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How Knowledge Moves

Writing the Transnational History of Science and Technology

Knowledge matters, and states have a stake in managing its movement to protect a variety of local and national interests.  The view that knowledge circulates by itself in a flat world, unimpeded by national boundaries, is a myth. The transnational movement of knowledge is a social accomplishment, requiring negotiation, accommodation, and adaptation to the specificities of local contexts.  This volume of essays by historians of science and technology breaks the national framework in which histories are often written. Instead, How Knowledge Moves takes knowledge as its central object, with the goal of unraveling the relationships among people, ideas, and things that arise when they cross national borders. 
This specialized knowledge is located at multiple sites and moves across borders via a dazzling array of channels, embedded in heads and hands, in artifacts, and in texts. In the United States, it shapes policies for visas, export controls, and nuclear weapons proliferation; in Algeria, it enhances the production of oranges by colonial settlers; in Vietnam, it facilitates the exploitation of a river delta. In India it transforms modes of agricultural production.  It implants American values in Latin America. By concentrating on the conditions that allow for knowledge movement, these essays explore travel and exchange in face-to-face encounters and show how border-crossings mobilize extensive bureaucratic technologies.

408 pages | 13 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2019

History: General History, History of Ideas, History of Technology

History of Science

Physical Sciences: History and Philosophy of Physical Sciences


"[Krige] has assembled 13 essays that represent the state of the art in transnational history of science. The collection joins recent works (such as Audra Wolfe’s Freedom’s Laboratory, 2018) that seek to go beyond mere comparison of national contexts or simple de-emphasis of the nation-state in the name of transnational history. Instead, it seeks to develop a nuanced and sophisticated account of how geopolitical forces (including nation-states) shaped the production, transmission, and reception of scientific knowledge. The volume begins with a detailed analytical introduction that sets out the motivating methodological agenda and closes with a brief afterword that situates it in the current political moment. The essays in between—which are tightly edited, accessible, and largely well written—offer a broad picture of 20th-century science from the perspective of the intellectual ties that bound its scientific communities together. The book presumes some familiarity with major issues in the history of science and technology, but constitutes an invaluable, agenda-setting resource for anyone with an interest in these subjects. . . . Highly recommended."


"A timely contribution and an excellent example of how to connect academic research with contemporary geopolitical debates on migration, geopolitics, and international commerce. . . . How Knowledge Moves unites a series of disparate but fascinating stories. . . . The volume conveys a thought-provoking call to focus on the obstacles to circulation, which can provide intriguing insights on current political debates on migrations, international commerce, and national identities. In any case, the volume is a fresh contribution to the literature and a timely reminder that, like civic liberties and human rights, science and knowledge are results of the action of humans and we should never take for granted that knowledge moves."

Isis: A Journal of the History of Science Society

"A volume of erudite essays by historians of science and technology that breaks the national framework in which histories are often written. Instead, [Krige] takes knowledge as its central object, with the goal of unraveling the relationships among people, ideas, and things that arise when they cross national borders. . . . By concentrating on the conditions that allow for knowledge movement, these essays explore travel and exchange in face-to-face encounters and show how border-crossings mobilize extensive bureaucratic technologies. . . . While especially and unreservedly recommended for college and university library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers."

Midwest Book Review

"The present study's impressive collection of deeply researched, wide-ranging historical analyses is of foundational value in characterizing the issue and lays the groundwork for developing a more productive way of sharing scientific and technical knowledge internationally, especially when sovereign restrictions are expanding as information becomes an increasingly critical national resource."

Journal of the Society for Technical Communication

"Focuses mainly on the transnational history of science in the context of the rise of U.S. hegemony . . . Thanks to this focus, the volume is compact, not merely an assemblage of disparate studies. . . . The main potential pitfall of edited volumes is that the editors sometimes fail to set the various subjects into one unifying framework. How Knowledge Moves avoids this drawback, providing a coherent narrative. Its clearly defined general context unifies the particular subjects, allowing details which might otherwise get lost to stand out and be fully appreciated. Editors clearly played an important role in this process."


