landscapes, whether 'natural' or sociocultural, and the differential consequences for groups of people who are recruited as workers, clients, 'neighbors,' etc.  How are landscapes of risk implied in technoscientific presence?  How are institutional cultural ecologies fashioned in respect of such enterprises' presence, and how do these relate to other ecologies?

Chair: Pauline Strong

Joseph P. Masco (Department of Anthropology, University of Oregon) jmasco@earthlink.net

Timebombs: On Colonizing the Future to Save thePresent in Los Alamos

Adriana M. Petryna (Department of Anthropology, University of California) Irvineapetryna@uci.edu

Chernobyl Effects: The Science and Politics ofExposed Populations

Hugh Gusterson (Department of Anthropology, MIT) guster@MIT.EDU

Ecological Knowledge and the Debate on Genetically Modified Food

Discussant: Rena S. Lederman (Department of Anthropology, Princeton University) lederman@Princeton.edu

Friday afternoon, 4 May @ 1.30 PM

Infotechnics and the Horizon of Virtuality:

As technoscience is increasingly mediated by computation and regimes of digital electronics, so are the wider societies in which such enterprise occurs and reshapes all forms of social mediation.  Infotechnics becomes a microcosm mediating a sociocultural macrocosm in a number of ways.  Who has access to infotechnics?  How is there differential mediation of people's lives because of this?  What utopian cultural visions emerge from the horizon of information technologies?

Chair: Roger Lancaster

Keynote Presentation: Allucquere Roseanne (Sandy) Stone (Dept. of Radio, Television & Film, University of Texas at Austin) sandy@actlab.utexas.edu

Slouching Toward Technotopia: The End of History Came and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt

Discussant: Gary L. Downey (Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, Virginia Polytechnic University) downeyg@vt.edu

Elizabeth Povinelli (Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago) epovinel@midway.uchicago.edu

Saturday morning, 5 May @ 8.30 AM

Transspecific Biopolitics: Animals as Models and as Collaborators

Much of the research and development in bio-technoscience involves transspecific imaginaries and, arguably, cross-species social relationships.  Increasingly,  'animal models' act as human surrogates in the investigation of biological processes and medical treatments.  Meanwhile, cloned or transgenic organisms challenge conventional understandings of Nature at the same time that their presence has been increasingly normalized.  Both within the lab and beyond, such phenomena indicate more general cultural processes in which the social imaginary of the human Self is mediated by various animal Others in relation to our species.

Chair: Mac Marshall

Stefan G. Helmreich (Program in Humanities & Soc. Sci., New York University) sgh2@nyu.edu

Trees and Seas of Information: Genomics and Alien Kin Networks in the Deep Ocean

Deborah Heath (Dept. of Sociology & Anthropology, Lewis and Clark College) heath@lclark.edu

Of Mice and Molecules: Transspecific AnthropologyAnd Post-Genomic Science

Seung-Hoon Song (Department of Anthropology, George Washington University) hoonsong@gwu.edu

Animals Unmarked: How Social Class is RedeemedIn Animals

Discussant: Catherine Lutz (Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina) lutz@email.unc.edu

Saturday afternoon, 5 May @ 1.30 PM

Contesting Science, Contested Science, 'People's Science':

How do groups of people engage scientific enterprise in terms of a concept of their own interests, especially as these are seen to differ from that of some official or otherwise institutional view?  How does activism present itself as the face of such engagement? How are discourses of 'rights,' of abuses of such rights, and remedies of abuses invoked in such modes of contestation?  What is the cultural construal of technoscience implicit in such engagement? And when do alliances contest conventional notions of expertise and activism?

Chair: Vincanne Adams

Kim Fortun (Dept of Science & Technol Studies, Rensselar Polytechnic Institute) fortuk@rpi.edu or fortun@albany.net

From Bhopal to Informated Environmentalism

Chaia Heller (Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts) cheller@anthro.umass.edu

Roquefort vs. GMOs: Peasant Expertise in the French And Global Debate over Genetically Modified Foods

Manuela Carneiro da Cunha (Department of Anthropology) mm-cunha@uchicago.edu

Traditional People and Knowledge Regimes

Discussant: Rosemary Coombe

Division of Social Science

(York University) r.j.c@sympatico.ca