Technologies of the Cold War in Africa

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published by Timothy Burke

History 90I Technologies of the Cold War in Africa
Spring 2016 Professor Burke Swarthmore College
Week 1 January 21 Introduction Technology and History Heilbroner, "Do Machines Make History?"; Scranton, "Determinism and Indeterminacy in the History of Technology"; Staudenmaier, "Rationality vs. Contingency in the History of Technology" (Moodle)
Week 2 January 28 Technology, Society, Empire
Reading Langdon Winner, "Autonomy and Mastery" (Moodle) Headrick, The Tentacles of Progress, Chapter 1, 7, 8 (Ebook) Adas, Dominance by Design, Introduction and Chapter 3, 4 (Ebook)
Week 3 February 4 Modernization Theory and the Cold War Nils Gilman, Mandarins of the Future, Chapter 1 and 5 (Ebook) Michael Adas, "Modernization Theory", in Engerman, ed., Staging Growth (Moodle) McMahon, The Cold War: A Very Short Introduction, Chapter 1, 2, 4 (Ebook)
Week 4 February 11 Africa in the Global Cold War Jonathan Reynolds, Sovereignty and Struggle: Africa and Africans in the Era of the Cold War Elizabeth Schmidt, Foreign Intervention in Africa, Chapter 3 (Ebook)
Week 5 February 18 The AK-47 (I) John Ellis, The Social History of the Machine Gun, Chapter 4 CJ Chivers, The Gun (Bookstore) Technical materials on AK-47 (Moodle)
Week 6 February 25 The AK-47 (II) William Storey, Guns Race and Power in Colonial South Africa, Chapter 9 (Moodle) Stephen Braun, Merchant of Death, Prologue and Chapter 1 (Moodle) "On the Trail of an AK-47: Congo" Gebru Tareke, Ethiopian Revolution, Chapter 2 (Ebook) "Liberia: An Uncivil War", Tripod Streaming Video Ralph Ziman, "Ghosts",
Week 7 March 3 Hydroelectric Power Stephan Miescher, "No One Should Be Worse Off"; Julia Tischler, "The Kariba Dam Project" both in in Bloom et al eds., Modernization as Spectacle in Africa (Ebook) Isaacman and Isaacman, Dams, Displacement and the Delusion of Development, Chapter 3
March 10 Spring Break; March 17, No Class
Week 8 March 24 Nuclear Power and Uranium Mining Gabrielle Hecht, Being Nuclear (Bookstore) Portfolio Planning Session
Week 9 March 31 Structural Adjustment and Debt Bob Milward, "What Is Structural Adjustment?" (Moodle) James Ferguson, Global Shadows, Chapter 3 (Moodle) M. Anne Pitcher, Transforming Mozambique, Chapter 2 (Moodle) Ishrat Husein, "Adjustment in Africa", in Africa's Experience with Structural Adjustment (Proceedings of the Harare Seminar) (Google Books) Kwame Akonor, Africa and IMF Conditionality, pp. 17-46 (Moodle)
Week 10 April 7 Landmines Philip Winslow, Sowing the Dragon's Teeth, pp. 1-80 (Moodle) Africa Watch, Land Mines in Angola (Moodle) Landmine Warfare Handbook (Moodle)
Week 11 April 14 Signals Intelligence Michaela Wrong, I Didn't Do It For You, Chapter Nine and Ten (Moodle) John Rasmuson, "Remembering Kagnew Station" (Tripod) Various URLs (distributed in Week 10 on handout)
Biometric Identification Keith Breckenridge, "The HANIS Project" (Moodle) Keith Breckenridge, "No Will to Know" (Moodle) Grace Davie, Poverty Knowledge in South Africa, Chapter 4 (Moodle)
Week 12 April 21 First Hackathon Green Revolution Week 13 April 28 Second Hackathon Transportation
Requirements and work for the course 1.  Regular attendance. All students must take special care to be at the Hackthon sessions in April: do not make plans to leave for Passover or other obligations on the 14th and 21st.   2. Active participation, particularly in the Hackathons. 3. Two short papers (4-5 pages). First due Friday February 5 5pm; second due Friday April 15 5pm. 4. Project portfolio due May 10th. (See portfolio description for details, handed out later in the semester). If you believe that you need accommodations for a disability, please contact Leslie Hempling in the Office of Student Disability Services (Parrish 113) or email [email protected] arrange an appointment to discuss your needs. As appropriate, she will issue students with documented disabilities a formal Accommodations Letter. Since accommodations require early planning and are not retroactive, please contact her as soon as possible.  For details about the accommodations process, visit the Student Disability Service Website at  You are also welcome to contact me [the faculty member] privately to discuss your academic needs. However, all disability-related accommodations must be arranged through the Office of Student Disability Services.
