4S Conference: At the Intersection of Social Studies, Science, and Technology

This year’s Annual Meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S)  (August 30 – September 2 in Boston) continues to focus on fostering scholarship in the social studies of science, technology, and medicine. Learn more about books at the forefront of this discussion, from data regulation, to reproductive justice, to people’s overall health and well-being. #4S2017

The Internet

Interpreting the Internet: Feminist and Queer Counterpublics in Latin America by Elisabeth Jay Friedman

“A fascinating and wonderfully insightful account of the internet’s transformative utilization in Latin America. The rigorous sociomaterial analysis that she brings convincingly demonstrates and accounts for the co-constitution of subjects, technology, and broader social contexts and power relations.”—Lincoln Dahlberg, Honorary Research Fellow, University of Queensland

Learn more from Elisabeth Jay Friedman on the regional roots of transnational digital activism.

 

Chokepoints: Global Private Regulation on the Internet by Natasha Tusikov

“Natasha Tusikov raises important questions about the global governance of online transactions as well as much larger questions about the relationship between public and private law enforcement in our surveillance societies. Chokepoints is a terrific book.”—Roger Brownsword, King’s College London

Learn more from Natasha Tusikov about the new global regulators.

 

 

Health and Medicine

Unprepared: Global Health in a Time of Emergency by Andrew Lakoff

“Unprepared shows how, despite considerable epidemiological and biological advances, international agencies and national governments each time face similar issues, dilemmas, controversies, criticisms, and failures. It is an important contribution to the anthropology of contemporary anxieties and uncertainties.”—Didier Fassin, author of When Bodies Remember: Experiences and Politics of AIDS in South Africa

 

 

Taking Baby Steps: How Patients and Fertility Clinics Collaborate in Conception by Jody Lyneé Madeira 

“Madeira’s interviews capture the voices of fertility patients as they struggle with decisions about whether to keep trying after repeated failures, how many embryos to implant at time, and whether to experiment with potentially risky procedures.  It adds new depth to our understanding of the concept of “informed consent” and of the human capacity for decision-making in the face of often heart-breaking challenges.”—June Carbone, Robina Chair of Law, Science and Technology, University of Minnesota Law School

 

Plastic Reason: An Anthropology of Brain Science in Embryogenetic Terms by Tobias Rees

Plastic Reason deftly tracks how the notion of ‘plasticity’ gathered persuasive force among a community of neuroscientists in France. Conducting and composing his ethnography through a series of conversational encounters with brain researchers, Tobias Rees elegantly illustrates how science is made in rhetoric, debate, and practice.”—Stefan Helmreich, Professor of Anthropology, MIT

Learn more from Tobias Rees about plasticity.

 

All in Your Head: Making Sense of Pediatric Pain by Mara Buchbinder

“Buchbinder tellingly shows how social meanings and social life intersect in creating therapeutic approaches to pain that make it endurable as a clinical reality for patients, families, and clinicians. A serious and useful contribution to medical anthropology, to the field of chronic pain, and to a meaning-centered approach to the art of living.”—Arthur Kleinman, MD, author of The Illness Narratives: Suffering, Healing, and the Human Condition

Learn more from Mara Buchbinder about the study of chronic pediatric pain.

 

And see more titles in Health, Medical Anthropology, and Environmental Sciences.

 


The Regional Roots of Transnational Digital Activism

This guest post is published in conjunction with the meeting of the Latin American Studies Association taking place April 29-May 1 in Lima, Peru. #LASA17

by Elisabeth Jay Friedman, author of Interpreting the Internet: Feminist and Queer Counterpublics in Latin America

Latin American digital border crossers have much to teach us about “the way transnational flows of people and ideas have shaped Latin America,” a theme of this year’s Latin American Studies Association conference. Such transnational flows have gone in both directions on the internet, as I have learned from the Argentine, Brazilian, and Mexican feminist and queer activists whom I interviewed for my book, Interpreting the Internet: Feminist and Queer Counterpublics in Latin America.

The conversion of a technology supposedly invented by the US military into a strategic tool for activists around the world is often taken for granted. But how did it happen? A closer look reveals that progressive computer engineers, programmers, and administrators, all dedicated to expanding digital resources beyond the politically powerful, economically fortunate, and socially advantaged, ensured that social change organizations and movements would be some of the earliest adopters. In Latin America, communities emerging out of the fiercely repressive regimes of the 1970s and 1980s embraced and expanded new communications technologies. For example, Brazil’s AlterNex became the first non-academic internet provider in all of Latin America, even before the military left power. Housed at IBASE, one of Brazil’s most important and durable civic organizations, it was connected to the public data network – run through the state telephone company. The company knew enough to be suspicious of IBASE’s oppositional efforts, and periodically would cut off their telephone service. But IBASE had enough clout to insist that it be restored.

In the 1990s, many feminists also seized on the still-evolving internet. They had been creating alternative media for well over a century, using it to connect transnationally: activists eagerly engaged extra-regional ideas while they contemplated their own pathways towards improving women’s status and rights. As in later periods, editors and writers often literally carried these ideas across borders in their suitcases. Take for example the 19th century Argentine writer Juana Manuela Gorriti, whose travels and passions led her to found both an Argentine and a Peruvian newspaper. In the late 20th century, contextually rooted border crossing continued. Projects such as Modemmujer in Mexico connected national audiences to each other and fostered transnational discussions through an early listserv, initially founded to monitor developments at the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.

Throughout the decades since then, Latin American feminist and queer communities have interpreted the internet into their own vernacular. They have built chains of access across seemingly unbridgeable chasms of inequality, such as race, geography, and class. And they have hacked the intentions of popular applications, making distribution lists into interactive spaces and blogs into historical archives. Latin American activists have long taken part in transnational flows of ideas, and have appropriated global technology to serve their own ends.


Elisabeth Jay Friedman is Chair and Professor of Politics and Professor of Latin American Studies at the University of San Francisco. She is the author of Unfinished Transitions: Women and the Gendered Development of Democracy in Venezuela, 1936–1996 and the coauthor of Sovereignty, Democracy, and Global Civil Society: State-Society Relations at UN World Conferences.