This article explores the biography of a network of Soviet telescopic cameras stationed across the African Sahel during the Cold War. Through joint Soviet-African cooperative programs, scientists used these advanced cameras in Egypt, Somalia, Mali, the Sudan, and Chad to photograph satellites flying overhead to gather data to produce a new model of the Earth, one that Soviet scientists hoped would be an alternative to Western models. I argue that these technical artifacts in Africa, connected into a single global network, represented examples of “infrastructural irruptions” of Cold War technopolitics into African geography, wherein the superpowers placed networked technologies inside postcolonial spaces for the collection of data. Although these technologies were nominally Soviet in origin, the story could also be read as one of Africans who invested their geography with agency in the production of scientific knowledge. Like the socialist moment in Africa and indeed the Soviet Union itself, this camera network no longer exists, its data compromised and its material imprint disappeared. But this “failure” should not blind us to the immanent power of possibility embedded in this incomplete project. I argue that this combination of unbounded aspiration and incomplete materiality was a powerful manifestation of the African-Soviet Modern.
You can follow him on Twitter @historyasif.
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In this new series, “What is Global History at Fordham,” we will hear from members of Fordham’s Global History consortium on what global history means to them and how it shapes their work.
Today, we begin with Professor Asif Siddiqi.
“As a historian of science and technology, global history is neither world history nor is there one single version of it. Instead, my research is focused on highlighting the many globally connected histories of science and technology. Instead of looking at (for example), German science or a Japanese nuclear reactor or a Russian satellite, our approach would consider larger concepts such as mobility or waste or infrastructure and reconstruct their global manifestations and changes across time and space. Our teaching will give you the tools to investigate, research and write your own version of a globally connected history.”
You can follow Prof. Asif Siddiqi on Twitter @historyasif
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Philadelphia was the location on the weekend of October 26-29 for the annual meeting of the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT). For the conference, Professor Asif Siddiqi organized a panel titled “Democratizing the Technologies of Pop Music: Songs in the Key of Gender, Fandom and Digital Sampling.” The panel forms the basis for a new book project by Professor Siddiqi, a collection of essays provisionally titled One Track Mind. The book will bring together academics and cultural critics to talk about Continue reading →
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Historian Matt Tribbe discussed his recent book, No Requiem for the Space Age (Oxford University Press, 2014), for the Phi Alpha Theta Lecture Series on Monday, November 10. Dr. Tribbe’s talk explained the links between space exploration and American culture in the 1960s, including fascinating connections between the Apollo moon landings and evangelical Christianity, New Age yogic practices, the modern environmental movement, and popular film and fiction.
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When we think about the future of spaceflight, the names that most often come to mind are those of the science fiction authors and film directors: Andrei Tarkowsky, Arthur C. Clarke, Stanley Kubrick, George Lucas, and most recently, Christopher Nolan. We certainly don’t think of historians. After all, historians are concerned with the past, not the future, right?
Well, in 2010, the United States Congress set up a committee to explore the future of the already ostensibly futuristic concept of human spaceflight, they called on the expertise of a historian, specifically Fordham’s own Asif Siddiqi. In the summer of 2014 the committee’s report was published, and we asked Professor Siddiqi to tell us a bit about the process. Read on to learn more about the experience, watch a video featuring about the history of and to see the great snapshots he provided illustrating his time working on the committee.
The second meeting of this semester’s faculty seminar on the History of Science, Technology, Environment, and Medicine on Tuesday March 11, 5:30PM at the Lowenstein Plaza View Room (12th floor) at the Lincoln Center Campus. HSTEM welcomes Kathryn Kueny of of the Theology Department to discuss here paper entitled: “I Know it When I See It: Dis/Similarity in Medieval Muslim Determinations of Paternity.“ The discussant will be Daisy Deomampo (Anthropology). Follow the link for more info, including the paper… Continue reading →
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Congratulations to Grace Shen on the publication of her first book, Unearthing the Nation: Modern Geology and Nationalism in Republican China. Go check it out at the University of Chicago Press website. We asked Grace to tell us a bit about the book and how it relates to her teaching at Fordham and her new research… Continue reading →
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This semester, the History Department at Fordham University will be holding a seminar series on the topic of Science, Technology, Environment, and Medicine. The seminar highlights exciting new areas of research and brings together Fordham faculty with strengths in these fields with outside speakers and commentators. Our first meeting will on at 4:30PM on February 14 in room 1019 of the Lowenstein building on the Lincoln Center Campus. Our discussion will focus on the work of Dr. Projit Mukharji of the University of Pennsylvania, whose paper (abstract and paper below) is entitled “Race by Another Name: Vernacular Race Science, Caste and the Making of Serosocial Identities in India, c. 1918-60”. Continue reading →
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