A Guide to Preparing for Each Class Session
Week 1 (History of Technology) What do "determinism" and "contingency" mean to Heilbroner, Scranton and Staudenmaier? Why do they all think these words have particularly important significance for studying the history of technology? About what exactly do they disagree? What kinds of evidence or reasoning do they cite in making their case? Think of one example of a technological history you'd like to use to work through this debate. Week 2 (Society, Technology, Empire) Winner is one of many intellectuals to ask whether or how human beings are in control of specific technologies or technologies in general. Consider your own intuitions and thoughts on this overall question and be prepared to talk about your views. How do Headrick and Adas describe the particular importance of technology to modern European empires, to American power in the 20th Century, and to globalization? Which technologies? Why? Week 3 (Modernization Theory and Cold War) Be prepared for us to lay out a basic bare-bones narrative history of the Cold War together. What's "modernization theory"? How did modernization theory play a role in the Cold War, particularly for American policy-makers and academics? What's the connection between modernization theory and the history of technology? Week 4 (Cold War in Africa) Be as prepared as possible from reading Reynolds for the class to work out an overall history of African politics and social affairs during the Cold War. How did the main Cold War powers seem to view Africa and Africans? How did Africans seem to view the Cold War? If we treat the Congo civil war of the 1960s as a representative or defining example of Cold War experiences in Africa, what patterns or issues seem most important or notable? Week 5 (The AK-47 I) Try to apply the readings from the first two weeks to the AK's history, using it to think about concepts like "determinism" and "contingency" or "control" vs. "accident". Looking at the technical materials, what difference does it make to think about the specific details of the AK-47 as machine? How do the material details of its functioning, use, maintenance, manufacture, weight, and so on have significance beyond the basic operation of the AK-47 itself? Week 6 (The AK-47 II) How did the AK-47 enter into modern African societies? What would an "AK-47-centric" account of the histories of warfare in Ethiopia or Liberia look like? What don't we know from the kinds of materials for this week that we might want to know? How could we come to know it? Week 7 (Hydroelectric Power) What do the authors mean by "modernization as spectacle" and why are dams in post-WWII Africa seemingly such a good example of that? What are the material specifics of dams and hydroelectric power? What does it take to build, maintain and use them? What are the social and political consequences of those material specifics? Week 8 (Nuclear Power and Uranium Mining) What are the material specifics of uranium mining, and how did the historical context of Cold War West and Southern Africa affect their development? How did the imagined importance of atomic energy and atomic weaponry affect the day-to-day life of uranium miners and mine managers in Niger? Week 9 (Structural Adjustment and Debt) Most of the readings for this week don't really treat structural adjustment and debt as a technology per se. What happens if we choose to read with that interpretation in mind? If debt and structural adjustments are treated as technologies, what do we need to know about them? What kind of "materialities" are involved? How does the Cold War context affect this particular history? Week 10 (Landmines) Some of the same questions about the AK-47: apply the first two weeks of reading. What is "intended" and "unintentional" about the history of landmines in Angola? What is the full material history of landmine warfare? How do we get from the technical guidance of the US military handbook on landmines to the use of landmines in Angola and elsewhere in Africa? Week 11 (Signals Intelligence and Biometric Identification) Was Kagnew Station "inevitable"? What kinds of political arrangements about Kagnew were determined and what strike you as contingent? What are the possible histories of Kagnew? Why did biometric identification take hold in South Africa? How much is this a Cold War-involved story vs. a story about apartheid? What are the implications of biometric approaches to identifying citizens?