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Science and Technology Caucus

The Science and Technology Caucus provides a community for scholars interested in the interdisciplinary study of science and technology within and beyond American culture.

The Caucus was formed in 2006 to build on the enthusiastic reception of the special technology issue of the American Quarterly (September 2006) and on the positive feedback that the “science and technology”ť panels received at the 2006 ASA in Oakland. The Caucus endeavors to encourage more discussion of science and technology at ASA meetings, both nationally and regionally.

As American Studies scholars, we believe it is imperative that we interrogate the place of science and technology within American culture, broadly defined. Scientific and technological objects, practices, and debates - from evolution to stem cell research to nuclear energy to hybrid cars - inform our conversations about globalization, politics, religion, gender, race, progress, and health, as well as highlight key issues of American identity. As a Caucus, we encourage discussion of these issues within our field, paying particular attention to their local, national and global ramifications.

We started a new listserv on Google groups for the caucus in December 2011. If you would like to join our caucus listserv, please look for “ASA Science & Technology Caucus” on Google groups and request to join.

Caucus liaisons: Kathleen Brian, Sarah McCullough, and Elena Razlogova

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Sponsored panels for ASA meeting 2013

The Science and Technology Caucus of the American Studies Association (ASA) invites submissions of individual paper abstracts and panel abstracts for caucus sponsorship at the next ASA meeting in Washington, D.C., on November 21-24, 2013, titled “Beyond the Logic of Debt, Toward an Ethics of Collective Dissent” (see:

We encourage scholars to submit panel CFPs early to our listserv.  If you are not yet on the listserv, please look for “ASA Science & Technology Caucus” on Google groups and request to join. For paper abstracts and session proposals sent by January 10, the caucus can offer critical feedback and facilitate networking among scholars who are looking for session participants, chairs, or commentators. Please submit pre-formed panels by January 19, 2013, to Monique Laney, Co-Chair of the Science and Technology Caucus, for consideration. Depending on the number of submissions, we may put the panels up for a vote by our members via the listserv on January 20th.

General panel submissions are due January 26, 2012, so we hope to lock down our sponsored panel no later than January 23rd, which allows panelists time to submit their materials to the general ASA submission. The selected panel will add the following at the top of their abstract: “This panel is sponsored by the Science and Technology Caucus.”  Caucus sponsorship does not guarantee acceptance by the ASA, but it can improve a panel’s chances of acceptance. Please submit a full packet of panel and paper abstracts. Submitting a panel for sponsorship is not the same as submitting a panel to the ASA; please be advised that both are necessary. Session proposals should explore.

Let us know if we can assist you in any way!

All the best,
Emily, Jason, and Monique

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The ASA Program Committee has accepted both our sponsored panel and roundtable for the ASA Convention “Dimensions of Empire and Resistance:  Past, Present, and Future,” November 15-18, 2012, San Juan, Puerto Rico!

Roundtable: What is the Future of Technology in American Studies?

Carolyn de la Pena, American Studies Program, University of California, Davis
David Nye, Center for American Studies, University of Southern Denmark
Lisa Nakamura, Asian American Studies Program and the Institute of Communication Studies Research, University of Illinois, Champaign Urbana
Joshua Shannon, Art History and Archaeology Department, University of Maryland
Elena Razlogova, Department of History, Concordia University

Jason Weems, History of Art Department, University of California, Riverside

Panel: Empires of Science, Resisting Solutions

Melanie Armstrong, UC Berkeley
Lindsay O’Connor, University of Virginia
Jennifer Richter, University of New Mexico

Kristan Cockerill, Appalachian State University

Roundtable description
The relationship between American culture and technology is becoming increasingly entangled. Alongside older machinery such as railroads and assembly lines that redefined time, space and labor, more recent developments—from global surveillance and digital media to genetic engineering, artificial intelligence and virtual reality—have brought new permeability to the already uncertain division between humanity and technology. This blurring of boundaries is spurring a reconceptualization of the relationship between technology and culture that ranges across the traditional humanistic disciplines, from the history of science and technology to philosophy, cultural theory, the social sciences and the expressive arts. Although many American studies scholars are engaged in research that occupies the cutting edge of this movement, Carolyn de Pena has observed that “The field of American studies has largely left questions of technology to others, in spite of our early leadership in innovative methods of technological analysis and cultural critique.” The result, as she elaborated in a ground-breaking 2006 special issue of American Quarterly devoted to the question of technology, is that American studies may be missing out on important opportunities to infuse the study of technology with issues of “diversity, equity and justice that are fundamental to our field.”
  Six years after the publication of the special issue (and the consequent founding of a science and technology caucus), this roundtable explores the current status of technology within American studies. Is technology being given sufficient focus by the American studies community? How are American studies scholars engaging with the historical, theoretical and material circumstances of technology in their research? What new topics, keywords, methods and problems are emerging? How might American studies’ “essential emphasis” (as de Pena terms it) on “transnational, ethnic and sexualities studies” be effectively deployed as a means to complement and complicate and other, more positivist, narratives of technological engagement and transformation? How might we shape stronger and more critical dialogues on science and technology among American studies and across a wider spectrum of technology studies? How do we link the study of technology’s past to the critique of its present issues and circumstances? Alternately, how do we address technology not as a research topic, but rather as a transformative force in our own scholarship, teaching and social activism?
  Sponsored by the Science and Technology Caucus, this session brings together six scholars (including the chair/moderator) from a diversity of viewpoints within American studies, but sharing a longstanding commitment to study of technology in American culture. The session has been organized in roundtable format in order to maximize opportunities for organic dialogue between panelists and audience members. Our goal is to initiate a new and ongoing conversation on the problems and possibilities of science and technology in American studies. Given the conference’s location and thematic focus, we are eager to examine the roles technology plays in the various contexts of empire, from early Euro-American territorial conquests in the Caribbean and elsewhere to the articulation of empire in other, less tangible spaces and incarnations.


