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Critical temperature studies: spaces, technologies, and regimes of thermal power 
Jiat-Hwee Chang (National University of Singapore)
Alla Vronskaya (University of Kassel)
Rafico Ruiz (Canadian Centre for Architecture)
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Jiat-Hwee Chang (National University of Singapore)
Alla Vronskaya (University of Kassel)
Rafico Ruiz (Canadian Centre for Architecture)
Traditional Open Panel

Short Abstract:

This panel invites critiques of thermal objectivity that foreground spatial and technological cultures that sustain regimes of thermal power. It provides a forum for the growing interdisciplinary subfield of “critical temperature studies” that cuts across the divides of hot and cold worlds.

Long Abstract:

For humans, being alive means keeping the core body temperature to a narrow range around 37 degrees celsius. For many things, their material properties change with their temperatures. The deceptive simplicity of these facts opened the epistemological and political trap that Nicole Starosielski (2021) identified as “thermal objectivity,” the technoscientific study of heat or cold as natural phenomena that uses temperature as a universal metric. However, despite its seeming objectivity, the transmission and distribution of heat is subjected to political interventions in thermal regulations and modulations, which frequently entail technological and built environmental mediations that form thermal-scapes of knowledge, practices, and artifacts around humans and more-than-humans. Therefore, this panel seeks to, firstly, critique thermal objectivity by foregrounding the spatial and technological cultures that structure our sensitivity and vulnerability to temperature, tacitly sustaining regimes of thermal power, which manipulate temperatures in service of socio-political objectives. We are interested in exploring critical temperature studies across the divides of hot and cold worlds–the Tropics and the Arctic, the global north and the global south–during hot and cold wars. Secondly, our aim is to provide a forum for the growing subfield of “critical temperature studies”, crossing STS, media studies, environmental history, and the history of the built environment, in order to specifically address these issues through the lens of spatial technologies. Potential topics include, but are not limited to, temperate-normativity and the racialized imaginaries of “tropical”, “Arctic”, desert and other “extreme” thermal environments; hegemonic thermal imaginaries and the remaking of worlds through the built environment (broadly understood across different scales and forms); the imperialist technopolitics of constructing and maintaining thermal norms, zones and standards; the building of heating, cooling, and refrigeration infrastructures to perpetuate and counter imperial ecologies; the thermal cultures of acclimatization and adaptation, and their entanglements with the colonization of land.

Accepted papers:

Session 1
Session 2
Session 3