Magic in Social and Natural Worlds: Planting New and More Colorful Technologies in South Africa

Monday, July 14, 2014: 10:45 AM
Room: Booth 68
Oral Presentation
James MERRON , Centre for African Studies Basel, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland
Scientific knowledge and technological artifacts travel with experts from centers of knowledge production to the places where they are translated, over an un-even global terrain and amidst a social history of technological failures and coercive public policies. While global in their extent and consequences, however, techno-scientific facts are emplaced and co-constructed within specific sociological circumstances and cultural conditions. As a consequence, accounting for a techno-scientific practice can only be made with regard to processes of local social and institutional transformation. Within a context of risk and uncertainty about water resources – real or perceived – South Africans are faced with a variety of technological options that will affect the nature of these arrangements. Focusing on a ‘disaster mitigation’ approach in a United Nations World Heritage Site in South Africa, I have positioned myself at the access points at which ‘experts’ and ‘lay people’ meet to discuss the “green economy”. Considering the various ways in which a “green technology” is conceptualized, I probe at the concept of ‘trust’ and how it mediates societies relationship with science and technology. In the process I ask: What makes an expert an expert? What empirical factors make-up and account for ‘conceptual innovation’? When does an object become a technology? When does it become a problem? And might the object of that problem offer any analytical and methodological tools that are interdisciplinary and area specific?