“Faking It:” Counterfeits, Copies, and Uncertain Truths in Science, Technology, and Medicine

Friday - Saturday
10 Apr - 11 Apr 2015

470 Stephens Hall

Event Type

Keynote address:

Joseph Masco, University of Chicago

Symposium Abstract:

We invite colleagues to join us for a two day symposium at the University of California, Berkeley on “faking it”–here construed broadly as fudging, imitating, juking, playing the trickster, pretending, feigning, re-creating, manipulating, falsifying.  Our aim is to bring together a wide variety of scholars whose work, in some way, touches upon this issue.  We invite colleagues to consider any aspect of the practices, epistemologies, ontologies, and politics of faking, copying, counterfeiting, or quackery.  We seek to amplify and incubate a growing attention to the theory and practice of fake truths on Berkeley’s campus and beyond.

Over the past several decades, science studies scholars have explored the ways in which scientific knowledge and practice is socially constructed, debated, contested, and deemed credible by the public.  Others have turned their attention to the politics and poetics of “agnotology,” or the social, political, economic, and cultural circumstances that promulgate and substantiate ignorance.  Both of these takes on the sociology of knowledge have opened up room for examining the creative ways in which actors fake, fudge, and forge.  In the contested space between corporations and the broader public, for example, sociologists and historians have explored the tobacco wars, global warming debates, and the regulatory boundaries of “permissible exposure” to industrial toxins.  So too, anthropologists and STS scholars working from below are increasingly turning attention to artisanal knowledge and ingenuity, be it cultures of repair or improvisation in medicine.  At each of these registers, there are possibilities for both creativity and catastrophe.

For this symposium, we invite scholars working on issues as diverse as climate change, voting machines, and art forgery, as we probe the validity of data, the fabrication of evidence, and the harmful as well as potentially liberating practices and ramifications of faking it.

Keynote Speaker:

Joseph Masco is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. He writes and teaches courses on science and technology, U.S. national security culture, political ecology, mass media, and critical theory. He is the author of The Theater of Operations: National Security Affect from the Cold War to the War on Terror (Duke University Press, 2014) and The Nuclear Borderlands: The Manhattan Project in Post-Cold War New Mexico (Princeton University Press, 2006), which won the 2008 Rachel Carson Prize from the Society for the Social Studies of Science and the 2006 Robert K. Merton Prize from the Section on Science, Knowledge and Technology of the American Sociology Association. His work as been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Wenner-Gren Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. His current work examines the evolution of the national security state in the United States, with a particular focus on the interplay between affect, technology, and threat perception within a national public sphere.

Schedule of events

All events will be held in 470 Stephens Hall, and are free, open to the public, and ADA accessible.

Registration (Free)

