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?