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Tropical materialities 
Boyd Ruamcharoen (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Hina Walajahi (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
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Liliana Gil (Ohio State University)
Boyd Ruamcharoen (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Traditional Open Panel

Short Abstract:

Our panel moves towards “tropical materialities”—matters that inflect, and are inflected by, the “tropical”—to elicit renewed inquiry into our inherited interpretations of the “tropics,” asking how we might “tropicalize” STS by transforming global and universal narratives from the tropics.

Long Abstract:

The tropics, Hi'ilei Julia Hobart writes, are “a racial imaginary as much as a physical place” that at once lies outside the “modern West” and harbors its origins (2022:4). Foundational postcolonial scholarship (e.g. Stepan 2001, Arnold 2005) has thus far treated the tropics as a geographical zone of alterity—of racialized desire, imperial conquest, abundant extraction—on the fringes of temperate metropoles. Deep ambivalence often marks portrayals of the tropics, which mix natural abundance and unbridled leisure, on the one hand, with strange illnesses and untold dangers, on the other. Here, however, we invite papers that move towards “tropical materialities” as a strategy to disrupt, disaggregate, and disorient epistemologies and ontologies of place, matter, and flesh naturalized by imperialist imaginaries.

Through tropical materialities, we attune to the tactile, sensuous, and physical matters that inflect, and are inflected by, the “tropical” in order to elicit renewed inquiry into our inherited interpretations of what, where, and when the “tropics” are. How do the specificity of tropical matters and attendant modes of mobility suggest alternative geographies, temporalities, and intimacies? How does it elucidate flows and arrests of knowledge, matter, and bodies that might not be clear otherwise? We propose, in turn, to use materially-oriented tropicalities to reconfigure global, universal, and planetary narratives, such as climate change and capitalism. In light of the call for Southern theory (Connell 2007), what might we gain by theorizing from the tropics and by “tropicalizing” science and technology studies?

Accepted papers: