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Please join us for the next Science, Technology & Society Seminar:Friday, February 9
Athenaeum Classroom

Justin McBrien,
Department of History
University of Virginia

“The First Extermination Event: Re-thinking the Sixth Extinction as the Necrocene.”

This talk argues that the contemporary Sixth Extinction Event is not the result of the Anthropocene, or humanity becoming a geological agent, but rather the Necrocene, or capitalism becoming an extinction event. The Necrocene – the New Epoch of Death-Necrosis – reveals how capitalism’s logic of “accumulation by extinction” has erased not just species, but peoples, cultures, and languages, a process that reached a planetary scale by the mid-Twentieth Century. By tracing the material dialectic of accumulation and extinction and its coevolution with a conceptual dialectic of risk and environment from the Eighteenth Century to Present, this talk shows how capitalism did not ignore environmental risk – it invented environmental risk and made it the central problem of its very survival. The history of Western environmentalism has been caught between two contradictory impulses. One has aided capitalism’s continued accumulation through a technocratic ethos of conservation.  The other has embraced a misanthropic transcendentalism that argues it is the innate parasitic character of the human being itself that is driving ecological catastrophe. This dialectic produced both the scientific basis and ideological content of “planetary catastrophism.” Planetary catastrophism points to human nature as the agent of planetary destruction, obscuring who and what is responsible for the growing extinction crisis. But the First Extermination Event is something fundamentally different than the sixth iteration of a deep time bio-geological process. Only through awareness that it is global capitalist system of production, and not an undifferentiated “humanity,” can we begin to conceptualize what exactly this historical moment in the deep time of life entails.

Snacks and conversation to begin at 1:00. Josh Earle will handle your WebEx requests.

Please join us in Athenaeum Classroom for the next STS Seminar Series talk:

Friday, February 2
Professor Jacob Lahne
Department of Food Science and Technology (VT),
“Taste Objects: Making Sensory Knowledge in Food Science.”

Snacks and conversation to begin at 1:00. Josh Earle will handle your WebEx requests.

“Taste Objects: Making Sensory Knowledge in Food Science,” Jacob Lahne

The sensory experience of our daily sustenance, in much of the post-Enlightenment scholarly community, has not often been considered particularly important for close study. While food and drink have been the object of study of different disciplines for many reasons – their cultural significance, their nutritional capacities, their basic availability, and so on – their sensory
properties have largely been neglected, considered either irrelevant or inaccessible. It is in this void that a few strains of industrial research have developed to accomplish this task – but only for a specific purpose and audience. Sensory science and flavor chemistry, areas of food-science research, purport to document, through a variety of techniques, the intrinsic sensory properties of foods for the development and marketing of new products by the food industry. The ontological and epistemological concerns having to do with sensory experience of other disciplines have failed to impinge on these researchers; “if there is no accounting for tastes, that’s news to the accountants” (Shapin 2012:179). In the absence of interest in sensory experience from other areas, these industrial researchers have come to define how we know about alimentary sensory experience. In this talk, I examine the ways in which food-science has developed tools for rendering subjective experiences of taste as objective, portable knowledge; how these methods are contingent on the industry from which they develop and to which they largely respond; and how these tools might be reimagined as more “maximally objective” scientific methods, to adopt Sandra Harding’s terminology. As other disciplines begin to recognize the critical roles that sensory experience of food and drink play in our lives, the uncritical adoption of these sensory sciences without a deeper investigation of their disciplinary history and assumptions may have real and concerning consequences.

Athenaeum will once again host the STS Seminar Series this semester. Please join us!

Jennifer Lawrence
The Global Forum on Urban & Regional Resilience (VT)
Friday, January 26



Deepwater drilling, hydrofracking, and strip mining of tar sands have become routine forms of extraction. Such extreme energy development requires intensified methods, complex technologies, and precarious terrains as easily extractable carbon has become increasingly scarce (Tompt, 2013). The normalization of extreme energy processes, and their ruinous consequences, signal the age of “Tough Oil” (Klare, 2007), a term that specifies this regime of extraction. Alongside the development of these hard-to-reach fossil fuel resources, acute environmental disasters like the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe and the Dilbit disaster have also become commonplace. The dangers of extreme energy development have recently materialized in the form of: oil train explosions and spills, pipeline leaks, earthquakes tied to fracking, and water sources contaminated with extractive waste material. But, the danger of extreme energy is not confined to explosions or leaks; there are many cascading effects for human and ecosystem health. Examining the simultaneous production of vulnerability and rhetoric of security, this talk offers insight into the contradictory logic governing extreme energy. I argue that the era of extreme energy has created new vulnerabilities that necessitate resilient subjects on a number of registers, from individual to societal. The Canadian tar sands in Alberta, as a major oil producing region, provides insight into the biopolitical realities that attend the end of easy oil, e.g. catalyzing climate change and the manifestation of tentacular socio-environmental consequences like displacement, adverse health effects, and loss of biodiversity. This presents a situation whereby the effects of extreme energy production appear predetermined and uncontestable, and requires citizens, communities, and ecosystems to be resilient.

