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Beyond Imported Magic

Beyond Imported Magic: Essays on Science, Technology, and Society in Latin America

Eden Medina
Ivan da Costa Marques
Christina Holmes
with a foreword by Marcos Cueto
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 410
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  • Book Info
    Beyond Imported Magic
    Book Description:

    The essays in this volume study the creation, adaptation, and use of science and technology in Latin America. They challenge the view that scientific ideas and technology travel unchanged from the global North to the global South -- the view of technology as "imported magic." They describe not only alternate pathways for innovation, invention, and discovery but also how ideas and technologies circulate in Latin American contexts and transnationally. The contributors' explorations of these issues, and their examination of specific Latin American experiences with science and technology, offer a broader, more nuanced understanding of how science, technology, politics, and power interact in the past and present.The essays in this book use methods from history and the social sciences to investigate forms of local creation and use of technologies; the circulation of ideas, people, and artifacts in local and global networks; and hybrid technologies and forms of knowledge production. They address such topics as the work of female forensic geneticists in Colombia; the pioneering Argentinean use of fingerprinting technology in the late nineteenth century; the design, use, and meaning of the XO Laptops created and distributed by the One Laptop per Child Program; and the development of nuclear energy in Argentina, Mexico, and Chile.ContributorsPedro Ignacio Alonso, Morgan G. Ames, Javiera Barandiarán, João Biehl, Anita Say Chan, Amy Cox Hall, Henrique Cukierman, Ana Delgado, Rafael Dias, Adriana Díaz del Castillo H., Mariano Fressoli, Jonathan Hagood, Christina Holmes, Matthieu Hubert, Noela Invernizzi, Michael Lemon, Ivan da Costa Marques, Gisela Mateos, Eden Medina, María Fernanda Olarte Sierra, Hugo Palmarola, Tania Pérez-Bustos, Julia Rodriguez, Israel Rodríguez-Giralt, Edna Suárez Díaz, Hernán Thomas, Manuel Tironi, Dominique Vinck

    eISBN: 978-0-262-32550-9
    Subjects: Technology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    Marcos Cueto

    This book testifies to the progress of critical investigations on how science and technology have been constructed, designed, imagined, and practiced in Latin America. This collection is truly outstanding, not only because the contributors take into consideration the philosophical, historical, sociological, anthropological, and political science dimensions of a little-studied region of the world, but also because they address issues relevant to scholars and readers interested in the phenomenon of science and technology all over the world. And it is no small feat that the literature they use is up-to-date. One issue that certainly appears clear in this publication is that...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. 1 Introduction: Beyond Imported Magic
    (pp. 1-24)
    Eden Medina, Ivan da Costa Marques and Christina Holmes

    The essays in this collection employ critical frameworks from science and technology studies (STS) to formulate new ideas and knowledge about how Latin American peoples, countries, cultures, and environments create, adapt, and use science and technology. Two key themes run through the volume. First, its essays go beyond viewing science and technology in Latin America as imported from somewhere else and instead explore alternative views of how scientific ideas and technologies are created, move, change, and adapt. This may include travel from South to North; among Latin American regions, nations, and communities; and between different areas of the global South....

  6. Part I: Latin American Perspectives on Science, Technology, and Society

    • 2 Who Invented Brazil?
      (pp. 27-46)
      Henrique Cukierman

      The Manguinhos Institute, popularly known as Manguinhos, was founded in 1900 in Rio de Janeiro and continues to be a leading Brazilian institution for research, teaching, and the production of medicine in the public health area. During the first years of its history, Maguinhos was involved in efforts to build the Brazilian nation and national identity through creating a “modern” Brazilian science (Cukierman 2007, Benchimol, 1990 ).¹ The scientific expeditions to Brazil’s vast hinterland undertaken by the institute between 1911 and 1913 are particularly important for understanding the role of science in constructing Brazil as a modern nation. These expeditions...

    • 3 Innovation and Inclusive Development in the South: A Critical Perspective
      (pp. 47-66)
      Mariano Fressoli, Rafael Dias and Hernán Thomas

      As Medina, Marques, and Holmes argue in the introduction to this book, science and technology studies (STS) scholars in Latin America have a strong tradition of critiquing foreign science and technology (S&T) models of development and their unidirectional model of technology transfer. One of the most salient issues in this trend has been a critique of the failure to relate “universal” research agendas to the pressing needs of the local population, a critique that has also been instrumental in producing alternative, autonomous agendas for the development of S&T (Dagnino, Thomas, and Davyt 1996).

      In addition to this critical STS stance...

    • 4 Working with Care: Narratives of Invisible Women Scientists Practicing Forensic Genetics in Colombia
      (pp. 67-84)
      Tania Pérez-Bustos, María Fernanda Olarte Sierra and Adriana Díaz del Castillo H.

