histories under globalization

Katie King, Women's Studies, University of Maryland, College Park

Working Paper online 
(first created for a talk presented in the Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies Colloquia Series, Colby College, Waterville, Maine, 4 March 2004; much of this material has subsequently been included in King. 2011. Networked Reenactments. Duke.) 

If you came to visit me in the Washington, DC area we might spend a friendly Sunday at the Smithsonian Institution, one of my favorite places. The last few times various friends came to visit me, I rather insisted we go to see an exhibit I had been writing about in my new book, Flexible Knowledges, histories under globalization. This exhibit, called Science in American Life, has been around almost a decade now, and certainly is a bit the worse for wear. (Smithsonian Institution & Arthur P. Molella [Chief Curator], 1994 opening) It is located in the lower levels of the National Museum of American History, which has recently acquired an addition to its name, "the Behring Center," following California land developer Kenneth E. Behring's gift to the Smithsonian of $100 million. (News Smithsonian Institution--Office of Public Affairs, 2000; Smithsonian Institution, 2000a, 2000b) The Science in American Life exhibit is very detailed and demanding if you really intend to pay close attention, and of course, that is what I have asked my poor friends to do, so after a day there we are definitely ready to go home and flake out in front of the television set. Visiting me, you might pick up lying around the house the companion book to a TV documentary I have analyzed, the Discovery Channel's Gladiatrix: the true story of history's unknown woman warrior, narrated by Xena's
 Lucy Lawless. (Zoll, 2002) (Duffy, Halprin, & Rabijnovitch, 2002)

Monday afternoon I would be preparing for my "Women in the Web: ways of writing in historical perspective" class, perhaps looking over Gary Urton's new book Signs of the Inka Khipu, Binary coding in the Andean Knotted-String Records. (Urton, 2003) I use it, along with a range of feminist science fiction, to help the students get going on their creative "what if" stories about past or future writing technologies. We do this so that we can think about how technologies and their histories, in feminist technoscience theorist Donna Haraway's words, "might have been otherwise, and might yet be." (Haraway & Goodeve, 2000) On Tuesday perhaps you would join me at school and visit my class "Lesbianisms in Multinational Reception" where we are reading, rather slowly, a difficult but fascinating academic collection produced by Australian and US scholars Chris Berry, Fran Martin and Audrey Yue, entitled Mobile Cultures, new media in Queer Asia. (Berry, Martin, & Yue, 2003)

Genderqueer media studies and feminist technosciences as well as speculative histories emerging from conditions and conceptualizations of globalization are what my current research, writing and teaching are about today. I want to use this talk to look at what I call pastpresents, one word altogether, and I will drop in on the Science in American Life exhibit, and describe some reality TV documentaries to do so. Such engagements theorize what I call "writing technologies." As you might imagine moving around such a range of communities of practice is a daunting task, so here, as in the book, I will be asking that you listening do some of this tricky work of communication too. Being willing to play with words, ideas and interconnections is what I ask my students to do, but they have a whole semester in which to get used to this work. I hope you too will be willing to ponder with me what sorts of flexible languages current globalizing knowledges condition us to expect, desire and judge.

I use this one word altogether, "pastpresents," as Donna Haraway uses her term "naturecultures," in order to wonder about rather than assume divisions between nature and culture, past and present; and to consider when and under what conditions we might resist these very distinctions. For example, MacArthur Fellow Gary Urton's book draws out an extended analogy between the binary codes of computers and those of Inka strings. His are speculations about what counts as writing and, more specifically, he asks what forms of decoding eventually will tell us whether, for example, these knots contain not only accountings of empire tribute and maps of Inka colonialism, but also if they contain narratives and histories we cannot yet read. Urton's investigations of the Inka khipu string records are as bits of pastpresents: that is to say, we know more about khipu in their past precisely as we learn to connect them to the computers of our present, and the way we know how to make such connections is intimately related to our experiences with the products and processes of contemporary globalization.

Berry, Martin and Yue describe their book Mobile Cultures as "active, research-based engagements with sexualities as practiced and represented in local contexts." They introduce my class to the concept of "glocalization, or the localization and indigenization of globally mobile understandings of sexuality." (7) For example, Audrey Yue's paper describes beeper technologies that function for a set of Singaporean lesbians in diaspora simultaneously as transnational class markers of "a global queer politics of visibility" and also as site-specific displays of communications, say, about a local bar or a collective event. (245-265) Glocalization assumes first that globalization processes are responsible for traveling dominations as media, money, politics, sexualities and knowledge practices. But it also, and very importantly, demonstrates that these meanings and powers can beglocalized, that is, altered, filled in, reunderstood within the local agencies, people, art forms, and other practices of everyday life. Use itself matters in glocalization even though such use takes place within and through shifting and sometimes unanticipated limits and distributed agencies.

