Distraction Free Reading

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.

We’ve seen little improvement to the pandemic. Although news about Covid19 vaccines brought cheer and hope to some, the fault lines of geo- and biopolitics of vaccine distribution have called for close attention to who gets access to vaccines and how. There was no end to the magnanimous circulation of fake news and uncorroborated data on social media. Conspiracy theories and convenient truths further united and radicalized communities. The violent storming of the US Capitol and the public and corporate reactions that followed only highlighted the underlying, deep-seated, long-lasting problems around the rise of ultra-conservative ideologies, white privilege, and the role of social media. There was still no justice for the multiple racially motivated killings the US has seen over the years. Digital platforms and social media still act as the primary means for connecting and disconnecting people, by providing access to vital services in some moments and increasing injury and harm in others; by enabling some and disabling others; by having long-lasting effects on issues as different in scale as the textures of the everyday and political agency. Globally, profound and unresolved problems of mental strain, digital exclusion, gender-based violence, social abandonment, and structural vulnerability of multiply marginalized communities grew wider and deeper, in the face of the ever-pressing issues of climate change, sexism, ableism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of oppression.

Enmeshed in these painful, harmful, and difficult ongoing processes, we need to think carefully. We need to learn what moves and sustains these processes and events, who benefits and gets hurt, and how ideologies and propaganda succeed in naturalizing their narratives. To this end, Platypus is committed to providing a platform for critical and nuanced thinking about the world we live in today–a world that is technologized through and through; a world where science has been repeatedly undermined, silenced, and disregarded; a world shaped by ever-changing power relations constituted, expressed through, and mediated by science and technology.

We inherit the task of welcoming difficult conversations on the blog from the 2020 editorial cohort, which did incredible work expanding Platypus’s linguistic, geographic, and thematic reach. In 2021, we bring even more voices to the table, to tackle the world’s intricate unfolding as technologized, studied, narrated, rendered, made evident, and fictionalized. We are convinced that only through working with a regionally, thematically, and demographically diverse team and through discussing issues that have previously been marginalized, that we can move toward a better understanding of the problematic inequities that shape our lives. Thus, this year, we are committed to expanding our community, delivering more bilingual and multilingual content, producing more critical scholarship, and experimenting with our content formats. With the largest and most diverse team of contributing editors to date, we seek to engage audiences interested in the critical and careful examination of science and technology’s politics, economics, and sociocultural aspects.

Meet the Team!

I invite you to meet Platypus’s 2021 team. These brilliant people will guide Platypus’s readers through anthropologically driven reflections of how science and technology operate today. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a contributing editor if you have an idea for a collaboration or a blog post. You may find their contact information by clicking on their names.

Abhigya, contributing editor

Abhigya is a doctoral researcher in the domain of Science and Technology Policy. Her research attempts to gain an understanding of the perceptions of risk and safety that underpin pesticide regulation policy in India, and across the globe, through the lens of theories of risk and uncertainty.

Alize Arıcan, contributing editor

Alize Arıcan is a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago and an anthropologist of urban life, temporality, futurity, migration, racialization, and care. In her current project, she explores these issues through an engaged ethnography of Istanbul’s Tarlabaşı neighborhood. Her work has appeared in City & Society, Radical Housing Journal, and entanglements: experiments in multimodal ethnography, and is forthcoming in Current Anthropology. She is also a host on the podcast series, New Books Network.

Svetlana Borodina, managing editor

Svetlana Borodina is a postdoctoral research scholar at the Harriman Institute at Columbia University. She studies cultures and the politics of disability inclusion in Russia. Her ethnographic work explores the technologies through which bodily and mental differences become folded into the production of postsocialist forms of citizenship and relationality for abled and disabled individuals alike. In 2021-2022, Svetlana will work as the managing editor at Platypus, building on her previous work for the blog as a contributing editor in 2020.

Ashley Thuthao Keng Dam, contributing editor

Ashley “Thao” Dam is a medical anthropologist, budding ethnobotanist, and final year Ph.D. candidate in ecogastronomy, education, and society at Università degli Studi di Scienze Gastronomiche in Pollenzo, Italy. Thao’s research is focused on traditional Khmer food-medicine use and consumption during times of ecological instability in rural Siem Reap Province, Cambodia.

Maggie Duris, contributing editor

Maggie Duris is a biomedical anthropologist and current biological anthropology Ph.D. student at Binghamton University. She plans to focus her dissertation utilizing evolutionary hypotheses to investigate nutritional quality of breast milk with regards to maternal health, behavior, and local environment among mothers in NY and Mt. Kilimanjaro, TZ. She is very passionate about conducting research focused on women’s health, reproductive ecology, human evolutionary biology, Darwinian medicine, and public health.

