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An Inconvenient Expertise

French Colonial Sailors and Technological Knowledge in the Union Française

Minayo Nasiali

In the 1950s, French shipping companies began to replace their old fleet of steamships with new diesel ships. They also began to lay off sailors from French Africa, claiming that the changing technology rendered their labor obsolete. The industry asserted that African sailors did not have the aptitude to do other, more skilled jobs aboard diesel vessels. But unemployed colonial sailors argued differently, claiming that they were both able and skilled. This article explores how unemployed sailors from French Africa cast themselves as experts, capable of producing technological knowledge about shipping. In so doing, they shaped racialized and gendered notions about labor and skill within the French empire. The arguments they made were inconvenient, I argue, because colonial sailors called into question hegemonic ideas about who could be modern and who had the right to participate in discourse about expertise.

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Douglas Kellner

As the third millennium unfolds, one of the most dramatic technological and economic revolutions in history is advancing a set of processes that are changing everything from the ways in which people work to the ways that they communicate with each other and spend their leisure time. The technological revolution centres on computer, information, communication, and multimedia technologies. These are key aspects of the production of a new economy, described as postindustrial, post-Fordist, and postmodern, accompanied by a networked society and cyberspace, and the juggernaut of globalisation. There are, of course, furious debates about how to describe the Great Transformation of the contemporary epoch, whether it is positive and negative, and what the political prospects for democratisation and radical social transformation are.

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Sue Frohlick, Kristin Lozanski, Amy Speier, and Mimi Sheller

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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La naissance d'un géant

Arcelor-Mittal (1948-2006)

Éric Godelier

In 2006 a terrible fight pitted two steel makers, Mittal and Arcelor, against each other. Understanding the dynamic of this enormous takeover requires a historical perspective. The structure, business strategy, and corporate governance of these groups evolved over a long period of time. This article explores the conflict in the context of the history of French steel industry. An examination of Usinor, moreover, as the ancestor and creator of Arcelor, can reveal a lot about the political, social and economical influence of steel makers in French society. Understanding the conflict also calls for an analysis of how a large company could change its corporate culture. Instead of reducing corporate culture to individual or collective “values,” as Edgar Schein did some time ago, this article explores Usinor's culture as a system of representations, material elements, technologies, products and ways of doing and thinking.

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Cropscapes and History

Reflections on Rootedness and Mobility

Francesca Bray, Barbara Hahn, John Bosco Lourdusamy, and Tiago Saraiva

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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Capital Flows Through Language

Market English, Biopower, and the World Bank

J. Paul Narkunas

In 1997, the World Bank Group1 published in English one of its many country studies, entitled Vietnam: Education Financing. Its goal was to measure ‘what changes in educational policies will ensure that students who pass through the system today will acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed for Vietnam to complete the transition successfully from a planned to a market economy’(World Bank 1997: xiii). Skills, knowledge, and attitude designate the successfully ‘educated’ Vietnamese national subjects for the bank. The educational ‘system’ performs, therefore, a disciplinary function by using the technologies of the nation state to cultivate productive humans—measured by technical expertise and computer and business skills—for transnational companies who do business in the region.

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Gerrit K. Roessler

This article examines Ulrich Horstmann's science fiction radio play Die Bunkermann-Kassette (The Bunker Man Cassette, 1979), in which the author frames fears and anxieties surrounding a potential nuclear conflict during the Cold War as apocalyptic self-annihilation of the human race. Radio, especially radio drama, had a unique role in capturing the historical imaginaries and traumatic experiences surrounding this non-event. Horstmann's radio drama and the titular cassette tape become sound artifacts that speak to the technological contexts of their time, while their acoustic content carries the past sounds into the present. In the world of the play, these artifacts are presented in a museum of the future, which uses the possibilities of science fictional imagination and speculation to create prosthetic memories of the Cold War. The article suggests that these memories are cyborg memories, because the listener is a fully integrated component of radio technology that makes these memories and recollections of imagined events possible in the first place.

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Exhibitions as Research

Displaying the Technologies That Make Bodies Visible

Anita Herle

Drawing on a recent exhibition, Assembling Bodies: Art, Science and Imagination, at the University of Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA), this article argues that curatorial techniques, involving a sustained engagement with objects, can play a vital role in anthropological research. Processes involved in the creation and reception of the exhibition facilitated the investigation of how bodies are composed, known, and acted upon in different times, places, and disciplinary contexts. Assembling Bodies attempted to transcend the dualism of subject and object, people and things, by demonstrating how different technologies for making bodies visible bring new and oft en unexpected forms into focus. Processes of exploration and experimentation continued after the exhibition opened in the discussions and activities that the displays stimulated, and in the reflections and ideas that visitors took away.

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Elizabeth C. Macknight

This article presents two case studies, from Scotland and the Scottish Islands, of communities' engagement with archives and their attitudes toward heritage. The case studies arise out of knowledge transfer between an historian employed in an academic role at a Scottish university and two “third sector“ organizations. By comparing the perspectives of historians, archivists, and community organizations the article shows the different ways in which these separate interest groups perceive the value of archives. It then points to some of the possibilities and challenges of working collaboratively to deepen understanding about the past and to create wider opportunities, now and in the future, for historical interpretation, teaching, learning, and research. In the era of digital technologies, it is recommended that undergraduate students be taught the key concepts of archival theory and practice, while also being encouraged to experience working with original archival documents.

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“Containers, Carriers, Vehicles”

Three Views of Mobility from Africa

Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga, Jeroen Cuvelier, and Katrien Pype

Africa-focused Perspective The articles included in this first special section were originally presented at an international workshop titled Technology and Mobility in Africa: Exploring a New Analytical Field, which we organized at the University of