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Friday April 10th

8.30 am Registration Tables Open
9.00 – 9.25 Welcome and Opening Remarks
Massimo Mazzotti, Director of CSTMS, University of California, Berkeley
Marissa Mika, University of Pennsylvania
Shannon Cram, University of California, Berkeley
9.25 – 9.45 “Faking It in the Academy: The Imposter Syndrome”
Dana Simmons, University of California, Riverside
In this paper I outline a theory of the imposter. I am interested in the so-called imposter syndrome, an affliction identified particularly with highly successful women in business and academia. I trace the history and etiology of this syndrome. Since it first appeared in 1978 as an “imposter phenomenon,” it is recognized collectively and publicly in public seminars and popular news articles, and is seen as a problem that women must overcome in order to achieve full success. The gurus of imposter syndrome propose a strange cure: bullshit, or, “fake it ‘til you make it.” I lay out a hypothesis that theory is a form of imposture. To “impose” is “to put or place on something, or in a particular place,” “ to lay on or set something as to be borne, endured, obeyed, fulfilled, paid, etc.” One cannot lay theory lightly upon things. One must take great care to impose one’s ideas with a sense of responsibility to the truth. Theory is a burden for others to bear and we struggle mightily to put it in the right place. The cure for imposter syndrome, we learn in the self-help press, is to bullshit. Bullshit appears as the opposite of imposture. The essence of bullshit, says Harry Frankfurt, is a “lack of connection to a concern with truth – this indifference to how things really are.” For this reason, “bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies.” In contrast to bullshit, imposture appears in clearer relief. Imposture implies a deep commitment to truth, to placing theory in the right place. I am a careful imposter.
 9.45 – 10.45 Session 1: Toxic Publics: Ethics and Invisibility
“Overblown: Thinking Through Fugitive Dusts and Exaggerating Activists in the Search for Health and Justice”
Lindsey Dillon, University of California, Davis
To heap or pile up, accumulate; said with reference to both material and immaterial objects; also to form by accumulation.
To intensify, aggravate (conditions, etc.), abnormally; to make (physical features, etc.) of abnormal size (Oxford English Dictionary).
How might critical social theory remain immodestly faithful to particular social justice projects, when activists leading those projects (sometimes) rely on inaccurate information, slightly swollen statistics, and questionable claims? What happens when activists exaggerate? Can scholars theorize exaggeration beyond a science studies framework that sees facts only as outcomes of power relations, and cleave toward a world where “right” and “wrong” are more than sociological effects at the same time they maintain political affinities? This paper theorizes exaggeration in the context of invisible threat; in particular, toxic dusts from a demolition project. In January 2015, a development company proposed blowing up Candlestick Park Stadium, in the southeast San Francisco neighborhood of Bayview-Hunters Point, to make way for an outlet mall. The outlet mall is part of a larger, market-driven redevelopment project of 12,000 homes, office, and parks. The project holds an ambiguous set of meanings for the low-income, historically African-American Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood for its gentrifying and environmental effects: the demolition and redevelopment work releases dust containing asbestos, lead paint, and other industrial by-products into the community, adding to cumulative toxic body burdens and already severe health inequalities. This paper, however, focuses on a “toxic tour” lead by community activists who successfully opposed the explosion of Candlestick Park, yet a tour riddled with exaggerations – not falsehoods, but statements that were inaccurate and not-quite right. Exaggeration, in the sense of “piling up”, “intensifying” and making “physical features” of “abnormal size” seeks to render invisible toxic threats like “fugitive dust” from demolition projects politically effective – to make these elusive problems of environmental injustice legible to the state. The conclusion here is not to ignore exaggerations, but to advocate for conditions in which they are unnecessary.
“Doing Science in a State of Corruption: Establishing Ethics in Peruvian Lead Exposure Science”
Stefanie Graeter, University of California, Davis
