[P4926] Circulating Science and Scaling Innovation: Science and Technology Studies in the Middle East

Created by Elizabeth Williams
Saturday, 11/18/17 5:30pm


Science and technology studies (STS) aims to examine how social, political, and cultural contexts have influenced scientific thought and precipitated technological innovations. It also considers how these ideas and technologies interact with social groups and political institutions. Work that applies the insights of STS to the study of Middle East history has only recently begun to emerge. This panel explores how an STS approach contributes to Middle East history by introducing new research questions and methodologies. Towards this end, we seek to examine, in particular, the scientists, technocrats, social reformers, and others participating in and contributing to global and local networks of scientific thought and technological innovation. By considering the various scales at which this circulation occurs and the translations and movements (of ideas, methodologies, personnel, etc.) involved in conveying “science” in different Middle Eastern contexts or applying technologies in practice, this panel demonstrates how diverse—yet intersecting—social and political institutions, religious and legal practices, and economic and environmental considerations mediate the development, transfer, and implementation of ideas and technologies.

Using a broad array of methodologies and sources, covering a range of geographies from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Gulf, and examining cases from the late nineteenth century through the early twenty-first, these papers explore how the production and application of science and technology are highly political and contested processes. One presentation will examine statistics, accounting, and Ottoman debt in the late nineteenth century. Another looks at the construction of an agricultural “science” in late Ottoman and French mandate Syria and the circulation and transfer of its associated technologies. A third considers the influence of scalar entanglements in shaping scientific research in mandate Palestine. A fourth presentation traces the adoption of biobank technologies and global research networks into the Qatari nation-building project and asks how state engagement with international bioscientific networks contributes to the project of delineating a national genetic past and envisioning a future disease landscape. In each instance these papers explore how the production or adoption of science and technology—despite being represented as objective and apolitical processes—are in fact political and social acts enmeshed in networks operating on multiple scales.





On Barak

(Tel Aviv University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair; Discussant;

Elizabeth Williams

(University of Massachusetts Lowell)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Daniel Stolz

(Northwestern University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Fredrik Meiton

(Northwestern University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Laura Goffman

(Georgetown University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;