Thursday, January 25

Athenaeum Classroom (Newman 124)

Remarks begin at 3:30. Speakers:

Tyler Walters, PhD
Dean, University Libraries and Professor

Sylvester A. Johnson, PhD
Assistant Vice Provost for the Humanities
Professor of Religion and Culture

Tom Ewing, PhD
Associate Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences
Professor, Department of History

Refreshments served.

Please join us for the next STS Seminar:

Friday, December 8
1:30-3:30 p.m.
Athenaeum (Newman Library 124)

Dr. Bianca Prietl and Martin Winter
Department of Sociology
Technical University of Darmstadt

“Gendered Construction of Artifacts: The Cases of Food and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).”

This talk will deal with feminist perspectives on the social construction of artifacts – especially, food and ICT. An analytical view on how gender is inscribed into different artifacts is combined with a methodological suggestion for how to alter design in a feminist way. The bases for this presentation are in-progress projects.

Presenter Bios
Bianca Prietl has a PhD in sociology and is currently working as a post-doc at the Department of Sociology at TU Darmstadt. Her research interests are gender studies, science and technology studies, engineering studies, sociology of work and social inequality, and qualitative empirical research. In her PhD-thesis she has investigated the gendered construction of engineering in renewable energies.

Martin Winter is a PhD student at the Department of Sociology at TU Darmstadt and currently working in a research project on gender, food, and culinary culture. His interests are gender studies, science and technology studies, food studies, and sound studies.

Please contact Josh Earle ( regarding live streaming of the presentation.

Snacks and conversation will begin at 1:00.

The STS Seminar Series returns to Athenaeum this week with the 14th annual Burian-McNabb Lecture. Please do join us!

Friday, Dec. 1, 1:303:30pm

Professor Laura Franklin-Hall (
Department of Philosophy
New York University

“The Animal Sexes and Natural Kinds”

Though biologists identify organisms as ‘male’ and ‘female’ across a broad range of animal species–in the pipefish, orb spider, quokka, and king quail–the particular traits enjoyed by males and females can vary almost without bound. This diversity has led some to conclude that the cross-animal sex categories—males, of whatever animal species, and females likewise—have “little or no explanatory power”(Dupré 1986: 447) and, as such, are not (in any substantive sense) natural kinds. This talk will explore possible reasoning for and against this conclusion, ultimately arguing that the cross animal sexes, despite their extreme diversity, are instances of type-level historical kinds, an unappreciated variety of natural kind that has an important scientific and explanatory calling.
Rider Foley—Assistant Professor, Science, Technology & Society, UVA
“From Engagement to Intervention: Reconstructing Two Events at the Motorola 52nd Street Superfund Site.”
Friday, November 3, 2017
Athenaeum (Newman Library 124)
Scientific knowledge and technological artifacts are built into a city’s urban fabric. Such knowledge and artifacts in turn affect the lived experiences of the city’s residents. From Jane Jacobs’s streetscapes to Lewis Mumford’s livable city, the constitution of power and authority can be seen in the city’s very infrastructure. Scholars have recently experimented with novel engagements intending to shift de facto power and authority arrangements between citizens and technical experts. However, those experimental engagements are rarely understood as interventions in urban techno-politics. This article aims to reconstruct two interventions in Phoenix, Arizona at the Motorola 52nd Street Superfund Site, the largest urban subsurface contamination zone in the United States. The research design aims to reconstruct two specific interventions through the use a semi-structured analytical framework. Findings suggest the interventions “opened up” technical decisions and government officials later repurposed the participatory technology assessment at their quarterly meeting. The other intervention influenced a binding decision by elected officials. These events suggests how roles and relationships allowed boundaries to be crossed and for experiential and empirical knowledge to be unified and thus influence decisions within the sphere of urban techno-politics. The pursuits of science, technology and society (STS) scholars, I argue, are well positioned to move from engagement to intervention.

Continue reading “Rider Foley – Friday, November 3rd, in the Athenaeum”

As many of you know, A.D. Carson, Assistant Professor of Hip and Hop and the Global South in the McIntire Department of Music at UVA, will be in the Libraries as a featured panelist for the Digital Literacy Symposium.
A.D. has further and graciously agreed to lead an informal workshop and open discussion, in Athenaeum the following morning, focused on new approaches to the production of knowledge and publication of scholarship. Please do join us for that discussion. Details:
Friday, November 3, 2017
Athenaeum Classroom (Newman Library, 124)
More on A.D.: