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Interviews with Scholars of Science, Technology, and Society about their New Books

Interviews with Scholars of Science, Technology, and Society about their New Books
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Interviews with Scholars of Science, Technology, and Society about their New Books




Ruha Benjamin, "Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code" (Polity, 2019)

From everyday apps to complex algorithms, Ruha Benjamin cuts through tech-industry hype to understand how emerging technologies can reinforce White supremacy and deepen social inequity. In Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code (Polity, 2019), Benjamin argues that automation, far from being a sinister story of racist programmers scheming on the dark web, has the potential to hide, speed up, and deepen discrimination while appearing neutral and even benevolent when...


Helen Rozwadowski, "Vast Expanses: A History of the Oceans" (Reaktion Books, 2018)

Helen Rozwadowski talks about the history of the oceans and how these oceans have shaped human history in profound ways. Rozwadowski is a professor of history at the University of Connecticut, Avery Point. She is the author of many books including Vast Expanses: A History of the Oceans (Reaktion Books, 2018). Much of human experience can be distilled to saltwater: tears, sweat, and an enduring connection to the sea. In Vast Expanses, Rozwadowski weaves a cultural, environmental, and...


Jonathan Rees, "Before the Refrigerator: How We Used to Get Ice" (Johns Hopkins UP, 2018)

Frederic Tudor was the “Ice King” of early nineteenth-century America. It was Tudor who realized that ice, harvested from New England ponds and rivers could be shipped to the Caribbean. Shipping was cheap, because ships often went empty to pick up cargo; insulation could be made from sawdust, a waste product of the New England lumber industry. His first shipment was in 1806; after failure and adaptation, he was shipping ice throughout the Caribbean, and using leftover ice to bring back...


Margaret E. Schotte, "Sailing School: Navigating Science and Skill, 1550-1800" (Johns Hopkins UP, 2019)

Throughout the Age of Exploration, European maritime communities bent on colonial and commercial expansion embraced the complex mechanics of celestial navigation. They developed schools, textbooks, and instruments to teach the new mathematical techniques to sailors. As these experts debated the value of theory and practice, memory and mathematics, they created hybrid models that would have a lasting impact on applied science. In Sailing School: Navigating Science and Skill, 1550-1800 (Johns...


J. Yates and C. N. Murphy, "Engineering Rules: Global Standard Setting since 1880" (Johns Hopkins UP, 2019)

Standards are crucial to the way we live—just look around you. A no. 2 pencil, perhaps? That arrived in an 8x8.5x20 shipping container? Standards allow your computer and smart phone to connect seamlessly with others. While it is clear that standards shape the material world we live in, someone decided that they should be that way. In a word, standards have a social life of their own. In Engineering Rules: Global Standard Setting since 1880 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019), JoAnne Yates...


Claire Edington, "Beyond the Asylum: Mental Illness in French Colonial Vietnam" (Cornell UP, 2019)

Both colonies and insane asylums are well known institutions of power. But what of asylums in Europe’s early 20th-century colonial empires? How did they operate? Who was confined in them? Who worked there? What was daily life like in such an institution? How did Western medical experts and the colonized population understand mental illness and its treatment? How did colonial racism impact mental illness? In this episode we chat with Claire Edington, Assistant Professor of History at the...


Wendy Wickwire, "At The Bridge: James Teit and an Anthropology of Belonging" (UBC Press, 2019)

The history of anthropology remembers James Teit as a field assistant and man-on-the spot for Franz Boas. But in At The Bridge: James Teit and an Anthropology of Belonging (University of British Columbia Press, 2019). Wendy Wickwire turns this picture upside down, revealing Teit to be a superb ethnographer in his own right and a tireless political activist who advocated for the rights of Indigenous people. Drawing on thirty years of exhaustive research, she shows us that Teit exemplified an...


Michael E. Mann, "The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars : Dispatches from the Front Lines" (2012)

We talk with Michael E. Mann, a Nobel Prize winner and Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State, about his journey through the climate wars over the past two decades and the role that experts have to play in moving out of the lab and into the spotlight to defend the scientific process. Doing so is more important now than ever, he says, as corporation-funded think tanks continue to churn out information that deliberately sows skepticism among the public about our role in...


Cara New Daggett, "Birth of Energy: Fossil Fuels, Thermodynamics, and the Politics of Work" (Duke UP, 2019)

In Birth of Energy: Fossil Fuels, Thermodynamics, and the Politics of Work (Duke UP, 2019), Cara New Daggett suggests that reassessing our relationships with fossil fuels in the face of climate change also requires that we rethink the concept of energy itself. Although a seemingly self-evident and natural scientific object, the idea of energy that informed the development of fossil fueled capitalism is a surprisingly modern invention. In the 19th century, as tinkerers sought to explain...


Kathryn Conrad on University Press Publishing

As you may know, university presses publish a lot of good books. In fact, they publish thousands of them every year. They are different from most trade books in that most of them are what you might called "fundamental research." Their authors--dedicated researchers one and all--provide the scholarly stuff upon which many non-fiction trade books are based. So when you are reading, say, a popular history, you are often reading UP books at one remove. Of course, some UP books are also...


