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Dreamscapes of Modernity

Sociotechnical Imaginaries and the Fabrication of Power

Dreamscapes of Modernity offers the first book-length treatment of sociotechnical imaginaries, a concept originated by Sheila Jasanoff and developed in close collaboration with Sang-Hyun Kim to describe how visions of scientific and technological progress carry with them implicit ideas about public purposes, collective futures, and the common good. The book presents a mix of case studies—including nuclear power in Austria, Chinese rice biotechnology, Korean stem cell research, the Indonesian Internet, US bioethics, global health, and more—to illustrate how the concept of sociotechnical imaginaries can lead to more sophisticated understandings of the national and transnational politics of science and technology. A theoretical introduction sets the stage for the contributors’ wide-ranging analyses, and a conclusion gathers and synthesizes their collective findings. The book marks a major theoretical advance for a concept that has been rapidly taken up across the social sciences and promises to become central to scholarship in science and technology studies.

360 pages | 7 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2015

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

History: History of Technology

History of Science

Political Science: Comparative Politics


"The individual essays in Dreamscapes are uniformly interesting and well researched, and Jasanoff’s opening essay offers a sophisticated overview of a wide body of literature. The collection offers a valuable addition to scholarship at the intersection of STS, SHOT, Politics and Science Policy, and I expect will become widely read."


"The essays in Dreamscapes of Modernity address the ways in which individuals, states, universities, and various corporate bodies conceptualize scientific and technological matters while translating this knowledge into visions for productive social, political, and technical change. Jasanoff and Kim offer a lucid and subtle analysis of the role of science and technology in producing norms, knowledges, and visions that cement relations of power. What is at stake in this very fine volume is a fundamental understanding of how social systems change or endure, cohere or fall apart."

Judy Wajcman, author of Pressed for Time: The Acceleration of Life in Digital Capitalism

"Here is a volume that succeeds at the difficult task of treating all societies symmetrically, whether in the global north, south, east, and west. Through the lens of sociotechnical imaginaries the authors show us telling comparisons between Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. The result is a convincing deconstruction of the standard image of modernization and an equally convincing plea to engage in constructive politics. This volume should be obligatory reading for anyone engaging with how societies and science and technology shape each other and thereby our futures."

Wiebe E. Bijker, author of Of Bicycles, Bakelites, and Bulbs

"A valuable humanistic collection connecting the social history of science and the anthropology of science and technology with Jasanoff's signature contributions bridging science and technology studies, power, and the construction of social legitimacy."

Michael M. J. Fischer, author of Anthropological Futures

"Dreamscapes of Modernity offers a flexible, yet rigorous model for positioning politics at the center of STS by emphasizing the imaginative and normative as well as the material and institutional dimensions of scientific and technological projects. The concept of sociotechnical imaginaries represents a vital contribution not only to Science and Technology Studies,but also to fields such as critical geography, cultural studies, and political theory—a reminder that contemporary configurations of science, technology, and power could have been, and still can be, otherwise."

Daniel Williford | Technology and Culture

Table of Contents

1.         Future Imperfect: Science, Technology, and the Imaginations of Modernity
Sheila Jasanoff

2.         Cecil Rhodes and the Making of a Sociotechnical Imaginary for South Africa
William K. Storey

3.         Our Monsters, Ourselves: Reimagining the Problem of Knowledge in Cold War America
Michael A. Dennis

4.         Imagining a Modern Rwanda: Sociotechnical Imaginaries, Information Technology, and the Postgenocide State
Warigia Bowman

5.         Keeping Technologies Out: Sociotechnical Imaginaries and the Formation of Austria’s Technopolitical Identity
Ulrike Felt

6.         Remembering the Future: Science, Law and the Legacy of Asilomar
J. Benjamin Hurlbut

7.         Social Movements and Contested Sociotechnical Imaginaries in South Korea
Sang-Hyun Kim

8.         Building from the Outside In: Sociotechnical Imaginaries and Civil Society in New Order Indonesia
Suzanne Moon

9.         Guerilla Engineers: The Internet and the Politics of Freedom in Indonesia
Joshua Barker

10.       Consuming Biotechnology: Genetically Modified Rice in China
Nancy N. Chen

11.       Imaginaries of Science and Society: Framing Nanotechnology Governance in Germany and the United States
Regula Valérie Burri

12.       Corporate Imaginaries of Biotechnology and Global Governance: Syngenta, Golden Rice, and Corporate Social Responsibility
Elta Smith

13.       Globalizing Security: Science and the Transformation of Contemporary Political Imagination
Clark A. Miller

14.       Global Health Security and the Pathogenic Imaginary
Andrew Lakoff

15.       Imagined and Invented Worlds
Sheila Jasanoff

Contributor Biographies

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