      In this paper we focus on the case of women geneticists working in the field of forensic genetics in Colombia.¹ These scientists, who contribute to the identification of victims of the armed conflict in the country and in civil or criminal cases, as well as in the adjudication of paternity, are usually trained as microbiologists or bacteriologists, scientific fields that have been largely feminized in the country.² We argue that this feminization situates the scientific practice of these geneticists within a paradox, as they are simultaneously admired and respected by the general public—due to their work in identifying victims...

    • 5 Ontological Politics and Latin American Local Knowledges
      (pp. 85-110)
      Ivan da Costa Marques

      Ontological politics! So what? What are the implications of ontological politics for issues involving distributions of privileges and disadvantages in engagements with the world? What does it mean to have an ontological political perspective, and what is gained with it? How does one come to recognize ontological political options after they have been made? How does one open ontological political controversies?

      One way to make ontological politics visible is to look closely at how realities of the world are configured and stabilized. Everyone’s world or reality is populated by entities (people, things, subjects, objects, theories, and practices) that are ontologically...

    • 6 Technology in an Expanded Field: A Review of History of Technology Scholarship on Latin America in Selected English-Language Journals
      (pp. 111-136)
      Michael Lemon and Eden Medina

      InOne Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez uses technology to tell the history of a fictional Latin American town named Macondo.¹ The novel begins with gypsies bringing “great inventions” such as ice, magnets, a telescope, and false teeth to the tiny town. Technological innovations connect the isolated town and the outside world throughout the story, most notably through “the innocent yellow train” that brings a foreign-owned banana company, rational forms of production, armed troops, and later a massacre. García Márquez uses technology as a trope to explore solitude and connection, changing social and economic relationship, ideas of knowing...

  7. Part II: Local and Global Networks of Innovation

    • 7 South Atlantic Crossings: Fingerprints, Science, and the State in Turn-of-the-Twentieth-Century Argentina
      (pp. 139-158)
      Julia Rodriguez

      In the course of one of the most infamous murder cases in late nineteenth-century Argentina, prosecutors obtained in 1892 the world’s first criminal conviction based on fingerprint evidence. Immersed in the ghoulish facts of the case, in which two small children were stabbed to death in their beds, the coastal villagers of Necochea in Buenos Aires province hardly noted this high-water mark of transatlantic science. But it was from here that the first practical applications of fingerprinting burst forth, a vital eddy in the thick currents of people, ideas, and technologies surging across the Atlantic at the turn of the...

    • 8 Tropical Assemblage: The Soviet Large Panel in Cuba
      (pp. 159-180)
      Hugo Palmarola and Pedro Ignacio Alonso

      This chapter examines the construction and history of one of the largest social housing projects in Latin America, which began in 1963 with the arrival of a Soviet-financed factory in Santiago de Cuba to produce large concrete panels. The introduction of the Soviet large-panel factory was important to the Cuban Revolution, as it demonstrated how industrial technologies could standardize ways of living and advance Fidel Castro’s plans for an egalitarian socialist utopia. Although it further involved the Soviet Union in the activities taking place on the island, the large concrete panels produced in Cuba became not merely a Soviet but...

    • 9 Balancing Design: OLPC Engineers and ICT Translations at the Periphery
      (pp. 181-206)
      Anita Say Chan

      A visit to the Peruvian Ministry of Education’s website for its national One Laptop per Child (OLPC) initiative makes plain, for even a first-time visitor, the transformational promise of technological innovation.¹ After entering the site via a page that features a single profile of a young student with her gaze fixed into the screen of her XO laptop— the signature green-and-white computer of the infamous MITlaunched information and communication technologies for development (ICT4D) project—visitors can click a “Testimonials” link leading to accounts of newly minted XO users. Featured are nine photos taken in rural contexts, with quotes labeled as...

    • 10 Translating Magic: The Charisma of One Laptop per Child’s XO Laptop in Paraguay
      (pp. 207-224)
      Morgan G. Ames

      In April 2008 liberal candidate Fernando Lugo won the Paraguayan presidency with 41 percent of the vote. It was the first time Paraguay’s conservative Colorado party had relinquished power in sixty-one years and one of the few peaceful transfers of power between parties in the country’s nearly two-hundred-year history (Nickson 2009 ). Known by his supporters as the “Bishop of the Poor” for his humanitarian service as a Catholic priest in one of Paraguay’s poorest districts, Lugo centered his campaign on reducing the nation’s bleak social inequalities and widespread corruption (Economist 2008; Nickson 2009 ). Lugo’s messages of hope and...

