Call for Participation: Lost in Translation? People, technologies, practices and concepts across boundaries

Lost in translation? People, technologies, practices and concepts across boundaries
First Joint Meeting, Red esCTS and Portuguese STS Network, Lisbon 7-9 June 2017
Call For Participation 

We are pleased to announce the first joint meeting of the Red EsCTS and the Portuguese STS network.  The meeting will take place in Lisbon, Instituto de Ciências Sociais da Universidade de Lisboa (Av. Prof. Aníbal de Bettencourt, 9, 1600-189 Lisboa; from the 7th to 9th of June with the following title: Lost in Translation? People, Technologies for Practices and Concepts Across Boundaries. We welcome proposals for papers, communications, audiovisual presentations and alternative formats.

Portugal and Spain share many things but they are also divided by several boundaries – political, linguistic, historical, technological. Part of a same peninsula, they are nonetheless entities on their own right: two countries, two political systems, several languages, and, furthermore, two academic systems, two STS communities. In a way, they represent two sides of a border. And yet, as Science and Technology Studies (STS) have taught us, borders and boundaries are far from being self-evident.
An STS perspective shows that boundaries are continuously traversed, continuously challenged, continuously re-made. It also shows that maintaining boundaries is a performative practice, which requires separation and integration, difference and translation as well as interdiction and transgression. In fact, maintaining borders forcefully requires objects, people and information that can pass through such borders.

The idea of ‘boundary objects’, first suggested in 1989 by Susan Leigh-Star and James Griesemer, refers to those entities that are “plastic enough to adapt to local needs and constraints of the several parties employing them, yet robust enough to maintain a common identity across sites” (Leigh-Star and Griesemer, 1989:393). Boundary objects are part of multiple social worlds at once, therefore facilitating communication and translation between them; at the same time, they reside in the borderlands where two or more social worlds overlap, without fully belonging to any of them, like monsters or cyborgs (Bowker and Star, 1999).

Are STS meetings a kind of ‘boundary object’? We somehow think so, and indeed reflections on boundaries and borders are not new to us. Former meetings of the Spanish Red esCTS have explicitly posed the challenge of opening up the boundaries of STS and speaking to concerned publics and collectives beyond academia. The dynamics and paradoxes of academic diasporas have also figured prominently in previous meetings, as many Spanish (and also Portuguese) researchers have been forced to migrate due to lack of funding or other issues related to the economic crisis that has so harshly hit our countries. And we feel that this first joint meeting between the Portuguese and Spanish STS communities offers a privileged opportunity to continue thinking about boundary crossing, identities in the making and remaking, translation between social worlds, and technological, political or academic practices beyond borders.

This meeting aims to be an opportunity for STS scholars in Spain, Portugal and elsewhere to meet and share their social, academic, epistemological and political experiences generated by the difficulties and opportunities arising from crossing territorial, linguistic, disciplinary, and professional boundaries. We invite individual or joint papers, but also short communications, audiovisual presentations and alternative format proposals that reflect upon the following themes:

  • Practices, technologies and objects involved in dismantling/constituting boundaries, in particular geographic, linguistic, disciplinary, technological, and political boundaries.
  • Research practices that work within, and expand, the interstitial spaces between conceptual boundaries.
  • STS views and theories on trends of academic mobility specifically, and migration more generally.
  • The sociotechnical constitution/mapping out of diasporas.  
  • The establishment of hierarchies of academic mobility (“centers” and “peripheries”).
  • What do borders mean and who are they designed to keep out? What is their role in current EU politics of technoscience?
  • The return (or dislocation) to one’s original country/institution and the transformation of individuals and communities who remain.
  • The naturalization of foreign nationals living in Spain and Portugal.
  • Challenges in translating/adapting generic (Anglophone, French) STS concepts into other languages and local contexts.
  • Hybridisation of academic identities and careers.

While these suggestions are an opportunity to reflect upon specific themes that the organizing committee wanted to draw attention on, we are happy to consider proposals and papers that do not directly address these topics but fit into an STS conference and may still enrich and stimulate our meeting.
We welcome presentations, activities, performances and contributions in English, any of the official languages of the Spanish state, and Portuguese. Please send your proposal (max. 250 words) to, including contact data (name, email address, institution if present).

Deadline for sending proposals: Friday 10th of February 2017.

Attendance to the meeting will be open and free of charge.