This paper examines the production of credible science during tense political times in the Central Andean region of Peru’s Mantaro Valley. I will unpack the practices of a Catholic scientific project and their interfaith, transnational partners, which produced the first politically legitimate scientific study of lead exposure in the smelting city of La Oroya, Peru. While several previous studies by NGOs, the state, and the smelter’s U.S. owners revealed high levels of lead exposure due to decades of unchecked pollution, circulating doubt and suspicion over the political intent of these institutions, as well as their susceptibility to corruption, perpetuated a persistent state of epistemic doubt about the extent and true significance of heavy-metal exposure in the city. Throughout the paper, I the layers of legitimacy that encased the Jesuit scientific study that overcame this epistemic impasse, revealing the interplay of ethics and power that allowed irrefutable lead exposure science to finally emerge. In effect, I discuss the situated forms of assessing a scientific study as a potential “fake” and what practices successfully thwart such a designation. In this case, where the Catholic Church and the region’s Archbishop played a central role in the study’s coup, I contend that proving that one is not “faking it” extends far beyond the technical expertise of a scientist and the precision of their instruments, into a social assessment of the morality undergirding their scientific practice.
“No Significant Risk: Creating Norms for Public Irradiation at Hanford”
Joshua McGuffie, Oregon State University
On the evening of 3 December 1949, scientists at the Hanford Engineer Works intentionally released significant amounts of radioactive iodine and xenon in an event now called the ‘Green Run.’ Radioactive plumes belched out of the stacks of the T plant, soaring aloft over towns and farmland in south-central Washington State. These plumes were meant to safely dissipate in the atmosphere, allowing scientists from the Air Force and from Hanford’s Health Instrument Divisions (HID) to trace their behavior. But in the midst of the night, the weather turned foul. Radioiodine coated the landscape, covering forage and cropland around the Engineer Works. It entered the food chain, especially contaminating regionally produced milk. From a safety standpoint, the release was an unmitigated failure. In order to downplay this failure, the HID scientists argued that the release had been a success because the radiation had been thoroughly monitored. They used narrative, mapping, and data collection to reframe the terrain at and around Hanford as they reported on the release. They described the topography and biota in terms of their ability to handle the radioactive burden. They covered the area’s patchwork of farms and towns with isolines showing contamination. They turned landmarks into data points. Doing so, they made the region a great outdoor laboratory with living subjects in which they asserted the illusions of control and safety. These illusions assuaged the scientists’ concerns about irradiating the land and local populace – who did not learn of the Green Run until the mid-1980s. Monitoring allowed the scientists to keep locals in the dark, since they could judge the risk from the Green Run insignificant. This project examines how the release was used to establish norms that allowed well-documented radioactive irresponsibility to become standard operating procedure at Hanford for the duration of its plutonium production mission.
Discussant: Valerie Kuletz, University of California, Berkeley
Valerie Kuletz is a Visiting Associate Professor and Visiting Researcher at UC Berkeley. Dr. Kuletz has held multiple research and professorship appointments, including Associate Professor of American Studies at University of Canterbury, New Zealand, Associate Professor of Environmental History at University of New Mexico, Associate Professor and Lecturer of Legal and Policy Studies at UC Santa Cruz, Research Fellow at UC Berkeley’s Institute of International Studies, and others. She holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Sociology from UC Santa Cruz and is the author of the book The Tainted Desert: Environmental and Social Ruin in the American West. She is the recipient of the Robert J. Lifton Fellow Lifetime Award for “Outstanding Scholarship in the Field of Nuclear Studies and Social Justice.”
10.45 – 11.00 Session 2: The Ignorance that Fights Back: Theorizing Race, Gender, and Bullshit
“The Unborn and the Dead: Insanity, Trickery in the Antebellum Asylum”
Bob Myers, University of California, Los Angeles
In “The Un-Born and the Dead,” Myers discusses three case studies in “Negro Insanity” from the antebellum period. Using notions of personhood inherited from the founding generation, scientists and physicians during the nineteenth century came to describe black slaves’ impulse to run away as an instance of mental illness. Following Dr. Samuel Cartwright’s coinage of the term “Drapetomania” in 1851, physicians and travel writers began to label black runaways as “drapetomaniacs.” However, what these physician interviews and case studies reveal is that the slave alleged to be insane had more freedom in custody (as a madman) than he could hold as a slave. Claiming insanity meant securing a wider range of possibilities to be human than claiming non-personhood and slavery. What is most striking is that each of these three cases occur in separate domains: the plantation, the mental asylum and the prison. Myers argues that there are several ruling interests which these three institutions of incarceration share.
“Bullshit’n Historiography: Dominant Historical Paradigms and the Decentering of Violence”
Marques Vestal, University of California, Los Angeles
