Statistics as Development Infrastructure: Planning the Indian Republic

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Dr. Nikhil Menon
Assistant Professor of History, University of Notre Dame

Date: Friday, April 05 2019
Time: 1200 to 200pm
Location: AP246

Bio: Nikhil Menon is a historian of modern South Asia, specialising in the economic and political history of twentieth-century India. His research engages with transnational histories of economic development, the Cold War in South Asia, and the history of science. He offers courses on the history of South Asia, modern India and Pakistan, and the global history of development. He has edited The Postcolonial Moment in South and Southeast Asia (Bloomsbury 2018) with Gyan Prakash and Michael Laffan, and published in Modern Asian Studies, Indian Economic and Social History Review.

*This year’s Development Seminar Series is generously supported by the TechnoScience Research Unit

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Cooking Data: Culture and Politics in an African Research World

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Dr. Crystal Biruk
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Oberlin College and Conservatory

Date: Friday, March 1, 2018
Time: 12:00PM – 2:00PM
Venue: Rm 108, 155  College Street, TORONTO, ON, M5T 1P8
Abstract: This talk is based on the author’s ethnography of the production of quantitative data by survey projects  in Africa. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in Malawi with demographic  projects in sites ranging from questionnaire design meetings, trainings  for data collectors, fieldworker-led data collection in the field, and  policy venues, this talk presents a fine-grained analysis of  data’s handling by diverse actors to critically examine the criteria and metrics that help numbers in the era of global health attain their legitimacy.
Bio: Dr. Crystal Biruk’s research centers on the ethics and politics of intervention in the global South. Dr. Biruk takes interest in how the growing presence of humanitarian, development, and scientific projects in sub-Saharan Africa reconfigures local social geographies, producing new kinds of status, mobility, expertise, and exclusions.
*This talk is co-hosted with/at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health
*The 2018-2019 Development Seminar series is co-sponsored with the Technoscience Research Unit

 

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The Flickering Torch: Blackouts Phatic Communication, and Politics of Data in Tanzania

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Dr. Michael Degani
Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University

Date: Friday, March 29 2019
Time: 1220 to 300pm
Location: AP130, Anthropology Building

Bio: Lilly Irani is an Assistant Professor of Communication & Science Studies at University of California, San Diego. She also serves as faculty in the Design Lab, Institute for Practical Ethics, the program in Critical Gender Studies, and the Halıcıoğlu Data Science Institute. She is author of Chasing Innovation: Making Entrepreneurial Citizens in Modern India (Princeton University Press, 2019). Her research examines the cultural politics of high-tech work and the counter-practices they generate, as both an ethnographer, a designer, and a former technology worker. She is a co-founder and maintainer of digital labor activism tool Turkopticon. Her work has appeared at ACM SIGCHI, New Media & Society, Science, Technology & Human Values, South Atlantic Quarterly, and other venues. She has a Ph.D. in Informatics from University of California, Irvine.

*This year’s Development Seminar Series is generously supported by the TechnoScience Research Unit

*This talk is a keynote lecture for the Medusa Graduate Student Conference

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Chasing Innovation: Making Entrepreneurial Citizens in Modern India

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Dr. Lilly Irani
Assistant Professor of Communication and Science Studies, UCSD

Date: Friday, March 22 2019
Time: 1230 to 230pm
Location: McLuhan Center, 39A Queens Park Crescent East

Abstract: This talk is based on the author’s recently published book Chasing Innovation: Making Entrepreneurial Citizens in Modern India (Princeton University Press, 2019) which explains the history and politics of rendering development as a call to entrepreneurship, and the pull and contradictions of this call to sort a nation into innovators and their others.

Bio: Lilly Irani is an Assistant Professor of Communication & Science Studies at University of California, San Diego. She also serves as faculty in the Design Lab, Institute for Practical Ethics, the program in Critical Gender Studies, and the Halıcıoğlu Data Science Institute. She is author of Chasing Innovation: Making Entrepreneurial Citizens in Modern India (Princeton University Press, 2019). Her research examines the cultural politics of high-tech work and the counter-practices they generate, as both an ethnographer, a designer, and a former technology worker. She is a co-founder and maintainer of digital labor activism tool Turkopticon. Her work has appeared at ACM SIGCHI, New Media & Society, Science, Technology & Human Values, South Atlantic Quarterly, and other venues. She has a Ph.D. in Informatics from University of California, Irvine.

*This year’s Development Seminar Series is generously supported by the TechnoScience Research Unit

*This talk is jointly sponsored by the McLuhan Center for Culture and Technology

 

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2019 Lilly Irani poster

The Taming of Knowledge: Digital Infrastructures of Humanitarianism

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Dr. Ryan Burns
Assistant Professor of Geography
University of Calgary

Date: Friday, November 30, 2018
Time: 12:00PM – 2:00PM
Venue: SS3130, Sidney Smith Hall, University of Toronto

Bio: Ryan Burns is an Assistant Professor at University of Calgary’s Department of Geography, and a member of the O’Brien Institute for Public Health. His research interests are in the social, institutional, and urban transformations of big and open data, smart cities, digital humanitarianism, and related digital spatial phenomena. His research program interrogates the social and institutional struggles around knowledge production emerging in the context of these new spatial-technological developments. At the current moment he is looking at digital humanitarianism and open data platforms within smart cities. Burns has published in journals such as Computational Culture, Annals of American Geographers, Geojournal, among others.