Panel description
Empires of science and engineering currently encompass the globe to control and direct flows of water, energy and microbes.  Levees, nuclear power plants, and federal laboratories are used to contain the risks from rising waterways, nuclear reactions and pathological diseases, even as these risks escape their boundaries and become “wicked problems” that raise haunting questions about our ability to address what are labeled environmental problems.  Once defined as environmental, there is a pervasive belief that science can, should, and will generate solutions to these complex issues. The deep-seated belief that nature can be contained, controlled, and used without limitation underlies the political and social response of continuing to ask scientific disciplines to provide solutions to these complicated issues.  Even as scientists acknowledge the limits of knowledge production, it has become a matter of course for political decisions to be based on “sound science.” By shifting the domain of discourse from social arenas to scientific disciplines, politicians and cultural producers alike burden scientists with creating a utopian future where natural resources can be used without consequence. By problematizing the role of science as perceived problem-solver, this panel considers how resisting the idea of solutions to major environmental catastrophes might reconfigure the roles of science in modern life.  Examining how major global events are represented, interpreted, and analyzed, these papers illuminate and challenge how political ideologies are reified through daily science practice.
Complicating these issues are the ways that cultural constructions of nationhood are used to define the scale and scope of issues that, by their essence, defy national boundaries. As wind and water flow across geopolitical borders, ecological processes and correlating crises become truly transnational. At the same time, the effects from political issues related to the movement of air, soil, and water are experienced intimately in individual lives and communities. By examining historical and contemporary efforts to apply scientific fixes to these seemingly environmental issues, this panel illuminates how fluxing scales of time and space have long been used to inappropriately apply solutions derived from scientific principles.  Political actors often look to science to define future risks in order to sustain expansive acts in the present, whether by using uncertainty to evade action or by using “sound science” as a means of justifying problematic policies. By looking at specific examples of how engineered solutions raise questions about the limits of scientific knowledge production, we can begin to interrogate how solutions-based thinking actually raises more problems that draw the future of humanity into question.  In doing so, we can reimagine the material world as an inhabited cultural space, opening the possibility of material change in the face of global crisis.  Ultimately, by examining the cultural application of scientific knowledge, we resist the authority of a modern science empire whose political power is staked in an uncertain future.

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Time to think about our sponsored panel for 2012!

Dear ASA Science and Technology colleagues,

Thank you to those who joined us to discuss the STS caucus in Baltimore. Once again, it’s time for our caucus to select a panel to sponsor for the next ASA meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico. General panel submissions are due January 26, 2012, so we hope to lock down our sponsored panel no later than January 23rd.

Following the discussion at ASA, your co-chairs of the science and technology caucus, Jason Weems, Monique Laney, and Emily Smith Beitiks, have been discussing how we might form the sponsored panel. We have decided to put the panel selection to a vote, as we did last year.

Therefore, when any panels related to science and technology have full abstracts ready to be submitted to the ASA website, please forward the abstracts to me by January 19th.  We will then send all complete panels out for a vote, and based on the responses, we will choose our sponsored panel (it is possible that two panels will be selected, TBD).  Since abstracts can be revised at any time up to the final deadline, the sponsored panel can then write at the top of their abstract “This panel is sponsored by the Science and Technology Caucus” and resubmit it to the ASA website by the deadline. And of course, if your panel is not selected, you will still have time to submit your abstract to the general ASA submission.

Need help finding or organizing a panel? Use our list-serve! (see announcements for how to join)

So good luck organizing and send me (Emily Beitiks:  .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) all complete panel abstracts by the end of Thursday, January 19th, and be ready to VOTE on 1/20!

All the best,

Emily, Jason, and Monique

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Baltimore 2011

Business meeting and this year’s panels related to Science & Technology

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ASA 2010 Science and Technology Caucus Business Meeting

Date:  Saturday Nov 20th
Time:  8:00-9:45a.m. (We hope to provide coffee and munchies).
Room:  Grand Hyatt - Travis CD

Please come prepared to brainstorm session topics for next year and discuss the role of science and technology studies in American Studies. Depending on the number of people who attend, we may also discuss informally individual current research projects.

PS: Check out new links at top of this page to display S&T related panels at ASA 2010!

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