The field of history is a process of constructing narratives. Necessarily, some facts are included and some are excluded, salient features magnified and minimized. But more importantly, historical narratives are organized around hegemonic paradigms such the modern nation-state. Dominant narratives of historical research pay insufficient attention to the way in which practices and ideologies of violence construct identities and power relations between groups of people, individuals, and institutions that bleed beyond the confines of the state. This obscures our historical and contemporary relationships to economic, governmental, and social institutions that have been patterned by violence, and our scholarship subsequently reproduces this obscurity. What new insights can we generate if we center violence in our ethical and critical judgments?
“Ethical Theory as Bullshit Machine: Salience, Procedure, and Justification”
Olufemi O. Taiwo, University of California, Los Angeles
Femi will argue for a structural analysis of ahistorical ethical theorizing as bullshit production. He will argue for the evaluation of salience (which features of a situation matter, and how they matter) as a prior condition to the evaluation of any ethical argument, and argue that the salience must be understood in a highly historically and socially contextualized fashion. The failure to do this results in a relationship between justification and ethical theory that is propagandistic rather than principled. This is bullshit.
Discussant: Camilla Hawthorne, University of California, Berkeley
Camilla Hawthorne is a PhD student in Geography and Science and Technology Studies at UC Berkeley, and is a 2014-2017 Ford Foundation Fellow. Her research addresses Black Europe, the African Diaspora, and the racial politics of digital technology.
12.15 – 1.30 Catered Lunch
1.30 – 3.15 Session 3: Bodies of Evidence
“’Gene Hunters’ and their Hunters: Staging Genomic Trafficking and Bioethical Transgressions”
Carlos Andrés Barragán, University of California, Davis
Colombian Ambassador in Britain rushed to the telephone. Minutes later he reported to colleagues in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bogotá—unofficially—, watching on Channel Four an exposé on the trafficking of genetic materials of Indigenous people from Colombia’s rainforest by US and Colombian scientists. He asked them: “What can be done to stop this?” It was the summer of 1994. Directed by British filmmaker Luke Holland, the film “Gene Hunters,” sold rapidly among broadcasting companies and traveled the world, until it finally reached Colombian audiences. It is striking the easiness in which the film turned itself into “evidence” and a quintessential material to teach global bioethical transgressions in the making. In contrast, little attention was offered by scholars, media, and authorities, to what was happening in Colombia, it’s backstage. Particularly, over the efforts that the Colombian scientists portrayed in the film were doing to make their voice heard and evidence how Holland set them up in order to embody and substantiate cold-blooded “Gene Hunters” interested in extracting economic value from the bodies of ethnic minorities. Based on ethnographic and archival material in Bogotá, London, and Washington D.C., in this paper I offer an anatomy of a bioethical scandal; it is an analysis about its construction and consumption, and its deleterious effects. My objective is to contest a film that in theory had as a main goal addressing a very real and transcendental challenge at the time—the patenting of human cell lines—, but did it by falsifying and staging scientific motivations and networks with a Third World woe as background. The production of the film inflicted on multiple scientists and some of the indigenous people that portrayed, the very same transgressions it was trying to criticize in biotechnology. Holland extracted value from a bioethical challenge in order to profit and in the end returned nothing to the communities that supposedly spoke for—not even a copy of the film—; and more pervasively, it troubled with speculation and a narrow minded bioethical framework the future encounters between minorities and life-scientists in the region.
“Darwin Was Wrong: Exposing the Problems of Sex Differences Research”
Jaime Becker, University of California, Davis
Despite the fact that females and males and women and men are overwhelmingly similar, science and popular culture consistently focus on difference. Binary categorization schemes in the physical sciences, social sciences, and within popular culture, produce inequality. Feminist physical and social scientists argue that binary categorization is central to western thinking and inherently oppressive, limiting our expectations and abilities. Evolutionary biologist Joan Roughgarden (2004) argues that Darwin’s theory of sexual selection, often the basis of sex differences research, ignores empirical sexuality diversity. Scientists’ normative standpoints frame the questions they ask, the ways they ask them, and how their data is interpreted. The problems with sex differences research that assumes binary sex and gender and looks only for difference inhibit scientific knowledge, i.e. calling androgens and estrogens “sex hormones” impedes understanding the range of functions steroid hormones accomplish. Research questions formulated with assumptions of sex dimorphism produce faulty research that reinforces sex, gender, and sexuality based inequality. Cutting edge research in biology, psychiatry, and medical ethics casts doubt on such research. Molecular medicine1 demonstrates that the dimorphic concept of sex is not scientifically adequate for mapping genomic variance and its phenotypic expressions and should be abandoned. Darwin’s theory of sexual selection is based on false notions of dimorphism and reproductive-only sexuality. If the bases of the theory of sexual selection are not representative of the empirical range of sex and sexuality then the theory and sex differences research based on it must be called into question.
