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Consortium for the Global South

Tricontinental Tea Seminar: The Politics of Science and Technology in the Global South

Tricontinental Tea Seminar, December 2018: The Politics of Science and Technology in the Global South

The Consortium for the Global South held the first of its Tricontinental Tea Seminars on 1 December 2017. Lecturers and postdocs from several different departments and disciplines presented their research in relation to the politics of science and technology in the Global South, one of the four research themes identified for collaborative work across the Consortium.

Adam Branch (Centre of African Studies) opened the seminar with an outline of his work on technologies of climate change adaptation in northern Uganda. He explained his interest in tracing the history of technologies, and in reframing climate change within a longer history of environmental disasters. He spoke of the importance of understanding how a dependence on technological solutions, in order to improve ‘resilience’, may simply naturalize the existing socioeconomic order.

Tanya Filer (Cambridge Institute for Public Policy) presented the project she is currently completing on the relationship between democracy and digital technologies in Argentina. Her research explores the uptake of digital technologies and the rise to prominence of techno-utopianism in public discourse, political thought and policymaking in twenty-first century Argentina. Her new project, provisionally entitled ‘Governing GovTech’, will explore modes of governing how democratic states use new and emergent technologies.

David Good (Psychology) gave an overview of the Africa’s Voices project, directed by Sharath Srinivasan, which he helped to found. He also introduced the Global Challenges Initiative in Cambridge, which he co-directs. More broadly, he spoke about the benefits of the co-creation of research agendas and the importance of building local capacity in Africa and other regions. He drew attention to the importance of humanities-led innovation, and to the potential for such collaboration within Cambridge.

Charu Singh (Darwin College) presented her research on the circulation in print of scientific knowledge in northern India in 1890-1950. Her project focuses on the interconnections between nation-building, language change, and the dissemination of scientific ideas. She emphasized the centrality of language in the circulation of knowledge, and the importance of considering how translation works as a means of knowledge production. A future project will explore gender and technology in mid-twentieth-century India.

Joanna Page (Centre of Latin American Studies) gave an overview of a new project on Latin American narratives and artworks that engage with recent research in astrophysics, evolutionary biology, genetics and neuroscience to create shared visions of the origins and future of human culture and society, redefining ‘life in common’. She focused in particular on collaborative work taking place at the intersections of art, engineering, architecture and environmental science, projects that create speculative technologies and imagine new modes of co-habitation and co-participation for a future (less anthropocentric) world.

Mara Polgovsky-Ezcurra (Queens’ College) is currently writing a cultural history of cybernetics in Mexico, looking at how the rise of cybernetics as an epistemology relates to political and artistic imaginaries from the late 1940s until today. She spoke about a number of important historical contributions to cybernetics by Latin American scientists and epistemologists that have been rendered invisible, such as the work of the Mexican physiologist Arturo Rosenblueth, who collaborated extensively with Norbert Wiener.

Stephanie Diepeveen (Centre of Governance and Human Rights) spoke on her research exploring the intersections of politics and digital communication technologies, predominantly in Kenya. Her current project also focuses on what effective interdisciplinary collaborative work would look like, bringing data science, history and politics together in order to analyse the intricacies of the relationship between power and communication technologies in Africa.

Informal discussion followed refreshments, and focused largely on the ethics and the practicalities of doing research with international partners from countries with fewer resources. Some important points for further reflection included:

  • the need to build relationships with partner scholars and institutions before writing grant proposals, to ensure that the planned research properly meets local needs, and that all team members can fully share in the creation of the research agenda
  • the risks of only building those relationships with elite institutions in other regions
  • the danger that hierarchies will persist, as European/North American scholars are often those who are negotiating directly with the funding bodies and speak their language.

Latest news

Tri-Continental Tea Seminar: The Politics of Science and Technology in the Global South

27 November 2017

The Consortium for the Global South invites you to participate in the first of its Tricontinental Tea Seminars. This informal series is intended to connect researchers working in different departments and disciplines within the University departments, to share knowledge, and to explore the potential for future collaborative projects.

The Consortium for the Global South

27 November 2017

The Centres of African Studies, Development Studies, Latin-American Studies and South Asian Studies are pleased to announce the launch of the Consortium for the Global South: a new initiative to exploit synergies between the research centres and to further inter-disciplinary studies across the University.