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The Spectrum of Research and Practice in Guatemalan Science Studies

La foto muestra a los manifestantes en la calle que están a unos metros del edificio del Congreso de Guatemala. El edificio está en llamas y una columna de humo se eleva hacia el cielo.

On November 21, 2020, protestors flooded the historic and political center of Guatemala City over the congressional approval of a  budget bill of nearly twelve billion dollars (or ninety-nine billion Quetzales). The proposed budget not only significantly decreased aid to dire and already underfunded public health initiatives but allocated money to ministries known for robbing and vacating government funds. While protestors gathered in the capital’s Parque Central, youth on the frontlines cathartically set fire to the Congressional building only several blocks away and confronted the National Civilian Police (PNC) in order to limit their advancement onto the much larger, peaceful crowd. Guatemala’s recently elected president and former director of the Guatemalan penitentiary system, Alejandro Giammattei, and his administration stood by as the PNC threw tear-gas, harassed, and arrested protestors in sight on charges of illegal protest and public disorder. (read more...)

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2021 in red numbers

2021 at Platypus

The first weeks of 2021 brought no relief, even though so many hoped otherwise. Instead, the first twelve days clearly demonstrated that exclusion, inequity, violence, and multiply intersecting systems of oppression didn’t magically disappear into the thin air as the clock struck midnight on January 1. Neither in the US nor in other parts of the world. (read more...)

Scene of online dater from Spike Jonez' 2015 film Her

Connection, Inc.: Fast Times for Online Dating in the Age of Quarantine

Have you noticed an uptick in move-ins or engagements in your social circles lately? How about divorces? While everyone seemingly dreads the loneliness of quarantine, statistical and anecdotal evidence suggest both move-ins and divorces are on the rise as we collectively strain under the burden of separation, immobility, and social and political upheaval. Unable to go to work, take a trip, or hug an acquaintance, we’re all unwitting participants in a global experiment in the psychological effects of social deprivation. (read more...)

A landscape scene of cemetary on a small hill with a dozen or more headstones beneath a cloudy blue sky.

Mobilizing Cemeteries, Representing Ancestors: The Infrastructure of Protest and the Anti-Petroleum Complex Movement in Pengerang, Malaysia

In 2011, the prime minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, and the CEO of the national oil company Petronas, Shamsul Azhar Abbas, announced the “Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex” (PIPC) project: a billion-dollar, state-led, mega refinery and petrochemical complex. The PIPC project promised to transform Pengerang, a small fishing village, into a world-class oil and gas hub that would fuel Malaysia’s economic growth for decades to come. It is the biggest of its kind in Southeast Asia and has negotiated a joint venture agreement with Saudi Arabia’s national oil giant Saudi Aramco as of 2017, guaranteeing a supply of crude oil to the PIPC for 20 years to produce petroleum and petrochemical products for growing Asian markets. Beneath the official “success story,” promoted by the Najib government and Petronas of how this “Rotterdam Port of the East”[1] would help Malaysia overtake Singapore as the leading oil and gas trading center of the Asia-Pacific region[2], the PIPC project has spawned a myriad of controversies and local resistances. (read more...)

A picture suggesting that DDT is good for crops and safe for human beings and wildlife.

The Silence before the Silent Spring: Narratives of Modernity and the Silences around the Toxicity of Pesticide Use

Pesticide-use and the control of pest populations with synthetic chemicals are a subset of the history of the “modernization” of agricultural practices. This narrative positions pesticides as an antidote to the food supply problem of the growing world population, but it remains eerily silent on the assault on the entire ecosystem that the continuous use of chemicals entails. These moments of silence in history act as heuristic devices that crystallize aspects of historical production that best expose when and where power gets into the story (Trouillot and Carby, 2015, p.15). The dominant narratives and silences around the question of pesticide exposure point towards the locus of power in the story of the development of modern agriculture. (read more...)

A colorful logo with the words "3 December International Day of People with Disability"

International Day of Persons with Disabilities: What Happens the Day After?

Twenty-eight years ago, in 1992, the United Nations General Assembly resolution 47/3 proclaimed December 3 as International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Immediately following the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery and followed by the International Day of Banks (yes), the International Day of Persons with Disabilities was and still is charged with the impulse “to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.” Each year, a specific theme is chosen to direct public attention toward a specific issue. In 2018, it was “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.” In 2019, “Promoting the participation of persons with disabilities and their leadership: taking action on the 2030 Development Agenda.” In 2020, “Not all disabilities are visible.” A product of a policy-oriented reformist environment, International Day of Persons with Disabilities helps to direct attention, mobilize action, and bring about material changes in the lives of people with disabilities. But what happens to these impulses on December 4th (besides the International Day of Banks)? (read more...)

An image of a version of D-Wave’s quantum computer

Quantum Arms Race

A lot has been said and written about the impending unleashing of quantum technology in the world. Whereas many sing paeans to the potential of the technology to better the world, many a soothsayers forebode a much grimmer reality. While the future might sound alien, it evokes, frankly, familiar feelings in the minds of those who imagine. We’ve all witnessed the world transform in front of our eyes in the past century, from this tech revolution to that, from nuclear promises of infinite power to laser-sharp visions of cameras better than the human eye; such is the oxymoronic, remarkable mundaneness of technological progress that the more the world changes, the more it remains the same. One might even be forgiven for feeling a sense of security at the thought of a world run by quantum technology. After all, the great leaps forward have all served us well and promise more. (read more...)

Mara Rita sits in a park holding her book, Tropico Mio. She is wearing a black bowler hat, dark rimmed glasses, a printed button down shirt, and a white sweater over it. She is simling.

The Networked Animita: Transgender Remembrance on Social Media

Tomorrow, November 20th, the world will commemorate Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to collectively mourn and remember those who have died as a result of transphobia. Started in 1999 by US trans woman Gwendolyn Ann Smith, Transgender Day of Remembrance is now observed in countries around the world, including my primary field site, Chile. In this post, I explore how social media might be understood as a technology of memorialization and mourning, especially for marginalized groups. Inspired by informal roadside shrines called animitas, popular in Chile and elsewhere in Latin America, I propose the ‘networked animita’ as a useful analytic for understanding trans remembrance online. I do so through an exploration of the digital afterlife of Chilean trans activist, educator, interlocutor, and friend Mara Rita Villaroel Oñate. (read more...)