“Sodomite or No: False Sodomy Accusations, Homosexual Blackmail, and British Forensic Medicine, 1700-1860”
Seth Stein LeJacq, Johns Hopkins University
A capital offence until 1861, British observers often described sodomy as “the worst of crimes,” regarding it as a heinous foreign scourge that threatened the populace and perhaps even civilization itself. However great a threat sex between men itself was, however, legal actors and powerful men were equally fearful of false sodomy accusations and sexual blackmail. Accusations were, famously, “easily to be made and hard to be proved, and harder to be defended by the party accused, though never so innocent.” Blackmail and false accusations were seen as a particular threat to elite men, and the specter of social inferiors and subordinates attacking their leaders and betters with claims of sexual misbehavior haunted many Britons. Drawing on published medical and legal texts as well as a wide variety of manuscript legal records from different court systems, this paper examines the ways in which courts attempted to deploy forensic medicine to distinguish false accusations. Forensic medicine promised to offer the simplest and surest way to deal with a crime that had perennially been nearly impossible to investigate. While continental medico-legal thinkers had a long history of robust engagement with the topic, though, British medical men remained leery of it and willing to deal with sodomy in print and in court only infrequently. I argue that the weak foundation and state of British legal medicine in comparison to those of the same field in continental nations dissuaded British medical men from taking up this culturally hazardous subject, even as legal actors repeatedly raised it as an area begging for forensic activity. In the absence of any concentrated medico-legal work on the topic, courts, participants, and outside actors fell back on traditional methods of weighing accusations, and were unable to generate any broadly-accepted methods for effectively dealing with the perceived scourge of false accusations and blackmail.
“The Production of Certainty: Statistical Data and Life Insurance Sales in Modern Japan”
Ryan Moran, University of California, Riverside
The intellectual technology of statistics has played an incredibly large role in the organization of the populace within modern capitalist societies. While many scholars acknowledge the importance of statistics for transforming the parts of the nation into discrete units, less attention has been given to the techniques required to convince consumers to buy into companies’ visions of a probable future. The topic of life insurance provides a unique vantage point to unpack how Japanese consumers came to trust in the accuracy of the new science of statistics.Focusing primarily on insurance sales from the 1920s and 1930s, I unpack how Japanese consumers responded to the life insurance industry’s vision of itself as a sound commercial practice based on scientific actuarial principles. Why would the emerging managerial and middle class, the primary targets of insurance salesmen, decide to purchase life insurance even as they experienced intense anxiety regarding their ability to consume the products of the “culture life?” How could a populace that had lived through the 1923 Great Kantō Earthquake or the 1929 depression find the insurance industry’s vision of a coherent, stable and predictable future convincing? Utilizing new insights from psychology and management science, Japanese insurance salesmen simultaneously stressed life insurance’s basis in statistical data while also emphasizing the contingent nature of any individual’s life. In these articulations, the individual consumer faced constant menace from myriad threats. Buttressed by the solidity provided by statistical data and sound business practices, insurance companies presented themselves as entities that would relieve the consumer of the burden of risk and protect the continuity of his family into the future.
Discussant: Crispin Barker, University of California, Berkeley
Dr. Crispin Barker is a visiting scholar at the Center for Science, Technology, Medicine & Society. He studies the history of biochemistry, biophysics, and molecular biology, the history of medicine, and the history of sexuality.
3:15 – 3:30 Coffee Break
3:30 – 5:00 Keynote Address: “Nuclear Psyops”
Joseph Masco, Professor of Anthropology at University of Chicago
5:00 – 6:30 Happy Hour


