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Thematic Cluster: Histories of Planning—Scale and Scope
Species catalogs – printed or digital – are a specific form of encyclopedias and compendia. They are designed for different purposes and „are among the most useful aids to the taxonomist“ (Mayr et al., 1953) and, as I argue, for many other disciplines as well. The backbone of what I understand as a „species catalog“ are names of species and higher taxa, which are usually arranged in a classification.
My research project studies the production of botanical illustrations depicting "exotic" plants in early modern Northern Europe (1550-1750), with a focus on France, the Low Countries, and their relationship to the Caribbean. It analyses the evolutions in the pictorial descriptions of New World flora and questions the political stakes of such representations.
In 2012, the U.S. government committed over $200 million to a Big Data Research Initiative designed to explore how the analysis of massive collections of digital information might do everything from capture terrorists to improve educational outcomes. The merger of computation and governance has generated excitement and concern: will it enhance democracy or produce totalitarian social control?
My project historicizes the "midlife crisis," which became popular in the United States and, subsequently, globally in the 1970s. A contested concept, it was a site and an instrument for negotiating gender roles. "Midlife crisis" gained traction initially as a feminist idea before it was appropriated by psychiatrists and defined in androcentric and masculinist terms.
In Constructing Spaceship Earth, I explore how and why scientists affiliated with UN agencies made the global-scale environment a social and political reality. The post-WWII generation of international experts identified science as both the cause of and solution to world crises. Unless civilization learned to control the unprecedented powers science had unleashed, global catastrophe was imminent—if not in an atomic explosion, then in a population explosion.