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Cropscapes and History

Reflections on Rootedness and Mobility

Crops are a very special type of human artifact, living organisms literally rooted in their environments. Crops suggest ways to embed rootedness in mobility studies, fleshing out the linkages between flows and matrices and thus developing effective frameworks for reconnecting local and global history. Our focus here is on the movements, or failures to move, of “cropscapes”: the ever-mutating ecologies, or matrices, comprising assemblages of nonhumans and humans, within which a particular crop in a particular place and time flourishes or fails. As with the landscape, the cropscape as concept and analytical tool implies a deliberate choice of frame. In playing with how to frame our selected cropscapes spatially and chronologically, we develop productive alternatives to latent Eurocentric and modernist assumptions about periodization, geographical hierarchies, and scale that still prevail within history of technology, global and comparative history, and indeed within broader public understanding of mobility and history.

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Editorial

As announced in our most recent editorial, this issue of Transfers features a series of reflections on the role of movement and mobilities in the fields of history of science, technology, and medicine. Four major collaborative projects in different stages of completion are introduced: “Moving Crops and the Scales of History”; “Individual Itineraries and the Circulation of Scientific and Technical Knowledge in China (16th–20th Centuries)”; “Migrating Knowledge”; and “Itineraries of Materials, Recipes, Techniques, and Knowledge in the Early Modern World.” Over the past few years, historical research on scientific and technological change and movement has altered substantially in form and content. Many projects have taken on a collaborative format as globalization and global exchange methodologies advanced and brought about an increased awareness of geographies, cultural differences, and postcolonial debate but also as sources became increasingly visible and available through digital means and researchers themselves became more mobile. The four examples selected can inevitably provide only a glimpse into this changing landscape and were chosen as offering a representative geographic coverage of European and US American scholarship in which, however, colleagues from a wide range of areas including India, South America, and Asia were involved.

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How “Poland Entered Europe”

The Motorway as a Space of Neoliberalism

The article surveys a giant infrastructural construction project in Poland: the A2 motorway, connecting Poznan´ and Warsaw with the Polish-German border. It was the first private motorway in Poland, and the biggest European infrastructural project, and was realized in a public-private partnership system. The last section of A2 was opened on 1 December 2011, which can be seen as a key moment in Polish socioeconomic transformation. I examine it on two levels: (1) a discourse between government and private investors in which the motorway was the medium of economic and social development and infrastructural “the end” modernization of Poland; (2) practices and opinions of local communities, living along the new motorway. On the first level, the construction of A2 was seen as an impetus for the economic and social development of the regions where the motorway was built. But on the second level, I observe almost universal disappointment and a deep crisis experienced by local economies.

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Human Mobility and the Spatial Dynamics of Knowledge

Mapping Science, Technology, and Medicine in and around Late Imperial China

The project “Individual Itineraries and the Circulation of Scientific and Technical Knowledge in China (16th–20th Centuries)” has shed light on the impact of individuals’ geographic mobility on the spatial dynamics of knowledge in late imperial China, where the bureaucratic system dictated a specific pattern of mobility for the elites. The question was also studied for other socioprofessional groups—craftsmen and medical doctors—and for the actors of the globalization of knowledge—Christian missionaries, colonial doctors, and the Chinese students. The studies conducted shed light on a variety of places, social milieus, fields of knowledge, and on the conditions of travel of technical knowledge—including sericulture, water conservancy, medicine, natural history, and statistics—against the background of the expertise such as classical scholarship—the dominant body of knowledge, sanctioned by imperial examination—circulated among the elite.

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Imaged and Imagined Infrastructure

Infrastructure Imagination: Hong Kong City Futures, 1972–1988 City Gallery, Central, Hong Kong, 24 March 2018 to 16 May 2018 Lead Curators: Cecilia Chu, Dorothy Tang Curatorial Team: Maxime Decaudin, Sben Korsh, Calvin Liang, Christina Lo, Lillian Tam, Olive Wong https://infrastructureimagination.splashthat.com

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Migrating Knowledge and the Mobility of Ideas

In this article, we offer a broad view of “knowledge in motion” based on our collaborative work and experience at the Minerva Humanities Center at Tel Aviv University. We first present our reflections through a short case study concerned with the perception of sunspots through the telescope and their alternative conceptualizations by agents with different research agendas. We then present our theoretical reflections on “migrating knowledge” and summarize a few research projects done in our center that may throw further light on our socio-epistemic framework. Finally, we articulate some of our suggestions for mobility studies in order to engage them with the kind of questions we have been concerned with for quite some time now.