I want to expand the range of this term glocalization, to point out its indications in U.S. worlds as well as in worlds around the globe, and even farther, to push it to help us describe how we access past worlds today as we engage in the strangely flexible knowledges we inhabit under globalization. The term "flexible" encapsulates both terror and possibility under globalization. It has a particular association with "the 90s," the period whose products thoroughly inhabit my new book, which products clue us in to other processes today. As Donna Haraway reminds us, globalization is "that travelogue of distributed, heterogeneous, linked, sociotechnical circulations that craft the world as a net called the global." (Haraway, 1997) Flexible work processes were lauded in the 90s as well as understood as the hallmark of the superexploitations of which globalized capital is capable; flexible knowledges are sometimes the very commercialized versions of these processes and products. (Bousquet, 2002) (Stafford, 2001) Yet flexibility and its relation to healthy ecologies, to worldly processes, to human and species adaptation are also hallmarks of change, of possibility, of movement, of hope. (Bateson, 1972, originally presented 1970) This usage among theorists and activists since the 60s threads an alternate but inextricably intertwined awareness, or sensitivity.

And flexible knowledges could also name the processes of movement across communities of practice, indeed sometimes are the products of such processes. Those of us now immersed, perhaps drowning, in flexible knowledges are paradoxically both willing and required to become beginners, over and over, to give up mastery and to open up to risk, connection, and even enthusiasm. I have come to prefer this inevitably already dated term "flexible knowledges" to "interdisciplinarity" in the timescale realized under academic capitalism's colonization of more and more universities as sites of knowledge production, and as universities become less and less the most valued centers making knowledge. (Slaughter & Leslie, 1997)

I also take seriously the claim by Chela Sandoval that it is inside the great exploitations under globalization that we must look for the very adaptations that permit not only survival, but also new distributed creativities. (Sandoval, 2000) I find the term glocalization valuable because it does not assume that it is obvious when such localized, or indeed globalized, practices and uses are liberatory and when they are not. I am skeptical when folks are quick to draw clear lines between analyses which are celebratory and those which are critical, because I value my own and others' surprise and confusion at the unexpected turns cultural politics take. I do not begin from the stance of negative critique or debunking, although I am perfectly capable of doing both at urgent moments. I wonder myself, How do we know liberatory practices when we see them? It is in practice that we find out where we do go, how we do engage those interventions created by unanticipated agencies and; thinking otherwise, how our visions of pasts and futures create our presents.

So, having given you my little introduction here, let's go over to the Smithsonian some Sunday: When we arrive at the Science in American Life exhibit in 2004, we are hailed by four points of possible entry. To the left is the hands-on science center, which, if we are lucky, is open and staffed; you can see through its large display windows that it is full mostly of children. Directly in front and a bit ahead is the main entrance to the exhibit, through which wide door, we can glimpse a space packed with objects, full scale reconstructions, and large, colorful graphics. To your next right in the intermediate space within which we find ourselves included, are wall backdrops of blown up photos, selectively colored for effect, and a set of life-size freestanding photo-figures of ten adult scientists and a couple of children, in a conspicuous range of genders, races, ethnicities and nations. These scientists' voices fill the air, giving their own opinions on "What is Science in American Life?" matched by pictures in a small video monitor at about knee level. A label tells you that "Some of the scientists have more to say inside the exhibit." Meanwhile, to your immediate right is a very plain door, its unexciting notice says "exhibition exit only," yet you notice that almost half the folks coming through enter through this door no matter what the sign says. Enormous large windows on the right, matching those of the science center on the left, a little farther down open upon a full size reconstruction of an atmospheric study site in the Antarctic. Graphics surround this whole entering area; they are: a stylized house, human, leaf, microscope, and DNA strand. A title label explains: "Science and technology are right in the thick of American history.... [they] stir up wide interest and heated debate." Other, newer exhibits have brochures to pick up, but any such brochures for this one were long ago taken and not replaced, although there are some for the science center.

