CFP: Scientific Bonanzas – Infrastructures as Places of Knowledge Production

September 15-16, 2017, Munich, Germany

Call for papers

Scientific Bonanzas – Infrastructures as Places of Knowledge Production

A book edited by Eike-Christian Heine and Martin Meiske

With a preliminary workshop on 15-16 September 2017 in Munich

Bonanza is the place called where two mother lodes, rich in gold or silver, meet. The bonanza of our publication project is at the crossroads of technological infrastructures and scientific discovery. We invite contributions that analyse historical examples of large-scale construction projects— sites proven to have provided unique opportunities for researchers from all disciplines.

It seems that the relations between infrastructures and scientific knowledge underwent a change during the twentieth century. While in the nineteenth century “mega projects” offered opportunities for research, later the production of infrastructures and the production of knowledge seemed to have become increasingly interwoven. Planning—the modelling of future trends, technological impacts, and ecological evaluations—became integral part of infrastructure projects. Do we see a steady accumulation of scientific and technologic expertise or can we identify certain turning points, such as the failure of the French Panama Canal project, the interwar period, and the Cold War? Moreover, knowledge (about ecological consequences for example) became a tool to criticise, change, or stop construction plans. When did these changes occur? Are there other timelines, other continuities, or ruptures?

To understand infrastructures as unique opportunities for knowledge production challenges notions of technologies as applied sciences. The perspective opens up other questions too, for example: If infrastructures “locked up” territories and gave nation states and colonial empires the tools for rule, how can we understand the relations between power and different forms of knowledge? National, global, and imperial projects that rely on technological and scientific expertise challenge familiar categories of culture, politics, environment, science and technology. The scientific bonanzas we are interested in are characterised by hybrid actors, as well as the circulation of knowledge and practices between various societies and regions of the globe.

Research as a side product of construction

It seems that infrastructures often became scientific bonanzas by chance. The construction of major canal projects, such as the Kiel Canal or the Panama Canal, provided geologists with unique opportunities to research cross-sections of large regions and produce detailed geological tableaus. The construction of roads or buildings leads to unexpected archaeological findings until today. The construction of motorways under National Socialism allowed medical doctors to research and describe hundreds of cases of typical injuries resulting from manual work, highlighting the fact that technology and knowledge production are not politically innocent but can be deeply interwoven with ideology. We invite submissions that present examples of how knowledge production was a “side product” of infrastructure projects.

Knowledge production as a formative element of infrastructure projects

Yet it also seems that there was a significant change that distinguishes the second part of the twentieth century from what had happened before. All forms of knowledge became played a part in legitimising, asserting or confronting infrastructure projects. For example, the concepts of planning traffic and of modelling traffic flows became integral part of infrastructure projects; often they contribute to conceiving and defining them. This again confronts us with questions of power: Whose interests were represented, whose seemed scientifically relevant, whose interests were excluded? To what degree is this nexus between knowledge and legitimisation universally true for the second half of the twentieth century? What role do national, ideological, colonial, or postcolonial contexts play?

Knowledge as de-legitimisation of infrastructure projects

Yet, knowledge not only came to play a major part in the conception and legitimisation of infrastructure projects, it also became a tool to de-legitimise them. How and when was knowledge used to criticise infrastructure projects? When did the modelling of ecological impacts start to develop subversive potential? What other rationales – besides the ecological – were challenging infrastructures? When does this story start? Was it the environmental movement of the 70s that triggered ecological counter-narratives, or can earlier shifts be observed?

Submission procedure

Contributors are invited to submit a 500-word chapter proposal and a short CV by 15 January 2017. Authors of accepted proposals will be notified by 15 February 2017. Accepted contributors will present their paper in a workshop taking place in Munich on 15-16 September 2017. We will be able to offer travel grants to researchers without funding. Full chapter manuscripts are expected to be submitted by 15 October 2017. All submitted chapters will be reviewed on a double-blind review basis.

This volume is scheduled to be published in the series “Environment in History: International perspectives” (Berghahn).

Submissions should be emailed to both Martin Meiske (m.meiske@deutsches-museum.de) and Eike-Christian Heine (eike-christian.heine@tu-bs.de).

Deadline: January 15, 2017

Posted: November 18, 2016