STS Circle at Harvard
Susanne E. Freidberg, Chair, Department of Geography, Dartmouth, will discuss “Obstinate Harvest: Corporate Food and the Technoscience of Supply Chain Sustainability" as part of the STS Circle at Harvard lecture series. Sandwich lunches are provided. RSVP here before Thursday afternoon, October 22nd.
Abstract: How is “Big Food” dealing with threats to its own sustainability? In recent years major food manufacturers and retailers have come to see climate change, water scarcity and other environmental problems as risks they can no longer afford to ignore. These risks are typically greatest at the farthest reaches of their supply chains, on farms and in forests and fisheries. To address them, companies together with non-governmental organizations have launched ambitious projects to assess and somehow improve supply chain sustainability. Out of these have come new metrics, calculative devices and company-sponsored field experiments, implemented from the U.S. Midwest to the vanilla farms of Madagascar. These projects show how supply chains more generally have become key sites for the production and application of technoscientific knowledge. At the same time, they reveal how even the world’s biggest food companies struggle with their own supply chains’ murky, varied, yet often refractory nature.
Biography: Susanne Freidberg is Professor of Geography at Dartmouth College. Her research explores the workings of food supply across multiple geographic scales and regions. While her earliest work focused on cultures of commerce in African fresh produce trades, her more recent projects have spanned transnational supply chains, examining how science, technology and expertise are mobilized to assure various qualities in food and its provisioning. She is the author of French Beans and Food Scares: Culture and Commerce in an Anxious Age, as well as Fresh: A Perishable History, winner of the Society for the History of Technology’s 2010 Sally Hacker Prize.
The STS Circle at Harvard is a group of doctoral students and recent PhDs who are interested in creating a space for interdisciplinary conversations about contemporary issues in science and technology that are relevant to people in fields such as anthropology, history of science, sociology, STS, law, government, public policy, and the natural sciences. We want to engage not only those who are working on intersections of science, politics, and public policy, but also those in the natural sciences, engineering, and architecture who have serious interest in exploring these areas together with social scientists and humanists.
There has been growing interest among graduate students and postdocs at Harvard in more systematic discussions related to STS. More and more dissertation writers and recent graduates find themselves working on exciting topics that intersect with STS at the edges of their respective home disciplines, and they are asking questions that often require new analytic tools that the conventional disciplines don’t necessarily offer. They would also like wider exposure to emerging STS scholarship that is not well-represented or organized at most universities, including Harvard. Our aim is to try to serve those interests through a series of activities throughout the academic year.