In April 1994 the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, after about five years of planning and research, created this new permanent exhibition, principally funded by the American Chemical Society. (Smithsonian Institution & Arthur P. Molella [Chief Curator], 1994 opening) Science in American Life opened in the midst of the interlocking "culture wars," "science wars," "history wars" which overtook the Smithsonian in the 90's, beginning with the highly controversial 1991 exhibit The West as America: Reinterpreting Images of the Frontier, 1820-1920, shown at the National Museum of American Art. That exhibition's critique of nationalist images of Manifest Destiny, although current at the time among art historians, culture critics, cultural historians and anthropologists, was itself critiqued by conservatives and others in polarizing popular media as at best sanctimonious and prosecutorial and at worst as radical, anti-American revisionism. (Truettner & Anderson, 1991) (Hughes, 1991) (Perkins, 1999) Following Science in American Life, in June 1995 the Enola Gay went on display at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, its exhibition dramatically narrowed in scope after preemptive complaints by the Air Force Association, the American Legion and veterans' groups that the exhibit was not going to express the view that the bombing of Japan had saved American lives. (Linenthal & Engelhardt, 1996; National Air and Space Museum, 1995-2002; Perkins, 1999) Air and Space Museum director Martin Harwit, forced to resign because of the controversy, had rather pointed out that it was not possible to know what would have happened without the bombing. (Harwit, 1996; Nobile, 1995) Congressional surveillance of U.S. heritage sites, national museum exhibitions, funding of artists and art works and other culture processes and products increased in the 90s, requiring that such "displays of power" conform to popular expectations and national pride or be denied funding. (Dubin, 1999; Lubar, 1996) For example, with the installation of a Republican majority in Congress in 1995, in FY 1996 the National Endowment for the Arts' budget went from $162 million to $99 million. (Republican Study Committee, 2002) [Today, the current administration's proposals to privatize professional jobs in, for example, the National Park Service, also work to punish progressive cultural efforts. (Cart, 2003; Lee, 2003)]

Criticism of Science in American Life was spearheaded by Robert Park, a University of Maryland physicist who was Director of the Washington office of the American Physical Society. He claimed that the exhibit fueled an "anti-science sentiment," He characterized the exhibit as "technically superb" but unbalanced, painting science as "a servant of the power structure." (Park, 1994) To the extent that Park and various critics in Congress acted in good faith, their angry reaction was to what they perceived as the dismantling of fundamental truths; but such critiques were also challenges to their cultural power. Evidence of societal breakdown was how they understood the debunking forms of critique that characterized some of these exhibits, or characterized parts of their implicit and explicit arguments about how we come to know what we know.

Debunking critique depends upon upsetting the processes of naturalization that create, authorize and empower the very quote-unquote "things" that affiliate members within and across communities of practice. For example, the notion of Manifest Destiny was debunked as well as examined in parts of The West as America exhibit. It was shown to be created rather than the expression of some great animating truth; the intentions of those creating it were dissected for their racist assumptions about who should have power; its instantiation of a distinctive version of progress which favored a particular elite was thus debunked. In other words, all these elements were held to be saturated with political intentions--denaturalized--rather than understood as plain expressions of profound truths or essential natures. That such a critique was displayed in a major national institution also marked a change of cultural power among intellectual generations nationwide despite conservative political ascendancies in Washington itself. The practices of communities instantiate world views in various ranges of commonality across communities; and their "things," such as exhibits, are literally bits of these world views. One confirms one's membership in a community of practice over time as one learns and demonstrates the naturalization of these pivotal things. (Bowker & Star, 1999)

As the word "flexible" encodes both terror and possibility under globalization, so other conceptualizations instantiate how globalization requires us to inhabit two or more realities simultaneously. My undergraduate teacher, anthropologist Gregory Bateson, used the term "transcontextual" for such experiences that could be either gifts or confusions, that could lead to pathology or to great creativity, that in all circumstances, positive or negative, required a "double take." (Bateson, 1972) Flexible knowledges are full of double and triple and multiple takes. At important moments they require us to mobilize the sort of feminist relativism in which, as Leigh Star says, we do not abandon moral commitments even as we simultaneously forswear absolute epistemological authority. (Star, 1995)

