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Featured Research: Knowledge, Race, and Power in the History of Global Technology

In 2017, Dr. Christiane Berth (Universität Bern) successfully obtained funding from the Swiss National Science Foundation to host a workshop at her home institution on the “The Role of Users in Global Technological History.” She asked Dr. Yovanna Pineda (UCF) to help organize the workshop that brought together a dozen scholars from around the world to discuss users of technology in the Global South. In June 2018, in this interdisciplinary workshop, we explored how users re-created perceptions and cultural norms about the use, design, and re-development of old and new technologies. Never passive recipients of modern technology, local users of the Global South obtained outside technology and not only developed the skills to employ it but also devised improvements and new uses for it. That is, in addition to acquiring practical knowledge and skills in repair and maintenance, local users made tangible, physical adaptations to the machinery and systems that they sought. While much of this process was informal and centered on practical, everyday problems, it was dynamic enough that users could, over time, produce technologies strikingly different from the original; hence, creating new technology. This new technology could become a source of empowerment for a community or individual, while simultaneously, the explicit and implicit rules governing it could exacerbate the social divide between the already privileged and non-privileged.

The group covers three topics: (1) access to communication, water, and transport systems; (2) users of agricultural science and technology; and (3) the visualization of users in magazines. Ultimately, the goal is to further networking, stimulate conversations on users of the Global South, and potentially organize the work for future publication in a special series or edited volume.

CO-ORGANIZERS
Yovanna Pineda, Ph.D., Department of History, University of Central Florida
Christiane Berth, Ph.D., Department of History, University of Bern

PRESENTERS
• Jethron Ayumbah Akallah, Ph.D., Department of History and Archaeology, Maseno University, Kenya
• Christiane Berth, Ph.D., Department of History, University of Bern, Switzerland (P.I., Co-organizer)
• Robert Heinze, Ph.D., School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, England
• Clapperton Mavhunga, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA
• Diana Montaño, Ph.D., Department of History, Washington University in St. Louis, USA
• Ricarda Musser, Ph.D., Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut, Berlin, Germany
• Yovanna Pineda, Ph.D., Department of History, University of Central Florida, USA (Co-organizer)
• Madhumita Saha, Ph.D., Amity Institute of Social Science, India
• Suvobrata Sarkar, Ph.D., University of Burdwan, West Bengal, India

ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSANTS
Leida Fernández-Prieto (National Spanish Research Council, Madrid, Spain)
Mikael Hard (Technische Universität Darmstadt, Germany)
Suzanne Moon (University of Oklahoma, USA)
Amalia Ribi Forclaz (The Graduate Institute Geneva, Switzerland)

FURTHER READING
Read more about Dr. Pineda’s research and researching farm technology and global food production by clicking here.