Programme

(T126)
Science and Technology in the Middle East: Life Sciences and Environments
Location 112a
Date and Start Time 01 September, 2016 at 16:00
Sessions 1

Convenor

  • Zeynep Oguz (The Graduate Center, CUNY) email

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Discussant Samer Alatout (University of Winsconsin-Madison)

Short Abstract

Focusing on nature, environment, and the life sciences, this panel aims to provide a nuanced analysis of the power-laden ways in which techno-science circulates and takes shape in the Middle East and rethink assumptions about science and technology themselves through insights from the region.

Long Abstract

Since the 1980s, a large body of work in Science and Technology studies has debunked the Western sciences' and scientists' claims to universality and neutrality by showing the imprint of culture and history in techno-scientific knowledge production, design, and worldviews. Further, although earlier work on non-Western contexts have tended to conceptualize Western techno-science as a hegemonic machinery that is "imported" to other contexts, recent scholarship challenges such assumptions by revealing the "complex process of translation, appropriation and accommodation" (Bray 2007:440) involved in the making of both "Western" and "non-Western" sciences (Abraham 2000; Anderson 2002; Barak 2013; Biermann 2001; Choy 2011; Harding 1993; Hayden 2003; Hecht 2002; Helmreich 2005; Lowe 2006). Focusing on nature, environment, and the life sciences, this panel aims to provide a nuanced analysis of the power-laden ways in which science and technology circulate and take shape in the Middle East -a "non-Western" and "contentious" part of the world, and address an underrepresented area of the STS literature. Aiming to do more than fill a geographic gap, this panel aims to challenge assumptions about science and technology themselves through insights from the Middle East. We ask: How are notions and scales such as the particular, local, regional, global, and universal produced through techno-scientific practices? In what ways do political, social, and cultural constellations in the Middle East recalibrate the frameworks in Science and Technology Studies? What kinds of temporalities do techno-scientific practices, epistemologies, and ontologies in the Middle East build upon?

This track is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Emergent Wetland Wild: Water Buffaloes, Feral Horses, And Waterbirds In The Making And Unmaking Of Wetlands' Livable Nature

Author: Caterina Scaramelli (Amherst College)  email

Short Abstract

In contemporary Turkey, projects of wetland conservation, mark environments already shaped by layered production regimes: of crops, markets, infrastructures, and nationalism. In this paper, I examine how such projects also implicate shifting lives of animals.

Long Abstract

Concurrently with large-scale drainage and reclamation projects, wetlands have emerged as threatened ecologies of value — incorporating concerns ranging from waterbirds habitat, biodiversity, ecosystem services, to climate change, water security and, most recently, human cultures. In contemporary Turkey, projects of wetland conservation, by the state, universities, and NGOs, mark environments already shaped by layered production regimes: of crops, markets, infrastructures, and nationalism. In this paper, I examine how such projects also implicate the lives of animals. Anthropologists of science and the environment and environmental historians have shown that categories of wildlife are always in the making. In contemporary Turkey, scholars have recently tracked the emerging salience of the ecological in cultural life, entangled with political claims to livelihood rights. The cultural creation of conservation wetlands enacts narratives deliberating over who has the right to live and work in the wetland. I analyze how wetland species come to matter in the contemporary work of conservationists, educators, and state officials in two delta wetlands. "Stakeholders" assign shifting statuses to non-human animals — wild, feral, domestic, native, invasive, endemic, charismatic, elusive. At stake are also shifting enactments of place, not all of which affect each animal species in the same way. It is because of the rapid environmental and agroeconomic changes in the deltas — the expansion of rice fields, the disappearance of the forest, changes in agricultural subsidies — that animal populations become seemingly out of place, and that their relationship to the environments is open for questioning in the first place.

Geological, Material, and Political Temporalities in Turkey's Hydrocarbon Exploration Efforts

Author: Zeynep Oguz (The Graduate Center, CUNY)  email

Short Abstract

Analyzing state-led shale oil exploration practices and geological narratives in central Anatolia, this paper examines how potential presence of hydrocarbon reserves in Turkey has been transforming the land and the sea into force fields of competing futures.