Consider quotation marks around the word "things" as they signal what Bateson would call a meta-communication. For exhibit makers, for teachers, for cultural critics, for analysts of all kinds, talking about something may appear to others confusingly to include denying that something, or making talking about it more important than the thing itself. And, of course, many of these critical folks preciselyare enacting denials, refusals and reevaluations. Nevertheless, all such examinations may not be such debunkings: other critical engagements might eithernot refuse or deny these things, even as they examine them and the values they embody, or defer, briefly, or perhaps forever, such refusals. They might reflect onhow little we know about what else might have happened in the past or what is still possible to happen in the future, rather than assume that each is predictable on the basis of core assumptions. Debunking is a reflection of and intensifies polarizations. Culture critics who understand the practice of debunking critique as their primary political and moral obligation also value these intensities as guarantors of political alliance and ethical affiliation, as do those who loudly object to being victims of such debunking, who may practice their own debunkings in turn. Debunking makes alliance-making so salient and so emotionally imminent that other practices existing simultaneously with it are hard to register.Technoscience theorist Bruno Latour suggests the significance of sometimes wanting to practice and to communicate the possibility of denaturalizing without immediately deauthorizing or debunking. (Latour, 1993, originally published 1991) He says: "When we say that nature is 'constructed,' that God must be 'produced,' that the person must be 'fabricated,' it is immediately assumed that we are attacking, undermining, criticizing their supposed solidity...." (Latour, 2002b) Certainly this was exactly what was both assumed and practiced in the midst of the kind of controversy that surrounded Science in American Life in the mid 90's, although accounts of the consulting process to create it that went on for almost five years before, show that participants worked very hard to negotiate different political, disciplinary and epistemological world views, each feeling that they had understandably given up a lot to accommodate others. In the end the response of the American Chemical Society was to withdraw their funding of the exhibit, although before that, it was quite possible that the controversies would be so politically dangerous that the exhibit actually would be dismantled, or substantially altered.

Latour describes such situations as iconoclashes: "Thus, we can define an iconoclashas what happens when there is an uncertainty about the exact role of the hand at work in the production of some mediator: is it a hand with a hammer ready to expose, to denounce, to debunk, to show up, to disappoint, to disenchant, to dispel one’s illusions, to let the air out? Or is it, on the contrary, a cautious and careful hand, palm turned as if to catch, to elicit, to educe, to welcome, to generate, to entertain, to upkeep, to collect truth and sanctity?" (Latour, 2002a) Of course, as Latour points out, it could be all of these, simultaneously, both within persons and together with others. But something different can be present too: " a new reverencefor the images of science is taken to be their destruction." (Latour, 2002a) And Latour notes some other curious and valuable points to emphasize: "If there is one thing toward which 'making' does not lead, it is to the concept of a human actor fully in command....What is interesting in constructivism is exactly the opposite of what it first seems to imply: there is no maker, no master, no creator that could be said to dominate materials, or, at the very least, a new uncertainty is introduced as to what is to be built as well as to who is responsible for the emergence of the virtualities of the materials at hand." (Latour, 2002 ms., forthcoming publication. Available online at:

I said before that I had visited Science in American Life with various friends while I was writing about it. With each person a different aspect of the exhibit seemed primary, and a different scale of formal and informal analysis was employed. The more they knew about the controversies surrounding the exhibit (and which I only came to study myself over succeeding visits) the more the salience of alliances around these controversies seemed intensified. The first person I went to see it with had been involved in professionally supporting the curators at a time when the exhibit was most threatened, possibly to be gutted or changed in other alarming ways as was the Enola Gay exhibit. At this point, I didn't know the details of what had happened, but in her company I experienced some of those powerful allegiances mustered to protect the existence of the exhibit. Disagreements and differences felt somehow collapsed by this threatened outlook, became momentarily deeply uncomfortable, even though this period was conclusively past. In my ignorance, feeling frustrated, I exacerbated any disagreement in haphazard unconscious and insubordinate resistance.

Later, rather more knowledgeable about all these concerns at this point, I visited the exhibit with yet another person intimate with these controversies; someone who, without having played a role in them herself, was tentatively imagining herself as a possible curator of a very different collection of scientific artifacts. I experienced very different alliances in her company: ones within which the exhibit could only exemplify rather conservative communities of practice among museum curators and within the field of science and technology studies. I picked up on such critiques myself. But, then, visiting it with others wholly outside science and technology studies, in comparison to whom I was the most acquainted with these controversies, I experienced the exhibit as much more radical, as often "in your face" and very successfully debunking what I understood to be commonly held popular (but not my own) opinions about specific scientific-cultural debates: on evolution and creationism, on the bombing of Hiroshima, on the effects of the birth-control pill, on the depletion of the ozone layer, on uses of biotechnology. Thus, in the first visit I felt vaguely attacked and debunked myself, although I was mistaken in supposing I was a target; in the next I was persuaded by debunkings of the exhibit itself, and in the third, I was confirmed in my own political opinions by what I saw in the exhibit.