Abstract: The proliferation of crowdsourcing, social media, and microtasking within humanitarianism is changing the nature of humanitarian work – but not in the ways proponents like to claim. Although the “savior narrative” of this “digital humanitarianism” is often the story that’s told, a growing body of research is critically evaluating the promises, assumptions, and implications of it. This research has uncovered the layers of politics involved in collecting and acting on (digital) expressions of need.

In this talk I build on this critical research to show that the deepening digital condition of humanitarianism entails a new knowledge politics that I call taming knowledge. Digital humanitarianism produces a tension: on the one hand, its supposed power comes from being able to capture far more voices than before, but paradoxically, these voices, as data, are unusable in their raw format due to their enormous volume and non-expert origins. Instead, humanitarians leverage digital infrastructures like databases, categorization schema, social media, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and maps to abstract, condense, and manipulate the original expressions of need. In other words, digital humanitarianism tames knowledge by getting it to tell a different story than it was originally meant to tell. The implications of this are that voices of marginalized and crisis-affected communities only become legible through relations of digital power established by remote, volunteer, and usually Global North interveners. Far from being emancipatory, digital humanitarianism reinscribes problematic relations of dominance that privilege geographically-distant frames of knowing, and usually those based in Euro-American epistemologies.

 

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Delta Temporalities: Choked and Tangled Futures in the Bengal Delta

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Dr. Jason Cons
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
University of Texas at Austin

Date: Friday, October 26, 2018
Time: 12:00PM – 2:00PM
Venue: AP246, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto

Abstract: This talk offers an ethnographic engagement with the present and futures of Bangladesh’s southwest delta. The southwest—which houses the Sundarbans, the world’s largest remaining mangrove forest—is at once profoundly vulnerable to climate change and a site critical to Bangladesh’s economic development. It figures thus both as a space of optimistic industrial growth and planetary threat. I explore what I call delta temporalities—the dissonant and possibly incommensurate imaginations of the future, and more importantly the projects seeking to bring them about, that proliferate in and shape the delta’s fragile ecology in the present. Tracing tensions between conservation initiatives, dredging projects that attempt to keep rivers flowing for shipping and transportation, and new industrial and energy infrastructure projects, this talk reveals how and why the southwest—and deltas more broadly—have become key chokepoints of the Anthropocene, zones where the future itself becomes blocked and the present imperiled.

Speaker: Dr. Jason Cons works on borders in South Asia, climate and agrarian change, and rural development. He has conducted extensive research in Bangladesh on a range of issues including: climate security, disputed territory along the India-Bangladesh border, the impacts of shrimp aquaculture in coastal areas, the politics of development, and recipient experiences with microcredit. His current research is situated in the Sundarbans region and explores the ways that imaginations of the impacts of future climate change are shaping the delta and the India-Bangladesh border in the present. His first book, Sensitive Space: Anxious Territory at the India-Bangladesh Border, was published by the University of Washington Press in 2016. His work has appeared in Cultural Anthropology, Political Geography, Modern Asian Studies, Ethnography, SAMAJ, Antipode, Third-World Quarterly, and The Journal of Peasant Studies. He is also an associate editor of the journal South Asia. He is the editor, with Michael Eilenberg, of a volume titled Frontier Assemblages: The Emergent Politics of Resource Frontiers in Asia for Wiley’s Antipode Book Series and is co-editing a special issue if Limn on “chokepoints.”

 

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State Highway 31: A road trip through the heart of modern India

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Edward Simpson
Professor of Social Anthropology & Director, SOAS South Asia Institute
School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

Date: Friday, October 5, 2018
Time: 12:30PM – 2:30PM
Venue: AP246, Department of Anthropology, 19 Russel St.

 

Abstract: This talk follows the route of State Highway 31 through western Madhya Pradesh, central India. The research was part of a larger project looking at the ideas behind the production of infrastructure in South Asia. This journey takes us through landscapes of sex work and opium, some of the oldest nationalist networks in the country, and along the fault-lines of long-running tensions between local communities. The road was one of a series built as a public private partnership and, as such, speaks of the reconfiguration of state relations with private capital and business. Toll booths become places of company ethos, education and for the creation of new kinds of citizens. The nexus of government and private enterprise takes us on a dizzying journey through the world’s tax havens and onto the decks of luxury yachts. Exploring the broader political economy of the road and the organisation of institutions and travellers that sustain it encourages questions about the nature of governance and power in the country.

