Accepted Paper:

Modern Cosmologies: Postcolonizing STS through Magical Realism  

Author:

James Malazita (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)

Paper short abstract:

Magical Realist literature can strengthen new materialist movements in Feminist STS. STS's strength in critiquing epistemic cultures can be applied reflexively to STS itself, and transform STS understandings of the role fetishism, social construction, and the world play in the creation of meaning.

Paper long abstract:

Magical Realism is a postcolonial literary style, strongly associated with Latin America, that challenges Western colonial ontological orientations--notably, the dualistic separation of the mystical world from the material one. While much of postcolonial theory and literature seeks to combat the material and cultural forces that oppress imperialized lives and bodies, magical realism seeks to legitimize the cosmological orientations of marginalized peoples by treating mystical events and worlds as truths, rather than as fetishized fictions.

Responding to the provocations of Philippe Descola, who critiques the tendency for social scientific analysis to adhere to "a particular kind of Eurocentrism, which consists in believing not that the realities that humans objectivize are everywhere identical, but that our own manner of objectivizing is universally shared," this talk argues that insights from magical realist literature can strengthen current ontological movements in feminist STS, particularly the materialisms and posthumanisms of Karen Barad and Rosi Braidotti. Through textual analysis of the discourse of Western scientists, engineers, and designers, this talk will extend Bruno Latour's observations that the Modern consciousness is far from rational or empirical, and that the Modern cosmological orientation towards science and technology is itself a kind of magical realism. In so doing, this talk will argue that STS's strength in critiquing Western epistemic cultures can be applied reflexively to STS itself, and transform social scientific understandings of the role fetishism, construction, and the world play in the creation of meaning.

Panel T051
Feminist Postcolonial STS