Visiting the exhibit with you I am sure again I will be newly aware of elements I still have not examined, there are so many to look at. The varieties of what one might call "scale-making" that one could bring to, experience at, or take away from the exhibit are many layered. The exhibit requires and creates a kind of consciousnessin which one moves among such levels fairly freely if not always painlessly, and also permits --or requires--a great deal of selection among the overwhelming variety, to pick and chose those elements that interest one, confirm one, or debunk one. It's quite possible that with so much to examine, you and I will decide to call it a day and come back tomorrow, after we've thought about it a bit, to see parts we want to look at again. Anyway, tonight on TV is the Discovery Channel's documentary Gladiatrix, which I have to see since it connects to my previous work on two global TV shows, Highlander and Xena.

Highlander and Xena represent two different approaches to the political economy of media in the 90s. Highlander was an attempt by long-lived French production company Gaumont in 1992, the year of the formation of the European Union, to take back some measure of media authority from the hegemony of the U.S. by mobilizing resources and culture protections within the EU. Xena, alternately, exemplified U.S. media off-shoring production, lowering costs by virtually taking over, although also sometimes enabling, New Zealand's culture industries beginning in 1995. During the course of my first round of television research both gender and sexuality were recast unevenly in various Highlander communities: communities among fans at conventions, created by writers of fan fiction circulated by xerox or on the web, various communities among list serves, and those of neighborhood viewing groups. I have written and talked about before of how, in one dramatic 24 hour period homosexuality went from being a forbidden topic to becoming instead, a marked topic as Same Sex Sex on the main Highlander list serve, following the first broadcast of a particular episode when fans excitedly refused to follow the list serve rules and the moderator refrained from enforcing them. (K. King, 2002)

When I first engaged the listserve in the mid 90s, although many representations within the television program were actively disputed and reworked there, most folks were dismissive of those of us who occasionally wondered in this particular local yet public and global sphere including international fans, about the women warriors of the Immortals who populate the now two TV series and four films of Highlander. Some of the earliest television episodes, the ones least satisfying in production values and back story, had inadequately depicted women warriors, focusing mostly on displaying female rock stars with widely varying acting abilities. Women immortals were depicted during the first season in 1992-93 as surviving by wiles and deception rather than by sword fighting as the men had to. Even those who fought did so with less skill. Nor did fan writing reflect much more in the way of other possibilities, despite the thoroughly imaginary worlds created. The great exception was the story arc that begin on television with the Immortal Amanda. Although the first episodes depicted her as cunning rather than a skilled warrior, by the time at the end of the second season in 1994 her back story is filled in and we learn of her relationship with her slain mentor, Rebecca. Even though both actors' sword skills are patently small, their abilities are greater within the story itself, although mostly comic in depiction. However in fan writing their stories become richer.

When we first talked about women warriors on the Highlander listserve, fans were skeptical of the roles women could have played as warriors, claiming that the inadequate depictions in Highlander were reflections of how it was in the past for women. Some of us had already been influenced by early 80s fantasy novels, such as those of Jessica Amanda Salmonson depicting the female samurai Tomoe Gozen, and by her Encyclopedia of Amazons. (Salmonson, Clavette, & Shultz, 1982; Salmonson & Shultz, 1981; Salmonson, Wees, & Craft, 1984) (Salmonson, 1991) But the late 80s and 90s exploded in new materials about women warriors. Those of us arguing differently pointed to new press and books about women who had successfully disguised themselves as men, in the U.S. civil war and elsewhen, or who had become leaders of pirates. Much of this material had probably been motivated by greater and more regular participation by women in U.S. and European militaries, and the recovery of women's past military history became increasingly important to justify such service in national ideology. Not until the end of the third season in 1995 did we get a depiction of a woman warrior with sword skills equivalent to the men's and a back story of power, the Immortal Ceirdwyn, in an episode interestingly entitled "Take Back the Night." What counted as a woman warrior in Highlander thus shifted up several notches, and fans and fan writing were altered by her appearance.

