Due to the ongoing pandemic, the History of Science Society (HSS) and the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT) will not hold their planned in-person joint meeting this October, but will hold an online-only Virtual Forum, with a full schedule of talks, roundtables, social activities, flash talks, book presentations, and more. It will take place from October 8 through October 11, 2020.

The HAR News editors would like to highlight several events on the program related to the history of anthropology. Please note that the event times given are in Eastern Standard Time (U.S.) Registration for the Virtual Forum is required; a discounted registration rate is available for graduate students and unemployed and precariously employed scholars, and grant funding is available to fully reimburse graduate student registration fees. Please note that events are subject to change and it is best to check the program regularly for the events you are interested in.

10/8/2020 12:30 PM-1:30 PM EDT

Roundtable: Settler Colonialism and Postcolonialism in the History of Science and Technology


In recent years, historians of science and technology have engaged productively with theories and methods drawn from postcolonial and Indigenous studies. Postcolonial approaches have helped to provincialize the “universality” of Western reason and have situated postcolonial spaces in Africa, Asia, and Latin America as critical sites for the creation of modernities, knowledges, and technologies. Indigenous studies scholarship has revealed how science in settler colonial societies, especially in North America and Australia, has figured in the elimination of Indigenous peoples. By exploring ways of knowing about and relating to more than human worlds, Indigenous studies approaches have challenged the epistemic, racial, and political organization of the academy itself. History of science and technology, in turn, has brought a materiality and specificity to disciplines that were traditionally more textual and literary.

However, for all they share in their challenges to traditional histories of science, postcolonial and Indigenous approaches have only rarely entered into conversation with each other. This roundtable explores this missed encounter between postcolonial and Indigenous approaches to the study of science and technology. What can these approaches learn from each other? Have they already met in unexpected places? Or are there important historical and ethical reasons for framing these strands of thought as different and discrete? Presenters active in postcolonial and Indigenous studies will present on projects, predicaments, and provocations at the boundary between the settler and post-colonies, after which the floor will be open for discussion of the opportunities and risks involved with bringing these analytical perspectives to bear on topics at their intersection.

Organizer: Tess Lanzarotta, University of Toronto

Chair: Suman Seth, Cornell University

Presenters: Tess Lanzarotta, University of Toronto; Suman Seth, Cornell University; Ashanti Shih, USC; Rosanna Dent, New Jersey Institute of Technology; Marco Ramos, Yale University; Sebastián Gil-Riaño, University of Pennsylvania

10/8/2020 3:30 PM-4:30 PM EDT

Racial Bodies of Knowledge: Reformulations of Human Difference in Physical Anthropology


From skin to bone, race became a feature of bodies liable to systematic anatomical investigation through the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. This period saw a move away from both emphasis on environmental explanations for human bodily difference and primary reliance upon methodologies founded on observation and the compiling of anecdotes and traveler’s reports. The embodiment of race meant that dissection halls and anatomical museums became authoritative sites in which knowledge about racial difference was constructed. In the creation of racialized forms of medical knowledge and the amassing of huge collections of often stolen human remains from across the globe in American and European universities, scientific societies, and museums, the afterlives of incipient physical anthropology remain with us. Despite critical attention to the haunting of contemporary biomedicine by race and the postwar, mid-twentieth century disavowal of the typological race concept which undergirded physical anthropology’s disciplinary formation, race resolutely sticks to the discipline and the bodies of knowledge it fashioned and set in motion. This panel considers the contexts of racial knowledge creation in skeletal collections and medical schools through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Europe and the United States, the political motivations and assumptions that enlivened its practice, and the undead remnants of race that endure despite reformulations in the theory and practice of physical anthropology.

Organizer: Paul Woff Mitchell, University of Pennsyvlania

Chair: Erik Peterson, University of Alabama

Presenters: Paul Wolff Mitchell, University of Pennsylvania; Iris Clever, University of Pennsylvania; Christopher Willoughby, Pennsylvania State University

Commentator: Terence Keel, UCLA

 10/8/2020 3:30 PM-4:30 PM EDT

Roundtable: Is Deep History White?


The need for this roundtable emerges from the realization that the history of deep time is predominantly derived from the works of European savants. These refer to European intellectual traditions, antiquarianism and naturalism. Similarly, the histories of deep time and geohistory too are invested in European intellectual traditions, museums, institutions, print cultures and epistemologies. Further, in deep history resides Europe’s core, secular, rational, modern and “natural” self. Yet, these concepts are often used to depict histories of people (living or extinct) and their livelihoods and habitats, beyond Europe and its frames of deep history. At the same time, there is an entrenchment of deep history, more as an adjective (rather than as a noun) in Asia, South America, Africa and Australia, and in the peripheral North in their respective geomyths, naturalisms, and questions of aboriginalities. There is also an emerging and exciting scholarship around deep history from Asia, Africa, South America and Australia. It is also essential to discuss the possibilities of using Deep history as a category within which the experiences of northern aboriginalities, of the Sami or the Inuit, for example, can also be related as antithetical to mainstream Deep histories. We need a roundtable to take stock of what this is doing to existing ideas of deep history and if there is a need to re-evaluate its changing parameters. The question of whether deep history is ‘white’ is not primarily a racial one. It is epistemological. It questions the pre-eminence of European deep naturalism. The group will debate whether deep history is complicit in the Western appropriation of tribal nature, time, and capital; how European colonialism introduced distinct evolutionary narratives in the Philippines, how great man histories and the assumptions about race, gender, class dominate deep historical narratives, and the US appropriation of Inuit indigeneity and antiquity.

Organizer and Chair: Pratik Chakrabarti, University of Manchester

Presenters: Patrícia Martins Marcos, UCSD; Sarah Pickman, Yale University; Sarah A. Qidwai, University of Toronto; Pratik Chakrabarti, University of Manchester; Neil Safier, Brown University; Emily Kern; University of New South Wales

10/10/2020 9:30 AM-10:30 AM EDT

Open Discussion: Decolonizing the History of Science in Asia


Sponsored by the Forum for the History of Science in Asia

What do we mean when we speak of decolonizing the history of science? Today, leading voices on decolonization come from the Indigenous studies community, some of whom have emphasized, following Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang, that “decolonization is not a metaphor,” but rather about giving land back to those from whom it was stolen. Other scholars, however, expand the significance of decolonization to all subjugated cultures and express the need to “decolonize Western epistemologies” and “build decolonial epistemologies” (Mignolo). This session will be organized as an open forum to take up the question of decolonizing science from the perspective of Asian history. What is the relationship between deterritorializaton and epistemological colonialism? How can changes in methodology introduced by postcolonial and/or decolonial thinkers inform the history of science in Asia? We invite all participants to reflect on what decolonization means to you as intellectual and political practice. The Co-Chairs of FHSAsia (Minakshi Menon and Sigrid Schmalzer) will each speak for ten minutes on the state-of-play in South Asian and East Asian studies regarding decolonizing the history of science. We will then open the floor for discussion among our members and the audience at large.

Organizers and Co-Chairs: Sigrid Schmalzer, University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Minakshi Menon, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science

Sarah Pickman: contributions / sarah.pickman@yale.edu