Saturday April 11th

9.00 – 9.30 Coffee and Light Food
9.30 – 11.00 Session 4: Performing Authenticity
“’Not Quite’ Urbanism: Race, Development, and the Structure of Feeling Inauthentic”
Jacob Doherty, Stanford University
There is a pervasive sense in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, that the city’s urbanization is somehow fake, that the urban is an easily pierced façade, behind which lies a village. In the course of conducting fieldwork, urban reformers regularly told me that real cities are defined by what’s underground. The invisible infrastructures of pipes, wires, and drains that define authentic urbanization are too unevenly distributed, unreliable, and vulnerable for Kampala to be considered a real city. In this view, the city is a superficial illusion masking the reality – assumed by colonial theories of racial difference, and nationalist anti-colonial philosophies alike – that Ugandans are a naturally rural people. The city’s rapid growth thus fails to constitute proper development and even wealthy areas are considered merely “rich men’s slums”, indicating that authentic urbanity eludes even the elite. This paper examines anxieties concerning urban inauthenticity as part of the structure of feeling of urban reform. It asks how these anxieties shape programs to remake the city and its residents. What sites and urban formations are selected as evidence of inauthenticity and how are these anxieties narrated? I argue that these fundamentally modern and urban anxieties around authenticity take shape in Kampala through a developmental discourse of backwardness and inherent rurality and suggest that race is a centrally constitutive – though generally unstated – element of the reformist structure of feeling, animating the question: is Kampala a real city?
“Managing Medical Labor: Consequences of the Hart-Celler Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965”
Eram Alam, University of Pennsylvania
“Fake Doctor from India Performs Brain Surgery,” reported the Chicago Sun-Times in May 1976. Dr. Balasubramaniyam practiced in three states using forged documents and was eventually arrested in Alaska. In this paper, I piece together the story of this doctor and explore how and why he ended up handcuffed in a bathroom. I suspect that Dr. Balasubramaniyam entered the US under selective migration policies in the Hart-Celler Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. This legislation expedited the entry of foreign workers who could fill US labor needs, high priority for entry. In return for their service, these elite laborers were given US citizenship. Migration was a pragmatic solution to increase manpower, but more importantly, it reflected a “new era of interdependence amongst nations.” It created international connectivity with newly minted postcolonial nations and populated the ideological Cold War with representatives of “universal, democratic” ideals. Disregarding the objections of some in the medical community, over 75,000 Foreign Medical Graduates (FMGs) from predominantly postcolonial Asian nations, entered the US between 1965-1975 comprising approximately one third of the US medical workforce. Dr. Balasubramaniyam embodied the fears that animated discussion of the quality of foreign medical labor. The US had to protect itself from “fake doctors” who abused the generous gift of citizenship and exploited the mobility facilitated by their credentials. Thus, it was necessary to create and institute a system of management that turned “Third World” FMGs into America’s doctors. During each step of this process, I explore the way bureaucracy collapsed difference, free market ideals catalyzed movement, and political visions justified the recruitment of doctors from countries plagued by diseases of their own. With this historical understanding, the “Fake Doctor” becomes less a story of a quack doctor and more of a complicated critique of immigration and racialization in the United States.
“Explosive Messages: on Media, Bombings, and Contemporary Art in Puerto Rico”
Javier Arbona, University of California, Davis
For this paper presentation, I focus on the film “Esto es un mensaje explosivo” (2011) by Beatriz Santiago Muñoz. In this 16-minute film, Santiago Muñoz analyzes the work of Carlos Irizarry, an artist of an older generation. Santiago Muñoz inquires into a 1970s “performance” where Irizarry wrote a series of potential threats that simply stated “this is an explosive message.” These notes amplified —intentionally or not— the ambiguities that can exist between terrorism and art. His work eventually drew the FBI into arresting him for a bomb threat on a jetliner leaving New York’s JFK airport. In her film, Santiago Muñoz takes Irizarry’s action, premised as part of an effort to liberate political prisoners in federal prisons, as a gestational moment for an emergent art practice in Puerto Rico, one that moves between symbolism, performance, media intervention, and geopolitical activism. But at the same time, “Esto es un mensaje explosivo” seeks to overcome Irizarry’s verbal narrative of the oppositions between art and activism in his action. Thus, Santiago Muñoz initiates a trans-generational debate about the inherited approaches to anti-imperial resistance and media art.
“When It’s Good to Fake It: Why Some Sex-Workers Say it Like it Isn’t”
Ruth Goldstein, University of California, Berkeley
“Faking it” is not just about the orgasm in a sex-workers’ economy of erotic truths and half-truths. It is also about false names, life histories, falsified passports and identity cards. This paper analyzes the “movements” of sex-workers in the prostíbars, on the dance poles, in the cuartitos (sex-rooms) and along the side of the road in the Peruvian Amazonian region of Madre de Dios (Mother of God), where a massive gold rush has taken place. Dubbed “El Wild Wild West” for its lawlessness and prostitution reminiscent, government officials bemoan the lack of “concrete numbers.” They cannot properly count the number of gold miners and sex-workers – too many people can lie about their identities, falsify their nationality documents, and make claims for health and welfare services from the State. What it means to “contar” (Nelson 2009) in the gold mines and brothels has myriad meanings: to count people and things; to “tell a story;” to repay a debt to the earth – “pago a la tierra” with human bodies for the gold extracted; to account for sexual services between client and sex-worker. Sex-workers whose clients pay more for feeling as though they too “give pleasure” will perform excitement and climax. This is a particular politics of pleasure, one certainly not shared by all sex-workers. For the researcher caught demonstrating her lack of skill as an erotic dancer, to prove that she was not out to steal sex-workers’ jobs, the veracity lay a complete inability to pole-dance.
