Sam Schirvar

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania

2022 to 2023
Research Fellow

Manufacturing Self-Determination: Cold War Electronics in Tribal Development, Black Empowerment, and Prison Industry

What political possibilities did Cold War defense spending offer? This research explores military procurement as an industrial policy in the Cold War United States and examines how local and national actors retooled this policy towards different political ends. Historians of science and technology in the postwar United States have long centered the Department of Defense, showing how the agency directed technical expertise towards military strategic ends. While these historians often depict the DOD as an instrument of military and business elites, this research explores how local actors leveraged procurement for self-determination. US military strategy demanded electronics and leaders from North Philadelphia to the Cherokee Nation saw manufacturing these technologies as a way to bring jobs to their impoverished communities and build economic power. This research investigates the archives of government agencies, national organizations, and electronics firms to complicate existing narratives about the political economy of Cold War technology.