Accepted Paper:

Worlding the Globe: Feminist STS and the International Geophysical Year  


Jessica Lehman (University of Minnesota)

Paper short abstract:

How does global science make worlds? I advocate for feminist STS attention to this question by analyzing an early attempt at global oceanography. I interrogate large-scale relations of geophysical observations for keys to the worlds that are made by ‘big science,’ especially synoptic geoscience.

Paper long abstract:

Feminist STS has taught us to interrogate universal knowledge claims, but these strategies may need to be adapted to understand the worlds that are made in the name of global knowledge. By what processes does the 'view from everywhere' transform (into) the 'view from nowhere'? How can feminist STS help us to understand the worlding practices of global synoptic science, which requires a set of observations coordinated across time and space in order to make a summary of the system in question? These questions are increasingly important as the observation-based, synoptically dreaming geosciences rise to prominence in an age of planetary-scale environmental change. In this paper, I attempt to advance feminist STS efforts to understand 'big science' by attending to the ambitions and worlding practices of global knowledge production, in particular in synoptic Earth systems sciences. As an example, I analyze early attempts to create a synoptic understanding of the world ocean, during the International Geophysical Year (1957-1958). I show how it was not only expert European and North American male scientists on seafaring expeditions that constructed global oceanography, but also local technicians and fisheries managers operating tide gauges and long-wave recorders in the wake of the nuclear Pacific. By understanding not simply how knowledge and concepts travel but also how long relational chains of big science are constructed, we are better positioned to understand the worlds made by synoptic science.

Panel T059
Making Worlds: Feminist STS and everyday technoscience