Hannah Eisler Burnett, multimodal contributing editor

Hannah Eisler Burnett is a Ph.D. Candidate in Anthropology at the University of Chicago. Her dissertation research examines how plans for ecosystem restoration in the Mississippi River Delta affect coastal communities, and the different histories that inform these projects, and how they are understood. She has also collaborated on various art and video projects related to themes of water, toxicity, global trade, and capital.

Eduard Fanthome, contributing editor

Eduard Fanthome is a Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University. He is an archaeologist who employs theories of spatial production and its material and architectural mediation to investigate the constitution of social relations and claims to political status.

Johnathan Favini, contributing editor

John Favini is a Ph.D. Candidate in Anthropology at the University of Virginia whose research addresses the intersections of race, Indigeneity, and the environment. Broadly, his research connects two complex social phenomena—the plantation and climate change. He is interested in how the material and cultural transformations wrought by European conquest of the Americas shape contemporary environments and social life, including prevailing scientific frameworks. His dissertation centers on a movement to stop bauxite mining led primary by conservationist and Maroons in Jamaica. He has also undertaken community-engaged fieldwork in Virginia on natural gas infrastructure and is building toward a second project on “rights of nature” statutes in the US Rustbelt.

Kim Fernandes, contributing editor

Kim Fernandes is a joint Ph.D. candidate in Education and Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. Their doctoral research focuses on how disabled bodies are made legible to the state in India, through processes of enumeration and identification for paper-based and digital ID documents.

Nirupama Jayaraman, contributing editor

As a social-cultural anthropologist, Nirupama Jayaraman’s research interests lie at the intersection of political, urban, and economic anthropology. Broadly, she is interested in understanding urban transportation networks in South Asia. She hopes to examine the infrastructures and mobilities that produce and are produced by such networks, specifically at the intersections of gender and class. She aims to understand if and how class mobility and the consumption of automobility are related. She is also interested in unpacking the complexities of extant and emerging “gig” economies facilitated by digital infrastructures, across the Asiatic region, through questions of labor, evolving digital spatialities, reimagined human relations and legitimacies, etc.

Yakup Deniz Kahraman, contributing editor

Yakup Deniz Kahraman a cultural anthropology Ph.D. student at Binghamton University. His research is at an intersection of anthropology, education, and STS. He conducted ethnographic fieldwork for two years with two different course-based undergraduate research programs (abbreviated as CUREs) in an Upstate New York public university. In his dissertation, based on his fieldwork, he is planning to focus on CUREs, emerging research pedagogies, neoliberalization of/in higher education, and limitations of neoliberal critique.

Christoph Lange, contributing editor

Christoph Lange studied Social Anthropology and Middle East Studies (Master’s degree, two majors) at the University of Leipzig from 2004–2011. With his first travels to Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan, he set his regional focus on the Levant region within the Arab Middle East. From 2008–2012, Lange worked for the German state-funded Collaborative Research Center 586 “Difference and Integration” at the Universities of Leipzig and Halle/Lutherstadt Wittenberg where he conducted his first ethnographic research about Bedouin representations in Syrian television dramas and Arab media discourses about authenticity. From 2014-2018, he was a research assistant at the Research Lab “Transformations of Life” of the a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School for the Humanities Cologne. Since 2018, Lange has been working at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Cologne. In 2020, he successfully finished his doctoral thesis “Decolonizing the Arabian Horse – The Breeding, Circulation and Certification of the Straight Egyptian Arabian in the 21st Century”. Currently, Lange is developing a postdoctoral project on Liminal Infrastructures and Mediterranean Crises from a world ecological and/or Critical Zone perspective.

Johannes Lenhard, contributing editor

Johannes Lenhard is an ethnographer of venture capital and homelessness and currently the Centre Coordinator of the Max Planck Centre Cambridge for the Study of Ethics, the Economy and Social Change. Having worked towards a better understanding of survival practices of homeless people in London and Paris for his Ph.D., he has in 2017 started a new research project on the ethics of venture capital investors He is currently preparing the publication of his dissertation monograph as well as finalising a book on diversity and inclusion in VC and tech. His writing has appeared in academic peer-reviewed journals (e.g. City and Society, Housing Studies) as well as journalistic outlets, such as Techcrunch, Prospect, Sifted, Aeon, the Conversation, and Crunchbase.

Tim Quinn, contributing editor

Tim Quinn is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Anthropology Department at Rice University. His research focuses on the social lives of HIV prevention drugs in Bangkok, Thailand. He is interested in the anthropology of pharmaceuticals, drugs, and other substances, STS, and queer theory.