Russell Potter, "Finding Franklin: The Untold Story of a 165-year Search" (McGill-Queen's UP, 2016)

In 1845, two British naval ships left England with 129 men in search of the Northwest Passage. They were never heard from again. The disappearance of the Franklin Expedition shocked the world. Dozens of expeditions set sail into the Arctic looking for the missing explorers. Russell Potter talks about the Expedition and the reasons why it continues to fascinate people around the world. Potter is professor of English and Media studies at Rhode Island College. He is the author of Finding...


Jamie L. Pietruska, "Looking Forward: Prediction and Uncertainty in Modern America" (U Chicago Press, 2017)

A fortune teller, cotton prophet, and a weather forecaster walk into a bar—probably a more common occurrence than you might think in the Gilded Age United States! Jamie Pietruska’s Looking Forward: Prediction and Uncertainty in Modern America (University of Chicago Press, 2017) assesses how different varieties of forecasting created an often-contradictory “culture of prediction” during the rise of modern bureaucracies. Looking to the countryside, her book engages histories of capitalism to...


Jeremy Black, "Maps of War: Mapping Conflict through the Centuries" (Conway, 2016)

There is little documented mapping of conflict prior to the Renaissance period, but, from the 17th century onward, military commanders and strategists began to document the wars in which they were involved and, later, to use mapping to actually plan the progress of a conflict. Using contemporary maps, Jeremy Black's Maps of War: Mapping Conflict through the Centuries (Conway, 2016) covers the history of the mapping of land wars, and shows the way in which maps provide a guide to the history...


Andreas Bernard, "Theory of the Hashtag" (Polity, 2019)

In his short book, Theory of the Hashtag (Polity, 2019), Andreas Bernard traces the origins and career of the hashtag. Following the history of the # sign through its origins in the Middle Ages and how it became a common symbol through its placement on American typewriters and touch tone phones. He examines the hashtag’s role in changing how we define and discuss keywords. Focusing on the use of the # on Twitter and Instagram, Bernard looks at how the sign is used in activism and marketing,...


Amy Carney, "Marriage and Fatherhood in the Nazi SS" (Toronto UP, 2018)

From 1931 to 1945, leaders of the SS sought to transform their organization into a racially-elite family community that would serve as the Third Reich’s new aristocracy. They utilized the science of eugenics to convince SS men to marry suitable wives and have many children. In her new book entitled Marriage and Fatherhood in the Nazi SS (University of Toronto Press, 2018), Amy Carney assesses the role of SS men as husbands and fathers during the Third Reich. The family community, and the...


Ann Elias, "Coral Empire: Underwater Oceans, Colonial Tropics, Visual Modernity" (Duke UP, 2019)

With the threats of sea water warming and ocean acidification, coral reefs have become both a fire alarm and a barometer for the dangers of human induced climate change. We now face the possibility of a world without coral. In this cogent and timely work, Ann Elias interrogates how we came to know coral reefs in the way we do and the complicity of this knowing with the forms of modernity that now threaten to destroy them. Coral Empire: Underwater Oceans, Colonial Tropics, Visual Modernity...


J. Neuhaus, "Geeky Pedagogy: A Guide for Intellectuals, Introverts, and Nerds Who Want to Be Effective Teachers" (West Virginia UP, 2019)

The things that make people academics -- as deep fascination with some arcane subject, often bordering on obsession, and a comfort with the solitude that developing expertise requires -- do not necessarily make us good teachers. Jessamyn Neuhaus’s Geeky Pedagogy: A Guide for Intellectuals, Introverts, and Nerds Who Want to Be Effective Teachers (West Virginia University Press, 2019) helps us to identify and embrace that geekiness in us and then offers practical, step-by-step guidelines for...


Binyamin Appelbaum, "The Economists' Hour: False Prophets, Free Markets, and the Fracture of Society" (Little Brown, 2019)

Think economics is the "dismal science" with abstract formulas that have no impact on life as it is actually lived? Think again. In The Economists' Hour: False Prophets, Free Markets, and the Fracture of Society (Little Brown, 2019), Binyamin Appelbaum--former correspondent and now an editorial board member of the New York Times--brings to life how academic economists rose "from the basement" of banks and universities in the post-war period to have a direct impact on almost every aspect of...


Valerie Olson, "Into the Extreme: U.S. Environmental Systems and Politics Beyond Earth" (U Minnesota Press, 2019)

Valerie Olson talks about why the idea of outer space as a “frontier” is giving way to one that frames it as a cosmic ecosystem. Olson is an associate professor of anthropology at University of California, Irvine. She is the author of Into the Extreme: U.S. Environmental Systems and Politics Beyond Earth (University of Minnesota Press, 2019). What if outer space is not outside the human environment but, rather, defines it? This is the unusual starting point of Valerie Olson’s Into the...


David Lindsay Roberts, "Republic of Numbers: Unexpected Stories of Mathematical Americans through History" (Johns Hopkins UP, 2019)

The institutional history of mathematics in the United States comprises several entangled traditions—military, civil, academic, industrial—each of which merits its own treatment. David Lindsay Roberts, adjunct professor of mathematics at Prince George's Community College, takes a very different approach. His unique book, Republic of Numbers: Unexpected Stories of Mathematical Americans through History(Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019), anchors 20 biographical chapters to a decadal series...