Rupture and Flow: The Circulation of Technoscientific Facts and Objects

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Sawyer Seminar on the Comparative Study of Cultures
Indiana University, Bloomington

Transfer, Interrupted: Barriers, Obstructions, and Impediments in Technological Change Processes (February 2011)

Leader: Eden Medina (Informatics and History)

The movement of a technology from one setting to another is often referred to as technology transfer. Scholarship on technology transfer has shown that artifacts are not the only things that need to move in order for a technology to be taken up elsewhere: people, patents, expertise, manufacturing capabilities, networks of support, economic and legal frameworks, political aims, and cultural values also play a fundamental role. However, what cannot move, or that prevents movement, can be as influential in shaping technological change as that which moves. In general work on technology transfer focuses on what travels, not on what happens when movement is stopped or when some things are allowed to pass, but not others. Political relations, economic blockades, differing ideas of real property or intellectual property, or colonial relationships may serve as facilitators or barriers to the movement of artifacts, experts, and ideas from one location to another. We are interested in how technologies travel, but from a less-studied perspective. We focus on barriers and how they contribute to processes of technological change.

This portion of the seminar will examine and compare such barriers and their permeability across cultural, community, and national geographies; from the perspective of political and economic centers and peripheries; and over time. It will address questions such as:

  1. What constitutes a barrier and under what conditions is it made porous,
  2. How and why are certain things allowed to move and not others,
  3. How do these barriers influence technological change historically and geographically,
  4. Do these barriers stifle or inspire local innovation and under what conditions, and
  5. What new questions and findings are brought to light by this broader framing of technology transfer?


January 21
Discussion of Gabriela Soto Laveaga, "Steroids and a Cold War, 1951-1960" (unpublished) and
Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga, Vermin Beings: On Pestiferous Animals and Human Game, Social Text 106, Vol. 29, No. 1, Spring 2011, pp. 151-176.

February 4
Discussion of Michael Adas, "Testing Paradigms with Comparative Perspectives: British India and Patterns of Scientific and Technology Transfer in the Age of European Global Hegemony" and
Kaushik Sunder Rajan, "Experimental Values: Indian Clinical Trials and Surplus Health" New Left Review no. 45, May-June 2007, pp. 67-88.

February 19
Capstone Seminar

Kelley School of Business, Room 307


Michael Adas (Rutgers) [Bio]
Transfer Proscribed, Interrupted, Disrupted and Fractured: Metropole Technological Dominance and Colonial Response in the Industrial Age [Abstract]


Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga (MIT) [Bio]
Prophylactic Mobilities & Immobilizations [Abstract]



Gabriela Soto Laveaga (UCSB) [Bio]
The Making of "National" Steroids: Mexican Scientists as Producers of "Foreign" Knowledge [Abstract]


Kaushik Sunder Rajan (University of Chicago)[Bio]
Property, Rights, and the Constitution of Contemporary Indian Biomedicine: Notes from the Gleevec Case [Abstract]