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Mobilities Meet Reproductive Vibes . . .

What mobilizes people to take up reproductive options, directions, and trajectories in ways that generate the possibilities and practices of mobilities? People’s desires for procreation or to resolve fertility challenges or partake in sperm donation, egg freezing, or surrogacy; the need for abortion services; and forced evacuation for childbirth care all involve movement. Reproductive aspirations, norms, and regulations move people’s bodies, as well as related technologies and bioproducts. At the same time, these corporeal, material, in/tangible mobilities of bodies, things, and ideas are also generative of reproductive imaginaries and practices. Reproduction is mobile and movement affects reproduction. Building from an interdisciplinary workshop on reproductive mobilities in Kelowna, Canada, this article aims to push the mobilities framework toward the edges of feminist, affect, queer, decolonizing, materialist, and nonrepresentational theories in thinking through both reproduction and movement.

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Response

The Mobile Itineraries of Knowledge-scapes

This special section elucidates intersections between the historiography of mobilities and the interdisciplinary field of mobilities research. The articles highlight relationships between mobilities and stabilization, circulation and place-making, deterritorialization and reterritorialization. This response essay seeks to dispel three myths about mobility studies: (1) that it is purely about the contemporary world, rather than the historical dimensions of mobile processes; (2) that it focuses solely on material phenomenon of physical transport (i.e., of things and people) and ignores the movement of ideas, knowledge, and culture; and (3) that it is purely about “flows” and “circulation” and has little to teach us about friction, resistances, blockages, or uneven power relations. The most important intersections of the histories of mobilities and the field of mobility studies can be found in the ways in which each emphasizes power differentials, blockages, friction, and the relation between mobilities and immobilities.

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Tracing the Movement of Knowledge across Vast Distances and Long Temporal Spans

A research group at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science on “Itineraries of Materials, Recipes, Techniques, and Knowledge in the Early Modern World” held a series of workshops (2014–2015) on the movement of knowledge (materials, techniques, objects) across Eurasia, resulting in an edited volume. Participants articulated a framework of “entangled itineraries,” “material complexes,” and “nodes of convergence” by which historians might follow routes of knowledge-making extending over very long distances and/or great spans of time. The key concepts are (1) “material complex” denoting the constellation of substances, practices, techniques, beliefs, and values that accrete as knowledge around materials; (2) the “relational field,” the social, intellectual, economic, emotional domain formed by a “node of convergence”—often a hub of trade and exchange—within which a material complex crystalizes; and (3) “itineraries,” or the routes taken by materials through which they stabilize and/ or transform.

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Book Reviews

Decentering the State in Automobility Regimes

Kurt Beck, Gabriel Klaeger, and Michael Stasik, eds., The Making of an African Road (Leiden: Brill, 2017), 278 pp., 34 illustrations, $78 (paperback) Understanding Globalization from Below in China Gordon Mathews, with Linessa Dan Lin and Yang Yang, The World in Guangzhou: Africans and Other Foreigners in South China’s Global Marketplace (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017), 256 pp.,$27.50 (paperback)

Rethinking Mobility and Innovation: African Perspectives

Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga, ed., What Do Science, Technology, and Innovation Mean from Africa? (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2017), 256 pp., 25 black-and-white illustrations, $36 (paperback) When Is a Crisis Not a Crisis? The Illegalization of Mobility in Europe Nicholas De Genova, ed., The Borders of “Europe”: Autonomy of Migration, Tactics of Bordering (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017), 376 pp.,$27.95 (paperback)

City, Mobility, and Insecurity: A Mobile Ethnography of Beirut

Kristin V. Monroe, The Insecure City: Space, Power, and Mobility in Beirut (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2016), 204 pp., 7 photographs, \$27.95 (paperback)