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Biopolitics and Becoming in Animal-Technology Assemblages

Abstract

This article critically explores Foucauldian approaches to the human-animal-technology nexus central to modern industrialised agriculture, in particular those which draw upon Foucault’s conception of power as productive to posit the reconstitution of animal subjectivities in relation to changing agricultural technologies. This is situated in the context of key recent literature addressing animals and biopolitics, and worked through a historical case study of an emergent dairy technology. On this basis it is argued that such approaches contain important insights but also involve risks for the analyses of human-animal-technology relations, especially the risk of subsuming what is irreducible in animal subjectivity and agency under the shaping power of technologies conceived as disciplinary or biopolitical apparatuses. It is argued that this can be avoided by bringing biopolitical analysis into dialogue with currents from actor-network theory in order to trace the formation of biopolitical collectives as heterogeneous assemblages. Drawing upon documentary archive sources, the article explores this by working these different framings of biopolitics through a historical case study of the development of the first mechanical milking machines for use on dairy farms.

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The Transfer of Railway Technologies and Afro-Asian Labor Processes within the British Empire

Abstract

The transfer of railway technology within the British Empire, and particularly to India provides the focus for this paper that explores—conceptually, historiographically and substantively—what was transferred and how that transfer took place. Drawing upon the large-scale technical system literature and labor history the paper highlights various kinds and levels of transfer agents working through, albeit in an often-contested fashion, Afro-Asian labor processes as central components within the transfer process when railway construction was involved. Railway construction is then counterpoised to railway operation where the transfer process exhibited greater British dictation and adherence to British practice.

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Postscript Fur, feather, teeth and skin: How do technologies and ontologies meet in time and space?

Abstract

The old lady cradles her bleeding finger and staggers, feinting almost falling, as Gary from number one sprints back to his garden to pick up a deckchair for her. Her dog, a tiny Yorkshire Terrier, is quivering in another neighbour’s arms, snapping at well-wishers who are trying to inspect the skin for any bite-marks. “Has it attacked before?” the old lady quavers, pointing limply to the Jack Russell held by a piece of string in a little boy’s sweaty hand. “It’s your dog, she’s bitten this lady” says Gary as I join the scene, “Your son brought the dog out, but it got loose somehow and went for this little dog. This lady put her hand down to pick her dog up, and she’s been bitten.” Fearful, the little boy walks away. The old lady is now slumped in the deckchair. Nobody speaks for a while. But then there is talk of tetanus shots and hospitals. “My husband has just had a stroke, you know? This won’t help” the old woman says, “I don’t know why but dogs always go for my little Misty.” I don’t apologise though I try to show kindness. After the lady has drunk a cup of tea, used someone’s mobile phone to call the doctor and obtained a lift home we all return to what we were doing. As we turn to leave the scene, one of the neighbours comments that “it’s such a shame because she is clearly a dog-lover” which puzzles me. Gary takes his deckchair home.1

Open access
Communicating Science and Technology. Gradiva’s Books of Popularization of Science and Technology and the Portuguese Public

Abstract

By focusing on the books of popularization of science and technology published by Gradiva this research aims at understanding the mechanisms and strategies to bring science and technology to a broader audience in Portugal, after 1974, the year of the Carnation Revolution that put an end to a long half century dictatorship. I use a mix conceptual framework: on the one hand, I use the scientific literacy and public understanding of science and technology main references to explore the public’s behavior and opinion concerning scientific and technological knowledge; on the other hand, I analyze Gradiva’s choices concerning the collections aimed at popularizing science and technology. So, I hope to contribute to map the perception of the Portuguese public about techno-scientific themes that influence their life and decisions, to understand how scientists relate to scientific and technological popularization literature and to assess scientific literacy in the Portuguese population.

Open access
The Social Evolving: Sociogenomics on the Wings of Social Insects

Abstract

This paper excavates the epistemological and ontological foundations of a rapidly emerging field called sociogenomics in relation to the development of social insects as models of social behavior. Its center-stage is “the genome,” where social and environmental information and genetic variation interact to influence social behavior through dynamic shifts in gene expression across multiple bodies and time-scales. With the advent of whole-genome sequencing technology, comparative genomics, and computational tools for mining patterns of association across widely disparate datasets, social insects are being experimented with to identify genetic networks underlying autism, novelty-seeking and aggression evolutionarily shared with humans. Drawing on the writings of key social insect biologists, and historians and philosophers of science, I investigate how the historical development of social insect research on wasps, ants and bees shape central approaches in sociogenomics today, in particular, with regards to shifting understandings of “the individual” in relation to “the social.”

Open access
The Silver Spring monkey controversy: changing cultures of care in twentieth-century laboratory animal research

Abstract

In September 1981 police raided the Institute for Behavioral Research (Silver Spring, Maryland, USA) seizing a number of macaque monkeys in response to accusations of animal cruelty against the neuroscientist Edward Taub. Over the following decade a volatile battle was fought as Taub, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the nascent animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), contested the claims and decided the monkeys’ fate. In spite of the monkeys having been surgically altered so as to be incapable of feeling pain a loose alliance of veterinarians, ethologists and animal advocates argued that they nonetheless suffered. Whilst this episode is often seen as a polarized confrontation between science and society, this paper argues that the Silver Spring monkey controversy saw two historically distinct cultures of laboratory animal care meet resulting in the development of new approaches to animal welfare in biomedical science.

Open access
Elemental problems, methodical solutions: expertise, ecology and entertainment in the study of marine mammals

Abstract

This paper examines the development of socio-technical strategies and practices for the study and display of marine mammals. It considers how techniques initially developed for terrestrial use were deployed under marine conditions, not least through the adaptation of strategies and habits originating in industry, commerce and the military, in order to facilitate researchers’ access to their subjects. In particular, it examines how these methodological developments intersected with the terrestrial display of marine mammals. Throughout, it shows how the agency of the animals under observation had a key role to play in the emergence of cetology as a profession and as a form of knowledge.

Open access