Long Abstract

What are rocks under the ground and the sea? What kinds of futures and pasts do they conjure up? This paper examines the ways in which the potential presence of hydrocarbon reserves in Turkey has been transforming the land and the sea into force fields of competing modes of anticipation over the future. I trace the government's recent hydrocarbon exploration practices that take place on the backdrop of Turkey's contemporary carbon-intensive energy politics. In the past twenty years, Turkey has intensified its efforts for maximizing its use of national hydrocarbon reserves in Central Anatolia, the Black Sea, and the contested maritime zones of the Mediterranean Sea, in the name of energy independency, socio-economic progress, and geopolitical power. In tracing the transformation of the land and the sea into national spaces of "resource potentiality" (Weszkalnys 2015), I examine the entanglements of infrastructures, geological cosmologies, techno-scientific practices of exploration and surveying, bureaucratic and material politics, and contested futures in the offices and laboratories of the state-owned Mineral Exploration and Research Institute (MTA) and exploratory drilling sites. In their blurring the boundaries between the economic, the scientific, and the aesthetic, I argue that MTA's geologists' everyday interactions with earthly materials in the field engender alternative realities about the materiality and temporality of hydrocarbons, the sea, and the land. Such enactments frame 30-million year-old rocks as resources and potential reserves, but also as earthly archives of geological and biological history that often "transcend" the scales and temporalities of the nation.

Settlement Efforts, Bodily Limitations, and the Discovery of Urine

Author: Tamar Novick (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines mid 20th century settlement efforts in Palestine/Israel, and focuses on infertility - a problem that threatened the growth of both human and animal settler populations. It explores the extent to which the creation of a new social order was connected to a transforming biological one.

Long Abstract

This paper examines what happens to science in the context of colonial settlement. It focuses on a group of German physicians, veterinarians, and chemists who settled in Palestine in the early 1930s, in the midst of the golden age of hormone research. These experts devoted their careers to solving infertility, a problem that threatened the growth of both human and animal settler populations. Through their work, urine emerged as a savior substance as it was the most abundant source for sex hormones. As a result, urine connected the farm to the lab and the clinic, and flowed between the bodies of different settler-creatures. By mid century, urine also crossed the Mediterranean sea - connecting the Israeli prime minister's office to the Vatican, elderly homes in Israel to the pharmaceutical industry in Europe, and Italian nuns to primiparous cows - gradually blurring the limitations of the corporeal. Following the paths of production and dysfunction, this paper uses the tools of science and technology studies and environmental history to demonstrate that the creation of a new social order was connected to a transforming biological one.

HIV/AIDS, Biomedical Subjectivities, and Agency in Lebanon

Author: Elizabeth Berk (Yale University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper takes the provision and use of these anti-retroviral biomedicines as a starting point for an inquiry into the constitution of biomedical subjectivities and agency at the intersection of conflict, political-economic constraint, and social stigma.

Long Abstract

Despite recent work by global health professionals, there have been no long-term social scientific inquiries into HIV/AIDS in MENA. UNAIDS labels this region "low prevalence/high risk," indicating a relatively small amount of individuals currently living with this illness, but a dramatic rise in cases in the last decade.1 Lebanon has had a particularly robust response to this epidemic since its appearance in the region in the 1980s, with civil society activists, medical professionals, and a government program working in concert to educate the public about prevention and provide anti-retrovirals free of cost to anyone diagnosed. This paper, based on four months of ethnographic fieldwork with local civil society organizations, Lebanon's National AIDS Program, infectious disease physicians, and individuals living with HIV/AIDS, takes the provision and use of these anti-retroviral biomedicines as a starting point for an inquiry into the constitution of biomedical subjectivities and agency at the intersection of conflict, political-economic constraint, and social stigma. How does the free provision of these life-saving biotechnologies shape individual subjectivities for patients, providers, and advocates? How does Lebanon's unique citizenship landscape, based on ethno-religious group membership, interact with internationally produced biomedical regimes to redefine local subjectivities? Do notions of agency such as the cyborg or intra-action fit this Middle Eastern context, or do local experiences necessitate reconfiguration of these theories or perhaps generation of their own (Haraway 1990; Barad 2003)?

This track is closed to new paper proposals.