Boyd Ruamcharoen

Ph.D. Candidate, Programn in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society, MIT

2022 to 2023
Research Fellow

Tropical Preservation: Media Technologies and American Power in the Postcolonial Tropics

This dissertation traces a history of technoscientific knowledge and practices of making and preserving media technologies—paper, photographic media, and electronic media—in tropical climates, using it as a prism through which to track America’s projection of power into a wider world. After examining the development of technoscientific knowledge about the “tropical deterioration” of media technologies in the United States during the Second World War, I ask how this knowledge helped shape the United States’ role in relation to the postcolonial world in the tropics during the subsequent era of the Cold War and of global decolonization. To do so, I investigate how librarians, archivists, and museologists of newly independent nations strove to keep tropical hazards away from media technologies, which they used to store, copy, and disseminate cultural information. In particular, I ask how cultural conservators in the postcolonial tropics appraised American-style tropicalization and devised their own techniques to preserve media.