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Handbook of the History of Technology in the Americas

Organization: Drexel Univ./ UNAM [Natl. Autonomous Univ of Mexico]/ Science History Inst.
Categories: Postcolonial, Hispanic & Latino, Comparative, Women's Studies, World Literatures, African-American, 1865-1914, 20th & 21st Century, 20th & 21st Century, Anthropology/Sociology, Cultural Studies, History, African & African Diasporas, Asian & Asian Diasporas, Australian Literature, Canadian Literature, Caribbean & Caribbean Diasporas, Indian Subcontinent, Eastern European, Mediterranean, Middle East, Native American, Scandinavian, Pacific Literature, Science, Engineering
Event Date: 2024-04-01 Abstract Due: 2023-10-15

Call for Contributions/Abstract Due Date: 15 October 2023
Handbook of the History of Technology in the Americas
Edited by Gisela Mateos, Edna Suárez-Díaz, Amy Slaton and Jesse Smith
The Handbook of the History of Technology in the Americas will capture emerging directions in transnational history, the history of technology, and other fields that have lately integrated once-distinct topics and methods to produce compelling new understandings of global change over time. The editors seek short essays (roughly 4000 words including notes) that will help reshape historical studies of objects, peoples, spaces, and states associated with ideas of South, Central, and North America and the Caribbean. The volume is under contract with a major academic publisher; abstracts of 1 page or less are requested no later than October 15, 2023; with completed essays from accepted authors required by April 1, 2024.

The Handbook will depart from the conventional view of technological developments as comprising a discrete academic subject area to treat such studies instead as elemental in broader historical inquiries. Rather than distinguish technology from other cultural categories (from, say, science, medicine, nature, governance, religion, art, or sexuality) this volume features scholarship that asks about the genealogies of these categories themselves: What has made it possible and desirable, in different times and places, to see some things and not others as technology? How have customary historiographic demarcations of technology from science, or state apparatuses, or bodies, held sway? What historical conditions and impacts do these demarcations amplify, or elide? This collection brings this approach to bear on one such inquiry in particular: The history of the idea of the Americas. 

Readers who are familiar with historical studies involving South, Central and North America and the Caribbean will recognize that these regions are rarely accounted for in relation to one another, in part because academic and popular history writing has been dominated for many generations by the nation as a unit of analysis; also, area studies have conceptualized Latin America and the Caribbean as spaces distinct from Canada and the United States. Past connections and conflicts among polities in the Western hemisphere have been described in general, economic, and political histories, but even that work has largely stopped short of interrogating how it is that a nation or region comes to see itself as such, or how others come to conceptualize such entities. This is not a trivial inquiry, especially if we think that until WW2 South American countries like Argentina and Brazil had long-standing -political, technological- connections with the European powers, including Germany and former imperial Portugal. A focus on historical technologies can help to articulate purposive episodes of state-making, modernization, enslavement, anti-imperialism, development, and extractive capitalism, as well as community-building and emancipatory initiatives. This means the volume will focus on "the long 20th century," a time period in which connections among the independent nations of the continent started to be redirected to neighbor countries in the region, slowly -but never entirely- replacing connections with the European powers. The Handbook of the History of Technology in the Americas will offer opportunities to decenter existing narratives crafted from the vantage point of European and U.S. historiographic tradition.

We welcome essays that display flexibility regarding the registers on which actors may have imagined technological conducts or products to have impacts (whether those actors engaged with canal systems or machetes, pesticides or cruise ships, agrarian tools or computers). Scholarship of this kind has begun to explicate how it is that an inventor, a firm, a market, a community or a nation might frame its own interests or imagine its own efficacy, and we anticipate including cases of this kind from settings throughout the hemisphere. As geopolitical and cultural forces with historical import are brought forward through this diversity of cases, the imperial and colonial projects of European powers, the movements of Asian peoples and capital, and other global actions that have been formative of “the Americas” will unquestionably come under scrutiny. The collection will subject tidy spatial delineations and periodizations, and the other categorical projects that make and are made from “technology,” to critical questioning; with chapters tentatively presented as follows:

  • Part I: People: Productivity and Labor and Control
    • Topical Areas: Work, Enslavement, Mechanization, Wealth and Capital, Disability, Time
  • Part II:  Places: Circulation, Borders and Landscapes
    • Topical Areas: Commodification, Trade, Law and Regulation, Digitization, Borders
  • Part III: Things: Materiality, Resources and Consumption 
    • Topical Areas: Revolution, War and Genocide, Climate Change, Plague, Disposability
  • Part IV: Futures: Desires, Pleasures and Revolution
    • Topical Areas: Leisure, Sex, Music, Tourism, Revolution and Utopias 

Co-authored essays are welcome. Please provide author name(s), institutional affiliation (if any), and contact information for corresponding author with abstract.  For information or to submit an abstract, please contact: Prof. Amy Slaton, Department of History, Drexel University at HandbookEditors@drexel.edu


Amy Slaton