Tag: STS

Alchemy, Metallurgy, and Modern Chemistry in Post-Medieval Europe: An Intersection of Archaeological Science and the History of Science

What is the first image conjured up in your mind by the word “alchemy”? Influenced by popular culture, it is tempting to picture: somewhere in Renaissance Europe, in a dark dungeon, groups of alchemists fiddling with crucibles over some “book of secrets,” on a quest for the philosophers’ stone, and in pursuit of “transmutation” (i.e. making gold). The exclusivity and secrecy behind alchemy seem to suggest alchemy was the opposite of enlightenment, progress, and modern science. However, there are increasing numbers of studies indicating otherwise (e.g. Martinón-Torres and Rehren, 2005; Martinón-Torres, 2012; Mongiatti, 2009; Veronesi et al., 2021). The practice of alchemy could be more scientific, methodical, and industrial than people have previously imagined. In fact, before 1753, the words “chemistry” and “alchemy” were synonymous (Martinón-Torres and Rehren, 2005). (read more...)

A Very Lengthy Swedish Introduction: Hype, Storytelling, and the Question of Entrepreneurial Allies

At a Stockholm-based entrepreneur meetup, two entrepreneurs stood on stage ready to pitch their startup to a panel of venture capital investors (VCs).[1]  The man clicked the laptop button to display their first slide—a large image of their logo. “Hello! I am Per and this is Jonna and this is our startup, Forests! We are on a mission to understand the world’s forests and their inhabitants.” Jonna moved to the second slide and told the story of an endangered forest-dwelling animal. On the next slide, Per talked more specifically about the importance of the world’s forests to global climate change. On the fourth slide, the endangered animal appeared again. “Oh, this guy again!” the event’s moderator interrupted with an exaggerated tone of exhaustion. The entrepreneurs laughed nervously and continued to talk about the grand mission of their company to support climate research with crowdsourced data from birders, amateur naturalists, and other forest enthusiasts. The moderator interrupted again: “Let’s pause there because I think we are about to get to the good stuff. But, that was a very lengthy Swedish introduction!” (read more...)

Spotlight! “Global STS: Transnational Network Building – Asia, Oceania, and Beyond” hosted by the STS Futures Initiative

This week as part of our “ReAssembling Asias through Science” series, we would like to highlight an event held by the STS Futures Initiative last month. This panel (whose second part is forthcoming this fall) brought together a range of academics and graduate students to engage substantively with what might be termed a ‘global turn’ in STS scholarship, characterized by a greater attention to knowledge production and scientific practices outside of Europe and North America. Interested in both the theoretical possibilities of, as well as the practical aspects and skills necessary for transnational network building, the panel raised a range of questions around the possibilities for and challenges inherent to collaborative research and forms of decolonial practice and knowledge production across institutional and national contexts. As moderator Dr. Kathleen Gutierrez put it in her opening remarks, “Who is doing the work? And more importantly, who is building the networks with other STS inclined scholars in the world areas in which we work?” [0:01:18]. (read more...)

(Re)Assembling Asias through Science

Over the past two decades, a proliferation of critiques have emerged from a body of critical inter-asian scholarship to challenge, revise, and situate the conventional theoretical categories, frames, and founding assumptions of many humanities and social science fields, with notable interventions into trans studies (Chiang, Henry, & Leung 2018), queer theory (Chiang & Wong 2017; Yue 2017; Yue & Leung 2016; Wilson 2006), and the anthropology of science and technology (Ong 2016; Ong & Chen 2010). These projects are as theoretical as they are political, ethical, and methodological, posing fundamental questions about the politics of knowledge production, encouraging a critical awareness of the geopolitical positions and historical locations from which our analytic concepts emerge, as well as a heightened sense of the audiences they are intended for, how they may travel, and an epistemic humility that embraces and acknowledges contingency and limitation. With the expansion of academic presses, journals, and academic professional organizations in Asia[1], a growing number of graduate students and professional researchers now find themselves straddling and translating across an interface that spans continents, from academic centers in Europe and the United States to intra-asian networks and spaces of knowledge production. (read more...)

Indian Food Delivery Networks During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Over the past decade, the concept of the gig economy has gained momentum in academic discourse. Often linked to temporary employment created by multinational technological corporations through digital platforms, the gig economy has transformed conventional discourses of labor and economy. It brought to the fore the increased precarity in employment, transformed modes of mobilization, fueled workers’ unionizing efforts, and produced new vocabularies (Vallas and Schor 2020; Khreiche 2018). In India’s dynamic economic landscape, these changes are particularly visible. One can argue that the use of digital technologies has reached a new peak in the ongoing global pandemic–as we have observed the changes in techno-bio-political regimes associated with COVID-19-tracking and increased reliance on mobile applications (Battin 2020; Segata 2020). In this light, focusing on India in the times of the COVID-19 pandemic becomes especially useful considering the narratives of hegemony and precarity often associated with gig labor within this geographical context, (read more...)

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...)

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...)

Pain-Free Mouse, being ‘human,’ and more-than-human ethics

In the opening scene of Blade Runner, a fictional diagnostic called the Voigt-Kampff test distinguishes human from android. The test, as imagined in Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi novel and later adapted into the film adaptation, exploits a primary autonomic response: the so-called ‘shame’ or ‘blushing’ reaction to a “morally shocking stimulus.” In the novel, the ‘moral shock’ stimulus invariably involves nonhuman animals: (read more...)