On techno-scientific archives and (de)colonization

Richard Rottenburg from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg (SA) will join us for a seminar entitled "On techno-scientific archives and (de)colonization".

The seminar is open to all, including bachelor and master students. No registration is required. After the seminar, drinks and snacks will be served in our lunchroom.

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In this lecture I want to, firstly, assert that there are no substantial and universal criteria available to assess the worthiness of techno-scientific equipment. Instead, instituting the worthiness of techno-scientific equipment – like of anything else – depends on the availability of orders of worth and justification. Yet, no device or equipment is ever hinged to only one order but always relates to several contradicting ones at the same time. Negotiations about which regime of worth and justification should count as most relevant to establish the right worthiness of a particular techno-scientific equipment thus necessarily run into an analogous foundational circle. However, they can at least draw on available techno-scientific archives for criteria to rely on. Yet again, these archives are multiple. Therefore, I want to, secondly, examine the ways in which multiple techno-scientific archives relate to each other and how they are deployed in those negotiations. More particularly, I want to probe the assertion that techno-scientific archives are epistemic spaces not bounded and distinguished as record offices are. All existing and potential techno-scientific archives rather share what Wittgenstein calls family resemblance. Most of them overlap and differ in specific ways as they have different scales and ranges; some of them are nested in each other and all of them can communicate across differences. I then want to, thirdly, investigate the consequences this approach has on re-inspecting the (de)colonization of techno-scientific equipment. (De)colonization will hence be treated as a particular case of re-assessing the worthiness of equipment. In doing so I will use empirical case studies from African contexts as evidence for my argumentation.

Richard Rottenburg is a Professor of Science and Technology Studies at WiSER at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg (SA).

Published Aug. 2, 2019 9:36 AM - Last modified Aug. 7, 2019 4:12 PM