Naomi Schoenfeld, contributing editor

Medical anthropologist and public health nurse practitioner in San Francisco. Her areas of expertise include medical anthropology, STS, pharmaceuticals, vaccines, postsocialism, social medicine, and critical public health. She has conducted ethnographic research examining (post)socialist technoscientific formations through Cuban cancer vaccines. Her new research examines a novel program providing thousands of rooms in tourist hotels to persons experiencing homelessness during the COVID19 pandemic.

Serena Stein, contributing editor

Trained as an anthropologist, Serena Stein’s research engages questions around agriculture, technology, and transnational and multispecies relationships in agribusiness frontiers in Africa (Mozambique) and South America (Brazil); as well as cultures of knowledge production, epistemic communities, and convivial practices in agroecology, especially concerning soil, climate change, and carbon sequestration in farming systems. She also co-organized the Mangrove coLAB that brings together scholars and practitioners from Mozambique and western India to explore historical and contemporary extractive linkages across the Indian Ocean in the context of megaprojects for port development and energy extraction reshaping agrarian livelihoods and ecologies.

Katie Ulrich, contributing editor

Katie Ulrich is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of anthropology at Rice University. Her research focuses on petrochemical replacements made from sugarcane, including not only biofuels but sugar-based plastics, synthetic fabrics, solvents, specialty chemicals, and more. Her project follows the technical practices of scientists, industry actors, and funding agents in São Paulo, Brazil within and beyond the lab as they reconfigure sugarcane molecularly, socially, and politically—asking to what extent these practices ultimately transform sugarcane from a crop with a violent history into a newly extractable feedstock for environmental and industrial futures. Prior to starting her doctoral studies, she worked as a research assistant in a molecular biology lab at the University of California, San Francisco.

Angela Vandenbroek, webproducer

Angela Vandenbroek an anthropology Ph.D. candidate at Binghamton University doing research at the intersection of sociocultural anthropology and science and technology studies (STS). She holds a BS and MA in anthropology, has taught anthropology at the University of Southern Mississippi and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, and has more than a decade of experience in professional web development and design. Since 2013, she has served as the web producer for the Committee for the Anthropology of Science, Technology, and Computing (CASTAC), responsible for developing and managing CASTAC’s digital services and projects. Her current research is an investigation of the tensions between Swedish entrepreneurs’ ambitions and anxieties for building futures and Stockholm’s startup ecosystem (SthlmTech) that professes to support and advocate for their projects. Based on twelve months of fieldwork in and around SthlmTech, her dissertation is a collection of stories and reflections from entrepreneurs, investors, executives, developers, evangelists, and other ecosystem stakeholders that are contextualized and unsettled through an analysis of ecosystem histories, infrastructures, and epistemologies. This research has been supported by a $23,000 fellowship from the American-Scandinavian Foundation and a visiting researcher position at Stockholm University’s Department of Social Anthropology. Her wider research and teaching interests include science and technology studies (STS); feminist STS; innovation studies; futures and foresight; expertise and ignorance; infrastructure; digital anthropology; and design anthropology and anthropologies of design. Beyond that, she is also an avid minecrafter, a whovian, the wife of a fantastic cook, and a general nerd. The best way to get in touch is by email.

Bianca Vienni Baptista, contributing editor

Bianca Vienni Baptista, with a Ph.D. in Cultural Studies at the University of Granada (Spain), is a postdoctoral researcher of the Transdisciplinarity Lab. She works on the project entitled SHAPE-​ID: Shaping interdisciplinary practices in Europe, financed by H2020. As a researcher and lecturer, she works in the field of Science, Technology, and Society Studies, focusing in particular on the study of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary knowledge production processes. As a result, she is interested in methods and tools as well as concepts and theories as a means of achieving transformative and developmental change to solve multidimensional social problems. She has focused her research on the specific conditions for inter-​ and transdisciplinary research in different countries and on the production and social use of knowledge in developing countries, including the role of universities and other institutions.

Chun-Yu (Jo Ann) Wang, contributing editor

Chun-Yu (Jo Ann) Wang is a dissertation writer from the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University. Informed by political anthropology and science and technology studies, her dissertation research project investigates the process of state and ethnic-class formation in Malaysia by examining the material, technological, and infrastructural developments and controversies in the national oil and gas sector.

Naomi Zucker, public relations manager

Naomi Zucker is a Ph.D. student in cultural anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, working at the intersection of medical anthropology and STS. Her dissertation project explores the contemporary life of psychopharmaceuticals, with a focus on drug withdrawal, discontinuation, and deprescribing.

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