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STS Symposium AY 2018-2019: TempoRealities

Astronomical Clock, detail. Photo by Steve Collis from Melbourne, Australia , CC BY 2.0.

April 12, 2019

Institute for Social Research, Room 6050

Conference theme: It is time for science and technology studies (STS). The meaning of the past and threats to the future are hotly contested. Scientists simultaneously proclaim epochal ruptures and extrapolate present trends into the next millennium. New technologies promise to help us “be present” even as they stretch our attentions to the breaking point. The nature of time is of central importance to modern intellectual, cultural, and political life, and STS is well-positioned to address how divergent temporalities structure our public and private lives, environmental imaginaries, and embodied experiences. Recent work on the sciences of prediction and forecasting, the vital politics of science fiction, and the Anthropocene suggest some of the many ways scholars of STS can and should intervene in broader debates that trouble the present moment.

Experiencing Time, Embodying Time
Archaeologists. Clinicians. Environmentalists. Tech entrepreneurs. This diverse range of professionals all have one thing in common: they are immersed in the science of time. Their temporal modes may differ, from imagined futures to the deep past, but for all of them, embodying, working with, and working through time is both a practice and an object of study. We and the people we study regularly hold a multiplicity of temporal registers in our heads and shift effortlessly between them in our daily lives. We call for submissions that represent and interrogate the multiplicity of time-science in all its complexity. How is time made, as an object of study and a practice? How is time experienced by people from various marginalized groups, or through resistant orientations to time: queer time, anti-capitalist imaginaries of time, crip time? And how, through time, is the world made?

Apocalypse Now? 
Apocalypse in Ancient Greek means “uncovering.” In religious narratives, the apocalypse uncovers the central truth behind existence, while the contemporary apocalypses of popular science fiction center upon science’s role in humanity’s destruction. The ultimate rupture is the ultimate disclosure of knowledge, revealing not only the end of time but the meaning of everything leading up to it. It is the final chapter in humanity’s story—and, perhaps, the opening scene of a new origin story. This panel invites participants to provide STS readings of science fiction or science fiction retellings of scientific facts (or fabulations). Texts could consider climate change, nuclear winter, famine, earthquakes, epidemics, genetic mutation, false prophets, volcanic eruptions, alien invasion, asteroid impact, racial degeneration, killer robots, zombies, social collapse, and survival, resilience, and rebirth.

Scholarship Now 
Researching, writing, and publishing a book takes years. Academic arguments stretch over decades. Even when the point is that all knowledge is situated, STS scholarship aims at enduring truths. But the political, cultural, environmental, and economic contexts in which that scholarship is written and received seem to shift much more quickly; the froth of events can switch projects from irrelevant to timely (and back again) in the blink of an eye. This roundtable will discuss the syncopation of slow scholarship and fast politics, attending to both the objective phenomenon of shifting standards and political relevance, on the one hand, and the subjective experience of finding one’s research turning into front-page news—or falling from public notice. Anyone who has encountered shifting fortunes at the boundary of scholarly norms and political demands is welcome to join the conversation.

Is Ancient Science Studies an Anachronism?
How do science studies and the category of science illuminate sources from periods that do not necessarily disembed "science" or consistently know sharp distinctions between "science" and "religion," "magic" or other modes? Presenters will share a primary source (object/text), offer a reading of the source in relation to their broader research questions, and reflect on ways that “science”-talk troubles and illuminates these premodern objects and vice versa. 

Timely Meditations on Risky Research
A conversation with Joy Rankin, formerly of MSU, now a proudly independent scholar.