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Science and Justice: “Impartial” Water Monitoring and Resistance to the Escobal Mine in Guatemala

A picture of the the surface installation of the Escobal Mine in San Rafael Las Flores. Photo taken from above overlooking a green valley divided by plots.

Editor’s note: This is the third post in an ongoing series called “The Spectrum of Research and Practice in Guatemalan Science Studies.” A water monitoring process conducted around a controversial mine site in Guatemala highlighted the central, but also contested and indeterminate, role of science in environmental struggles. Groups with competing aims, and distinct conceptions of science and politics produce (or influence the production of) distinct forms and interpretations of science to ground their claims and shape the outcome of environmental conflicts. (read more...)

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At a sunny park, a large banner is held that says "G-8 Generalizando" and "sex and gender rights." A rainbow pride flag stands on a pole next to the banner.

When Sex Becomes a Matter of the State: Peciagraphy as a Qualitative Method for Examining Legal Cases

For the past ten years, I have been conducting ethnographic research on the Federal Supreme Court’s (STF) decisions on sexual identities in the Brazilian legal system. Despite the variety within this realm, I have always had the same guiding question: how do the STF and social movements perform sex as a matter of the state? (read more...)

A go-go bar on Walking Street in Pattaya with a sign reading “For Rent”. Many bars and nightlife venues have been transformed into makeshift housing. Photo Credit: Sky News.

PrEP in Thailand in the time of COVID-19

In 2012, the first PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) drugs came onto the market, poised to revolutionize the field of HIV prevention. ‘The Pill’ promised to usher in a kind of sexual revolution, particularly for gay men and trans women. Sexual rights activists and health workers around the world analogized PrEP to birth control, suggesting that PrEP would allow particular sexual minority populations to secure bodily autonomy and serve as a tool for the self-management and mitigation of risk. (read more...)

An impressionistic painting of a laboratory bench top crowded with glass vials and beakers of various sorts and sizes. Above are full shelves with more bottles.

Some Chloroquine-AZT Parallels and Science’s Credibility Struggles

As an anthropologist and STS researcher, a great deal of my academic career has been proudly dedicated to studying and denouncing the bias, inequalities, and prejudice within both scientific and medical practices. Such critique, far from intending to undermine scientific credibility, comes from a place of deep respect, trust, and, I dare say, great optimism regarding what kind of project we have for science in the long term: one where knowledge is comprehensive and accessible, and where expertise is not build upon the concealment of information. (read more...)

A drawing show a boat full of migrants on a stormy sea

Managing Refugee Mobilities: Global Flows of Migration Deterrence Technologies

In 2000, a United Nations Resolution designated June 20th World Refugee Day. In the week leading up to this day, countries throughout the world pay homage to the ideals of the refugee rights movement through public festivals celebrating their migrant communities’ cultures, social media campaigns on refugee resilience, and declarations of their commitment to protect those seeking asylum. Historically, nation-states have employed such public messages to emphasize their identities as benevolent, humanitarian actors.  However, what these proclamations elide is not only the violent ways that individual nations reject asylum seekers[1], but the collective ways that countries work together to inhibit their mobilities. Both the technologies of detection and deterrence as well as anti-refugee rhetoric, while based on insular ideas of nationhood and ‘who belongs,’ are also increasingly dependent on collaborations and partnerships with other nation-states. In attempts to control refugee movement, multiple nation states are both entangled and willingly involved in a global effort to contain, reroute, and eventually immobilize asylum seekers from the global South seeking protection in liberal democratic states. While there has always been an international refugee regime since the inception of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, it is worth paying attention to the new ways in which nation states are learning from and relying upon each other to govern where refugees can and cannot go. (read more...)

a computer screen displays a picture of an eye.

‘Dynamic Totalities’: Data Surveillance as a Paradigm

In the zeitgeist of academia, surveillance has clearly an ominous connotation. However, is surveillance not fundamentally a way of looking? More formally, a way of looking at totalities. Whatever is studied, observed, or measured is part of a definitive totality. A virus is part of a sample. Families are part of a community. Workers are part of the factory. A scientist is part of a laboratory. One reason we are cautious about speaking of totalities is because we are scared of being reductive. But what if we could dynamically measure parameters defining the totalities which concern us. What if we could define our totalities at will and observe phenomena within its boundaries, track phenomena flowing out of it, or ingressing it? If this sounds like an uncanny  ‘intelligent’ camera or rather a poetic job re-description of the individual in the CCTV room, then it is meant to be so. Data surveillance can offer perhaps a fresh paradigm for observation and analysis irrespective of the actual use of computers that enable it. (read more...)

MIT students gather around the PDP-6 in 1967

MacHack VI: Computer chess and the roots of AI

On January 21, 1967, a mild winter Saturday in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a couple of computer researchers from the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) flagged down a taxi near Tech Square. Loading a bulky, 60-pound teletype called a 35 KSR (“Keyboard Send/Receive”) into the trunk, they set off for downtown Boston, across the river. A short while later, the cab pulled up at the Young Men’s Christian Union (YMCU), and the researchers wrestled the machine up the stairs to the second floor, where the Boylston Chess Club was setting up for a weekend tournament. (read more...)

Three men post in powdered wig style wigs made of roles of toilet paper. The caption reads "Post-Coronavirus males, displaying their Hunter Gatherer prowess in order to attract mates.

On the social nature of toilet paper

You would be forgiven for thinking that the first thing bought in a global crisis would be tinned, dried, and frozen foods; clean water; and medicines—things that enable the survival of you and your kin. Yet, when the number of COVID-19 cases in Australia hit 100 on March 10, 2020, it was the toilet paper aisles of supermarkets that were empty. Through what became the subject of memes depicting Australians sheltering from the ensuing pandemic wrapped only in toilet paper, and of men wearing lavish adornments of toilet paper rolls, daily bodily habits had hit center stage. (read more...)