Discussant: Martha Kenney, San Francisco State University
Martha Kenney is a feminist science studies scholar who studies the politics of biological storytelling. After earning her PhD in the History of Consciousness Department at UC Santa UC (2013), she was Postdoctoral Associate in Duke’s Women’s Studies Program (2013-2014). She is now Assistant Professor in the Women and Gender Studies Department at San Francisco State University; her current project looks at the narratives emerging from the new field of environmental epigenetics.
11.00 – 11.15 Coffee Break
11.15 – 12.45 Session 5: Counterfeit Markets and Circulating the Fake
“Copies and Counterfeits in the Symbolic Economy of Drugs (France, 1880-1920)”
Antoine Lentacker, Yale University
In France as in most other European countries, pharmaceuticals were not patentable until after World War II. If drug manufacturers were denied the protections of patents, however, they did enjoy those of trademark law, which applied to the names, not the formulas of drugs. To shield themselves against imitation, manufacturers publicized the names of their compounds as widely as possible, while keeping their composition secret. The combined effects of French patent and trademark law thus gave rise to a paradoxical situation in which a drug could be the copy of another as long as the name it was given prevented any identification with the drug it imitated. As a result, proprietary names came to erase rather than highlight similarities and differences between substances, and the concerns raised by the free drug market coalesced around the dangers of symbols rather than substances, on hazardous names, designations, and discourses rather than poisonous things.If drug markets around 1900 provide such a fascinating case study in the epistemology and politics of the fake, therefore, it is not merely because they were based on widespread imitation and usurpation—with an estimated 40,000 different proprietary compounds in France by the time of World War I—but also because they made relations between name and thing so remarkably unstable. In this context, I will argue, the very distinctions between fake and authentic, same and different, true and false became problematic. I propose to do so through a discussion of the strategies pursued at the time to fix—to repair and stabilize—the relation between pharmaceutical names and things. First, those of chemists who analyzed the composition of secret remedies, published the formulas that manufacturers kept secret, and sought to impose an alternative system of generic names that rendered marketed drugs knowable on their own terms. Then, those of courts tasked with enforcing trademark law in the context of the free drug market—that is, with policing the uses of names and defining the standards of “fair competition” against which the fake was made recognizable and prosecutable.
“Consuming Counterfeit: Evaluating and Interpreting False Currency in the 18th Century British Atlantic”
Katherine Smoak, Johns Hopkins University
In 1749, the New York Gazette ran a notice alerting readers to be on the lookout for counterfeit Spanish dollars. “If a little of the surface … be scrap’d away, and the Place sullied by rubbing on the short Hair of a Man’s Head,” the article explained, “its brassy complexion will appear.” If there was still any doubt, the curious consumer could place the coin on the tip of their finger and strike it with a small key – the fakes, the article concluded, sounded shriller than the legitimate coins. While this article stressed the importance of sensory interaction with money to determine its veracity, an article about counterfeits published two decades later in Pennsylvania suggested that it was the evaluation of the person presenting the money, and not the money itself, that should occupy the wary consumer’s attention. In the notice, a supercilious shopkeeper recounted detaining paper money he feared to be counterfeit not because of any marks on the bill, but because he distrusted the enslaved woman who presented it.Both articles presented common ways that people interacted with a money supply that was highly variegated—comprised of foreign coins, paper money and credit instruments—and plagued by counterfeits. To successfully differentiate the real from the fake, individuals needed to be able to “read” a variety of types of money. Using newspapers, court records and monetary media, this paper reconstructs consumers’ interactions with counterfeit money in the eighteenth century in the British colonies and Britain itself, showing that, on both sides of the Atlantic, people interacted with their monetary worlds in similar ways. It demonstrates that money and its meanings were unstable and open to interpretation in this period and provides important insight onto the question of how money became a naturalized and unexamined medium of exchange.
“Imitation Games in the US and Brazilian Biofuels Research”
Katie Ulrich, University of California, San Francisco
Brazilian biofuels technology is often framed as the best in the world—a model, something to be copied. Peer-reviewed papers by US scientists regularly invoke this discourse of Brazil as a proof-of-concept for the US’s own biofuels projects. Yet, many US biofuels projects are actually focused on different types of biofuels technologies than those used in Brazil. Meanwhile, Brazilian biofuels scientists I spoke with described the significant influence of US and European science in determining the biofuels science that gets funded in Brazil. Brazilian scientists as a result are now researching those different types of biofuels technologies popular in the US. Finally, many of these Brazilian scientists articulated to me a vision of Brazil’s future in which biofuels, ironically, are not even a part of the alternative energy landscape. In this paper I reflect on the imitation games wrapped up in research on biofuels in the US and Brazil. Such games involve both practices and discourses of imitation, on various levels and in numerous directions; imitator in one register becomes imitated in another. And the subject or idea being imitated is not always “true” or “real.” These games (re)produce but also contest postcolonial relations that depend on the mimicry of a particular modernity, as this modernity itself becomes entangled with biotechnology in specific ways. Amidst or sometimes because of these imitation games, science gets done. Drawing on brief ethnographic research in a Brazilian biofuels laboratory, I aim to open up thought on Brazil’s role as a relay in the global circuit of biofuels. I consider how newer biofuels technologies refigure the concept of biofuels itself, how this refiguration mediates international imitation games, and how all of this ramifies in the material conditions for science and the subjectivities of Brazilian scientists.