    • 11 Nanoscience and Nanotechnology: How an Emerging Area on the Scientific Agenda of the Core Countries Has Been Adopted and Transformed in Latin America
      (pp. 225-244)
      Noela Invernizzi, Matthieu Hubert and Dominique Vinck

      One of the main problems facing STS studies in Latin America regards the relevance of public policies in social, cultural, and economic contexts that are considered “peripheral.” A particular feature that we analyze in this chapter is the way in which emerging thematic priorities and science policy models circulate among central and peripheral countries. We question the idea of a unidirectional flow of science and technology from developed to less developed countries (“imported magic”), in spite of the apparent isomorphism in policy design in the different countries, and explore alternative views on how scientific ideas and technologies move in the...

    • 12 Latin America as Laboratory: The Camera and the Yale Peruvian Expeditions
      (pp. 245-264)
      Amy Cox Hall

      Through our lens today we view Hiram Bingham’s Yale Peruvian Expeditions (1911, 1912, 1914–1915) to Machu Picchu as tarnished by industry and ego, couched in imperial narratives of progress and development, and perpetuating a racialized understanding of Peru as burdened by its indigenous population. Moreover, recent publications and current politics have further framed the Yale Peruvian Expeditions as a popular narrative of intrepid adventure (Heaney 2010; Adams 2012). Today the archaeological site is remembered for its beauty, its energy, its mystery, its iconicity of national heritage, and its commercial possibilities as a new modern wonder of the world. Quickly...

  8. Part III: Science, Technology, and Latin American Politics

    • 13 Bottling Atomic Energy: Technology, Politics, and the State in Peronist Argentina
      (pp. 267-286)
      Jonathan Hagood

      On March 24, 1951, Argentine president Juan Perón invited members of the nation’s press to the Casa Rosada, the presidential palace, to announce the success of Proyecto Huemul, Argentina’s atomic fusion research program. With émigré German scientist and project leader Ronald Richter at his side, the president began by explaining why Argentina had pursued research in atomic fusion rather than atomic fission. Perón stated that the United States, Britain, and Russia had undertaken atomic research under the threat of war when the fission of uranium had been the safest and most viable option. In contrast, Perón noted, “the new Argentina...

    • 14 Peaceful Atoms in Mexico
      (pp. 287-304)
      Gisela Mateos and Edna Suárez-Díaz

      This chapter provides an interconnected history of the promotion and peaceful uses of atomic energy in Mexico during the first decades of the cold war. This was a rich period in the development of Mexican science and its institutions, which exhibited both a strong nationalistic sentiment and an intensified international character. In large part this is because, as Greg Grandin has said, the cold war’s “transcendental force” relied on the “politicization and internationalization of everyday life” (Grandin 2010, 4). National contests over politics, labor, the control of natural resources, and the direction of science policies did not escape the global...

    • 15 Neoliberalism as Political Technology: Expertise, Energy, and Democracy in Chile
      (pp. 305-330)
      Manuel Tironi and Javiera Barandiarán

      Neoliberalism has had a profound impact on contemporary Chile. Neoliberal policies redefined sectors and institutions in industry (Ffrench-Davis 1980, labor (Foxley 1983), health (Ossand ó n 2009), the city (Portes and Roberts 2005; Sabatini 2000 ), and the environment (Liverman and Vilas 2006), from the 1970s through today. Many say that nowhere else has neoliberal restructuring been more extended and aggressive (Klein 2008; Lave, Mirowski, and Randalls 2010). In addition, the link between neoliberalism as a set of policies and as an epistemological framework related to the Chicago School of Economics (Van Horn and Mirowski 2009) is embodied in Chile...

    • 16 Creole Interferences: A Conflict over Biodiversity and Ownership in the South of Brazil
      (pp. 331-348)
      Ana Delgado and Israel Rodríguez-Giralt

      In Latin American history, the termcreole(criouloin Portuguese,criolloin Spanish) stands for “person native to a locality” and has been used to designate the descendants of those who emigrated from Europe.¹ It refers to those who were bornhere. Thus, creole evokes colonial stories of displacement, delocalizations, and relocalizations, stories of the coexistence of different worlds that occurred as encounters in the “contact zone” (see Cukierman in this volume). Although the history, experience, and meaning of the creole in Brazil has been much discussed and even questioned (Ribeiro 2000 ),less has been written about how Brazilian law...

    • 17 The Juridical Hospital: Patient-Citizen-Consumers Claiming the Right to Health in Brazilian Courts
      (pp. 349-372)
      João Biehl

      A retired bus driver, Edgar Lemos lives in a lower-middle-class neighborhood of Porto Alegre, the capital of the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. Dealing with significant motor difficulties, Edgar had to wait for more than a year for a specialized neurological appointment at a nearby public hospital. He was finally diagnosed with hereditary cerebral ataxia in November 2008. The neurologist prescribed the drug Somazina, which is not included on any governmental drug formulary.

      Raised in a destitute family, Edgar had worked since the age of eight. He was proud of the gated brick and mortar house he...

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 373-378)
  10. Index
    (pp. 379-396)