Science, Capitalism, and Knowledge Commodities

This working group invites scholars to think about knowledge creation through the analytical lens of capitalist extraction. Why capitalist extraction in particular? Because scientific extraction often occurs on account of the logic of the market and then yields materials refined according to that same logic. This market can be economic, in the case of bio-piratedpharmaceuticals, or intellectual, in the case of the search for dark matter. Historians and sociologists of science have in recent decades insisted on the materiality of scientific knowledge. An emphasis on practices, places, and material cultures have brought knowledge out of theaether and into the hands of laborers, technicians, scientists, and lay practitioners carrying out their actions in concrete settings. Thinking of knowledge in terms of resources or raw materials refined into commodities takes a further step in this direction. Resource extraction opens up questions about the means and social conditions, sometimes in a colonial context, of knowledge production. Refinement sheds light on continuums between the land and the lab, and on the technological systems required to process observations into a final product.

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Consortium Respectful Behavior Policy

Participants at Consortium activities will treat each other with respect and consideration to create a collegial, inclusive, and professional environment that is free from any form of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.

Participants will avoid any inappropriate actions or statements based on individual characteristics such as age, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, nationality, political affiliation, ability status, educational background, or any other characteristic protected by law. Disruptive or harassing behavior of any kind will not be tolerated. Harassment includes but is not limited to inappropriate or intimidating behavior and language, unwelcome jokes or comments, unwanted touching or attention, offensive images, photography without permission, and stalking.

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Upcoming Meetings

  • Tuesday, September 28, 2021 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm EDT

    Liat Spiro, College of the Holy Cross, "Patentability and Experience: Work, Class, and Risk in the Political Economy of Intellectual Property in Imperial Germany," on patenting as a domain of social politics and workplace political economy in Imperial Germany.

  • Tuesday, October 26, 2021 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm EDT

    Evan Hepler-Smith, Duke University, "Handbook chemistry" from his ms. Compound Words: Chemical Information and the Molecular World, on the 19th century emergence of the chemical handbook and the chemical abstract journal.

  • Tuesday, November 23, 2021 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm EST

    Gustave Lester, PhD. Candidate, Harvard University.

  • Tuesday, January 25, 2022 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm EST

    Erika Milam, Princeton University

  • Tuesday, February 22, 2022 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm EST

    Taylor Moore, University of California, Santa Barbara

  • Tuesday, March 22, 2022 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm EDT

    Cyrus Mody, Maastricht University

  • Tuesday, April 26, 2022 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm EDT

    Patricia Marcos, Doctoral Candidate, University of California, San Diego

Group Conveners

  • eunjooahn's picture

    Eun-Joo Ahn

    Eun-Joo Ahn is a PhD Candidate in the Department of History at University of California Santa Barbara. She researches on how astronomers in Southern California interacted with their physical and socio-economic environment at the turn of the twentieth century. Previously, she received her PhD in Astronomy and Astrophysics from the University of Chicago.


  • joshnickmc's picture

    Joshua McGuffie

    Joshua McGuffie is a Doctoral Candidate in the Department of History at UC Los Angeles. He researches the doctors and biologists of the Manhattan Projects’s Medical Section. In this project, he focuses especially on the values and practices they developed to count and quantify radiation and its biological effects. His project analyzes how techniques and judgments worked out in the field unfolded socially, politically, and environmentally.For his MA at Oregon State University, he studied ecologists at Hanford. This research has taken him to nuclear installations across the western United States. He was once questioned by sheriff's deputies who were concerned that he had trespassed while taking photographs on the edge of the Nevada Test Site.


  • leevinsel's picture

    Lee Vinsel

    Lee Vinsel studies human life with technology, with particular focus on the relationship between government, business, and technological change. His first book, Moving Violations: Automobiles, Experts, and Regulations in the United States, was published by Johns Hopkins University Press in July 2019. Since 2015, with his collaborator Andy Russell, Vinsel has organized and led The Maintainers, a global interdisciplinary research network that examines maintenance, repair, and mundane work with technology. Vinsel’s work has been published in several major history journals and has appeared in or been covered by Aeon, the New York Times, The Atlantic, Guardian, Le Monde, and other popular outlets.



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