Discussant: Adam Romero, University of California, Berkeley
Adam Romero is a Ph.D. candidate in Geography at UC Berkeley. Originally trained as an environmental toxicologist, he is interested in environmental issues, particularly those related to agriculture. His current research focuses on the transmutation of industrial waste into critical industrial agricultural inputs. Covering the 75 years prior to WWII, his current project highlights the role of agriculture as a non-point source consumer of industry’s toxic waste and has implications for US environmental policy and current conceptions of waste and pollution.
12.45 – 1.45 Catered Lunch
1.45 – 3.15 Session 6: Rethinking Technology
“Non-Linear Spectral Analysis: The Genealogy of an Unorthodox Technology”
Damien Droney, Stanford University
In the last two decades, Ghana has seen a proliferation of herbal medicine clinics, the proprietors of which make vociferous claims to the category of science. Their advertisements claim that their clinics practice “scientific herbal medicine,” and their businesses swell with patients seeking herbal medicines supported by recent scientific advances. The feature of these clinics that most establishes their status as scientific is the acquisition of expensive alternative medicine diagnostic equipment. Herbal medicine entrepreneurs present these machines as awesome and incredible, but these machines run the risk of shaming rather than authorizing their users when they do not perform as promised. By tracing the history of these machines to early 20th century San Francisco, I present these diagnostic machines as indicative of a shared technoscientific imaginary: unorthodox technologies early 20th century America represented progress toward a future modernity, whereas in Ghana today they represent the goods of the present day to which Ghanaians feel entitled but excluded. In both contexts, the machines represent aspiration to the potential benefits of cutting edge technoscience.
“Heroic Expectations: Why Prize Competitions Boost Industry Outsiders in Space Exploration”
Danny Spitzberg
Stories about prize winners carry a heroic tone and raise expectations of breakthroughs. This study seeks to understand why these narratives consistently favor industry outsiders. To begin, I review “heroic inventor” discourse, where status and stories are the product of competing interests. In studies on prize competitions and accounts of famous winners, expectations appear positive and politically motivated. I investigate these expectations by applying theoretical work on how skilled strategic actors use cultural framing to gain position and power in industries. This provides an analytic lens for my case study of the Google Lunar X Prize, a competition for the first team without government funding to land a robotic probe on the Moon. Drawing on interviews with competition administrators and leaders of outsider and industry-affiliated teams, I find team prospects to win the prize depend far more on technical and financial capacity than cultural identity or motivation. Nevertheless, administrators “boost” entrepreneurial outsiders challenging traditional space industry culture. I argue that “heroic expectations” for outsiders may succeed for commercial space exploration by winning favor within the space industry establishment. To conclude, I set the case in its historic context and suggest practical implications of heroic expectations.
“Shortcuts to Nature: Staging in 21st-Century Wildlife Films”
Eleanor Louson, York University
Recent wildlife documentaries offer audiences spectacular portrayals of wildlife; they are a key site for the public perception of biology. These films and television series have an ambiguous relationship to the genre’s history of fakery and artifice in the production of exciting camera-worthy behaviors. Environmental historian Gregg Mitman’s Reel Nature (1999) described the widespread use of tame or captive animals, hidden enclosures, and staged scenarios in 20th-century wildlife programming, including examples of biologists staging theoretically-expected behaviors. Chris Palmer’s Shooting in the Wild (2010) describes wildlife filmmaking as an unregulated profession where decisions to stage animal behavior result from pressure on filmmakers to obtain striking footage, budgetary constraints, and unenforceable broadcaster standards. Palmer describes his own use of game farm wolves for an IMAX documentary film as a “teachable moment” he now regrets. I explore recent examples of artifice in 21st-century wildlife documentaries, which take place within a broader context of authenticity distinguished by implicit and explicit claims of realism, institutional credibility, technological sophistication, and filmmaker expertise. The temptation to offer increasingly spectacular images of animals continues to result in practices that leave filmmakers vulnerable to criticism that their footage is too good to be true, as media critics object to the use of zoo enclosures and tame animals in place of the real thing and filmmakers must publicly justify their choices. Through qualitative interviews with Canadian wildlife and environmental filmmakers, I explore their attitudes surrounding filming animals. Filmmakers situate their own choices on a spectrum of acceptability, but they do not share a common definition of which practices count as staging or whether it’s appropriate to judge others’ practices. I argue that these attitudes reflect a diversity in their project-specific professional experience.
Discussant: Marissa Mika, University of Pennsylvania
Marissa Mika focuses on issues where science, technology, medicine, and politics intersect in modern Africa. Her first book project, “Research is Our Resource: Histories of an African Cancer Institute,” is a hospital history and ethnography of a collaborative international cancer research and care center in Uganda. She is defending her PhD in African history and the history of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania’s History and Sociology of Science department in 2015. Marissa is currently a visiting researcher at UC Berkeley’s Center for Science, Medicine, Technology, and Society.
3:15 – 3:30 Coffee Break
3:30 – 5:00 Faculty Roundtable:
Jake Kosek, University of California, Berkeley
Lochlann Jain, Stanford University
Joe Dumit, University of California, Davis
Michelle Murphy, University of Toronto

Facilitated by:
Cori Hayden, University of California, Berkeley

5:00 – 5:15 Closing Remarks
5:15 onwards Beer Garden if the weather is good
This event is sponsored by CSTMS.
Additional sponsorship comes from:  Berkeley Program in Science and Technology Studies • Department of Anthropology • Department of Geography • The Graduate Assembly • Townsend Center for the Humanities
Department of Anthropology

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