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Engineering Heterotopia

  • Shehab Fakhry Ismail (a1)

My starting point is the present—certainly a critical and loaded moment for scholars of the modern Middle East. It is incumbent upon us to take a step back and to rethink how to create new concepts, new narratives, new explanatory schemes, new historicities, and new visions of the future. An engagement with science studies, understood broadly, is one possible way to begin such critical rethinking. It is an exercise that could also be mutually illuminating, as scholars of science studies have been debating the global nature of science and technology for the last decade, undoubtedly in reaction to the once European-dominated narrative of the history of science. The field of science studies has moved well beyond “diffusion” and “core-periphery” models toward more eclectic examinations of various processes of epistemic encounters, translations, mediations, and conflicts that shaped societies. These processes also shaped science and technology. Here, I would like to provide a brief outline of one mutual engagement inspired by the injunction to follow scientists, doctors, and engineers and to probe what was at stake in the knowledge they produced and how they “made society.”

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1 Raj, Kapil, Relocating Modern Science: Circulation and the Construction of Knowledge in South Asia and Europe, 1650–1900 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007); Schaffer, Simon, Roberts, Lissa, Raj, Kapil, and Delbourgo, James, eds., The Brokered World: Go-Betweens and Global Intelligence, 1770–1820 (Sagamore Beach, Mass.: Science History Publications, 2009); Sivasundaram, Sujit, Elshakry, Marwa, Tilly, Helen, Kapila, Shruti, and Safier, Neil, “Focus: Global Histories of Science,” Isis 101 (2010): 95158.

2 Latour, Bruno, Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers through Society (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988); Latour, , Aramis, or The Love of Technology (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1996); Callon, Michel, “Society in the Making: The Study of Technology as a Tool for Sociological Analysis,” in The Social Construction of Technological Systems: New Directions in the Sociology and History of Technology, ed. Bijker, Wiebe, Hughes, Thomas, and Pinch, Trevor (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1987), 7797.

3 Certeau, Michel de, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Rendall, Steven (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1984).

4 Dar al-Wathaʾiq al-Qawmiyya (Egyptian National Archives), Majlis al-Wuzara (Council of Ministers), file number: 033264.

5 Foucault, Michel, “Of Other Spaces,” Diacritics 16 (1986): 2227.

6 Foucault, Michel, Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1977–1978, ed. Senellart, Michel, trans. Burchell, Graham (New York: Picador, 2009).

7 Benjamin, Walter, The Arcades Project, trans. Eiland, Howard and McLaughlin, Kevin (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 1999), 24.

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International Journal of Middle East Studies
  • ISSN: 0020-7438
  • EISSN: 1471-6380
  • URL: /core/journals/international-journal-of-middle-east-studies
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