"Published fortuitously just before the onset of a global pandemic and the resulting competitiveness among nations to secure a COVID-19 vaccine, the volume provides a critical assessment of not only transnational approaches but also our understanding of the mobility of ideas and how this shapes the direction of knowledge accumulation over time. . . . This collection does much more than simply rehash the critiques of 1960s-era U.S. modernization campaigns. The value of the essays lies in their fine-grained explorations of identity, symbolism, and site issues. . . . This is a rich case-book of studies and methodologies on how to re-engage and rewrite the transnational history of knowledge circulation, this time by removing the United States as central pole and by acknowledging the uneven power relations that always underlie forms of mobility. As such, it is a fresh, engaging, and challenging addition to the literature on the history of technology, offering many new research paths to pursue."

Technology and Culture

"This lively and innovative collection explores the diverse conditions that shape how--and whether--scientific knowledge travels across borders. It encompasses the full range of activities and circumstances, from the basic materiality of the everyday to the strictures of institutions, bureaucratic systems, and state structures, that define the transnational peregrinations of knowledge, 'knowledgeable bodies,' technologies, and scientific practices. How Knowledge Moves is an indispensable addition to the literature on science and transnationalism in the twentieth century."

Jessica Wang, University of British Columbia

"In this volume John Krige has approached transnational science from the darker side of globalization. He asks: what if the earth isn’t flat, its surface not smooth, or travel not effortless? It is a very productive approach. Krige and his contributors write engagingly, often from a personal life experience of border crossings and shifts of nationalities about the friction of enduring territoriality, the intentional hegemonies of America as hub, of English as the lingua franca, and the monopolies of national curricula. He has seen the 'counter norms' that rule the world of scholarship in the regulatory state just as much as the Mertonian norms of openness and egalitarianism. Circulation of knowledge may still be the ideal; this book show that, in reality, circulation always comes at a cost."

Sverker Sörlin, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm

"This volume will be extremely useful for historians, whether or not they study science and technology, because it attacks the difficulty of writing transnational history head-on and offers a truly diverse set of options and models.Transnational history emerges as messy, labor-intensive, and contingent; it emerges, as it should, as a co-creation of actors and analysts and not merely as a hidden perspective that's been overlooked. This forces us to think about why transnational history matters, and it allows even the voices that aren't fully articulated to still live and breathe. The volume is an invitation, not an answer."

Grace Yen Shen, Fordham University

Table of Contents

Introduction: Writing the Transnational History of Science and Technology
John Krige

Part I The US Regulatory State

Chapter 1 Restricting the Transnational Movement of “Knowledgeable Bodies”: The Interplay of US Visa Restrictions and Export Controls in the Cold War
Mario Daniels

Chapter 2 Export Controls as Instruments to Regulate Knowledge Acquisition in a Globalizing Economy
John Krige

Part II Colonial and Postcolonial Contexts

Chapter 3 California Cloning in French Algeria: Rooting Pieds Noirs and Uprooting Fellahs in the Orange Groves of the Mitidja
Tiago Saraiva

Chapter 4 Modalities of Modernization: American Technic in Colonial and Postcolonial India
Prakash Kumar

Chapter 5 Transnational Knowledge, American Hegemony: Social Scientists in US-Occupied Japan
Miriam Kingsberg Kadia

Chapter 6 Dispersed Sites: San Marco and the Launch from Kenya
Asif Siddiqi

Chapter 7 Bringing the Environment Back In: A Transnational History of Landsat
Neil M. Maher

Part III Individuals in Flux

Chapter 8 Manuel Sandoval Vallarta: The Rise and Fall of a Transnational Actor at the Crossroad of World War II Science Mobilization
Adriana Minor

Chapter 9 The Officer’s Three Names: The Formal, Familiar, and Bureaucratic in the Transnational History of Scientific Fellowships
Michael J. Barany

Chapter 10 Scientific Exchanges between the United States and Brazil in the Twentieth Century: Cultural Diplomacy and Transnational Movements
Olival Freire Jr. and Indianara Silva

Chapter 11 The Transnational Physical Science Study Committee: The Evolving Nation in the World of Science and Education (1945–1975)
Josep Simon

Part IV The Nuclear Regime

Chapter 12 Technical Assistance in Movement: Nuclear Knowledge Crosses Latin American Borders
Gisela Mateos and Edna Suárez-Díaz

Chapter 13 Controlled Exchanges: Public-Private Hybridity, Transnational Networking, and Knowledge Circulation in US-China Scientific Discourse on Nuclear Arms Control
Zuoyue Wang

Afterword: Reflections on Writing the Transnational History of Science and Technology
Michael J. Barany and John Krige

List of Contributors


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