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Last modified: Tuesday, August 21, 2012

International workshop at IU to focus on science and technology in Latin America

Aug. 21, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Scholars from around the globe will meet at Indiana University this week to examine and challenge the widely held view that science and technology in Latin America are like "imported magic," powerful, mysterious and foreign.

They will share research that highlights the ways innovation, invention and discovery occur in multiple contexts. In addition, papers will draw attention to the importance of local adaptation and reinvention -- and not just acts of invention -- in the production and dissemination of scientific and technological knowledge.

"By studying the experiences of Latin American nations, the workshop aims to provide a more nuanced view of science and technology in the hope that this will lead to better scientific practices and policies," said Eden Medina, an organizer of the workshop and associate professor of informatics and computing at IU Bloomington. "The workshop will also allow members of the IU community to learn about science and technology in a different part of the world."

The workshop, "Studying Science and Technology in Latin America: Beyond Imported Magic," will take place Friday and Saturday, Aug. 24 and 25, at the Indiana Memorial Union and the School of Informatics and Computing. The Friday sessions, including presentations by high-profile scholars referred to as luminaries, will be open to the public and will be in the IMU Dogwood Room beginning at 10 a.m.

In addition to Medina, organizers are Shane Greene, director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and Deborah Cohn, chair of the Department of American Studies. The event continues a conversation that began at IU with a 2010-11 John E. Sawyer Seminar titled "Rupture and Flow: The Circulation of Technoscientific Facts and Objects."

The workshop brings together scholars in the discipline of Science and Technology Studies, which uses methods from the humanities and social sciences to examine how social, political and cultural factors influence scientific research and technological innovation. Luminaries who will give public talks include:

  • Ivan da Costa Marques, associate professor in the Graduate Program for the History of Sciences, Techniques and Epistemologies at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and a former CEO of both government and private computer manufacturers in Brazil. He will speak about ways of framing the study of science and technology in Latin America.
  • Julia Rodriguez, associate professor of history at the University of New Hampshire. Her talk, "Study the Skulls and Bones: Latin America as a Site of Inquiry Into the Origins of Humanity," will focus on early anthropologists who studied the fossil record and human remains in Argentina.
  • Dominique Vinck, professor in sociology and Science and Technology Studies at the University of Lausanne and a member of the Institute for Social Sciences in Lausanne, Switzerland. His research concerns the sociology of sciences and innovation, including micro- and nanotechnology, and creation of technology policy in Latin America.
  • David Hess, professor of sociology at Vanderbilt University. His talk, "The New Developmentalism: Brazil, the U.S. and Green Transitions," will examine the emergence of new ideologies of global trade at work in U.S. conflicts with Brazil and China over energy markets.

Participants also include scholars from universities in the U.S., Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, France, Mexico, Norway and Switzerland, as well as an interdisciplinary group of IU faculty members and graduate students. Papers and talks will address topics including the "invisibility" of female forensic scientists in Colombia, the implementation of the One Laptop per Child program in Peru and Paraguay, and nuclear energy programs in Chile and Argentina.

Results from the workshop will be published in a peer-reviewed edited volume, scheduled for publication in 2014 and co-edited by Medina, da Costa Marques and Christina Holmes, a postdoctoral fellow at the National Scientific Research Centre's School of Higher Studies in Social Sciences in Paris.

Funding comes from the National Science Foundation with support from IU's School of Informatics and Computing, Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Department of American Studies, Department of Anthropology, Institute for Advanced Study, College Arts and Humanities Institute, Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs and Office of the Vice President for International Affairs.