Bio: Edward Simpson is a Social Anthropologist and Director of the South Asia Institute at SOAS University of London. He is currently interested in the relationship between infrastructure, automobility and the global-sustainability agenda. From previous research he wrote: The political biography of an earthquake: Aftermath and amnesia in Gujarat India (Hurst 2013). He is the Principal Investigator on a five-year project funded by the European Research Council looking at infrastructure across South Asia. This work is being undertaken in partnership with the Mumbai-based artists CAMP.

 

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Co-sponsored by the Development Seminar, and the Center for South Asian studies in the Asia Institute at the University of Toronto

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The Planetary Test : Design, Computation, and the Management of Uncertainty

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Dr. Orit Halpern

Associate Professor, Concordia University

Date: Friday, September 28, 2018
Time: 12:00PM – 2:00PM
Venue: 728 BL, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto

Abstract: In 1943, in the midst of the war, the famous architect Richard Neutra was commissioned by the government of Puerto Rico to build hospitals and schools. In response, he produced a number of prototypes and processes investigating different ways to ventilate and climate control buildings in the sub-tropical environment of the island. His prime concern was to improve social condition with limited capital outlay through attention to the management of climate. Neutra famously labeled his work in Puerto Rico a “Planetary Test”. Neutra’s “planetary test” has now become a global infrastructure of “smart” test-bed zones and infrastructures, a global network of computational infrastructures,  that colonize space and life and manage the future through constant swapping, deriving ,and testing that allow high risk design practices such as real-estate construction in climate change threatened spaces, the design of unsustainable energy infrastructures, and constantly volatile and insecure internet networks. This talk will trace several case study histories of “planetary tests” examining the relationship between smart cities and design, the emergence of ecology and resilience planning, and derivative pricing instruments and the reinsurance industry, focusing on their histories post 1970’s, that arguably define and produce our contemporary networks, smart cities, and computational infrastructures.

Speaker: Dr. Orit Halpern is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Concordia University. Her work bridges the histories of science, computing, and cybernetics with design and art practice. She is also a co-director of the Speculative Life Research Cluster, alaboratory situated at the intersection of the environmental sciences, architecture and design, and computational media.

 

for more: http://www.orithalpern.net

www.speculativelife.com

www.planetaryfutures.net

 

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Sponsored by the Development Seminar at the University of Toronto

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Development: Business and Soft Power

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Susan Roberts

Professor, University of Kentucky

Date: Thursday, March 29, 2018
Time: 12:00PM – 3:00PM
Venue: SS2098, Sidney Smith Hall, University of Toronto

Abstract: This talk will focus on contemporary changes in the US’s foreign assistance for development practices. What does “America First” mean for US foreign aid? Is it the predicted “end of foreign aid as we know it”? (the title of an April 2017 article in Foreign Policy). I will revisit evidence and arguments I made in a 2014 paper in the Annals of the AAG about the rise of an industry of development firms involved in delivering US development assistance through contracts and sub-contracts with USAID.

Speaker: Sue Roberts is Associate Provost for Internationalization at the University of Kentucky where she is also Professor of Geography. In 2006 she was awarded the university’s Sturgill Prize for Graduate advising. Sue is a specialist in economic and political geography, with interests in feminist and critical social theory. She has conducted research on a range of subjects, including offshore finance, international development assistance, globalizing non-governmental organizations, and geopolitics. She has published a co-authored book, two co-edited volumes, and numerous papers. Sue has won research funding from the National Science Foundation for several projects, and has conducted research in Southern Mexico, the Caribbean, Ireland, and Australia.

for more: https://geography.as.uky.edu/users/geg207

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Sponsored by the Development Seminar at the University of Toronto

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Development: Business and Soft Power

Past Events

Sue Roberts
Professor of Geography & Associate Provost for Internationalisation
University of Kentucky

Date: Thursday, March 29, 2018, 12-2pm

Venue: TBD

Abstract: This talk will focus on contemporary changes in the US’s foreign assistance for development practices. What does “America First” mean for US foreign aid? Is it the predicted “end of foreign aid as we know it”? (the title of an April 2017 article in Foreign Policy). I will revisit evidence and arguments I made in a 2014 paper in the Annals of the AAG about the rise of an industry of development firms involved in delivering US development assistance through contracts and sub-contracts with USAID.

Bio: Sue Roberts is Associate Provost for Internationalization at the University of Kentucky where she is also Professor of Geography. Sue is a specialist in economic and political geography, with interests in feminist and critical social theory. She has conducted research on a range of subjects, including offshore finance, international development assistance, globalizing non-governmental organizations, and geopolitics. She has published a co-authored book, two co-edited volumes, and numerous papers. Sue has won research funding from the National Science Foundation for several projects, and has conducted research in Southern Mexico, the Caribbean, Ireland, and Australia. From 2012-2017, she was an editor of the top-ranked journal Progress in Human Geography. Sue has spent periods of time living and working in England, Mexico, Australia and Finland. She was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Turku, Finland in 2012-2013. And she has been Fulbright Specialist in South Africa, working with colleagues at the University of Western Cape.

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Sponsored by the Development Seminar at the University of Toronto

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