But probably most important in remediated television representations was the eruption of Xena onto television also in 1995. Xena's deliberate anachronisms and patent fantasy orientation gave it much greater scope for elaborating historical and imaginary possibilities for women warriors. Although these elements were also present in Highlander, there they were outweighed by what one might call its re-enactment history orientation. Remarkably enough, with Xena on television, with popular and academic books circulating histories of women warriors, and with women's increasing participation in the U.S. military, what only a little earlier were deep skepticisms that women's roles could have been different in other spacetimes were countered in layers of locals and globals, and such re-representations quickly normalized among Highlander fandoms. Normalized or consensus histories are highly valued by re-enactors, using the term both very specifically and then also extending it more broadly. As a historical conservatism investments in consensus histories by re-enactors are not intended to promote what we might in the TV context call low budget mimetic realism at the expense of anachronistic blendings in these pastpresents. And although "authenticity" is a keyword for many, perhaps most re-enactors, what counts as authenticity is extremely various. Rather what many re-enactors desire as consensus history is something generally agreed upon, precisely to offset the controversies that on list lead to flame wars, and in other public spheres lead to history wars.

In many academic or politically progressive communities of practice controversy is the mark of cutting edge research or vibrant political critique and alliance building. Instead for re-enactors controversies are more generally the "noise" that has to be filtered out to create the momentary stabilities of enactment. Historical novelists often do the same thing, and so do many historical television documentaries, although not all. Typicality and generalizability are highly valued too as marks of such consensus history, and they are often highly valued in academic communities as well. Normalized histories, consensus histories, authorized histories, normative histories and official histories overlap in layers of locals and globals. The strategies of some social change activists may instead emphasize speculative history, counterhistory, and even counterfactual history.And all these forms of history can be interconnected within highly commercialized products, displaying academic capitalism interwoven with other culture industries. An example is the TV show you and I make a point of watching this evening after our Smithsonian excursion, where Disney's The Discovery Channel takes up a controversial excavation of an unknown woman by the Museum of London in 2000, creating our documentary Gladiatrix, which first aired in 2002, pointedly narrated byXena's Lucy Lawless. The documentary was anticipated by a Discover magazine article on the same topic. (Duffy et al., 2002) (Pringle, 2001) Penguin Putman recruits anthropology graduate student and U. Penn IT staff person Amy Kroll to write the companion book, which, like the documentary is subtitled: "the true story of history's unknown woman warrior." (Penn Current, 2002; Zoll, 2002) Commercial education sites post materials on female gladiators. (AHO, 2002; Classics Technology Center, 2000)

Meanwhile the Museum of London's archeological work itself complexly interweaves both the enterprise cultures of global cities and the heritage cultures of recrafted nationalisms for sale to tourists. Redevelopment and construction in London has to take its turn through the heritage industries first: quote: "Applications for new building are scrutinised by the Greater London Archaeology and Advisory Service (a department of English Heritage) or by archaeological officers in borough planning departments. If the site is of archaeological interest, the developer will be required to pay for an archaeological evaluation....Evaluations, excavations and other forms of fieldwork are not normally carried out by government agencies but by commercial or semi-commercial archaeological contractors--of which the Museum of London’s Archaeology Service is the largest in Europe" as the Museum of London explains on its web site. (Museum of London, 2002)

The day after the documentary Gladiatrix first airs, the Washington Post reports "Rome Puts Modern-Day Gladiators (and Caesars) Under Its Thumb." Gladiator re-enactors in Rome, both male and female, will be required to be licensed and to conform to city rules for authenticity. Two re-enactor groups, the Roman Centurions Association and the Roman History Group with its Gladiator School, thus gain semi-professional status in a move "to protect Rome's tourist image." (Williams, 2002) The re-enactments of, say, museum exhibitions, in contrast or in combination, create a greater range of pastpresents in play simultaneously, as they attempt to widen and expand their salience and authority. In other words, museum stabilities are intended to be longer, to cover more content, indeed may claim to "democratize" knowledge. Controversy as publicity might in limited cases be helpful, but controversy as "noise" that needs to be filtered out to achieve such stabilities may be damaging or even devastating.

The term "niche markets" is usually used to describe commercial products made for specific local audiences, like rainbow jewelry for gay folks. But what we see in the products of Gladiatrix and in the TV show Xena is something similar but also taken to the next level of complexity in layers of locals and globals: a single global product intended for a simultaneous nest of niche markets. Despite the common wisdom of Hollywood that valorizes the simplicity of genre formula as globally attractive, actually this complexity of address may also be attractive to specific global audiences. Indeed such complexity of address may be the form of "consciousness" cultivated by such cultural products, a consciousness appropriate in a globalized world not only of world-wide divisions of labor and production, but also of migrating populations, of cultural mixings in a range of media, of newly invented traditionalisms, such as religious fundamentalism and ethnic identities, and of sexual and family arrangements altered by the shape of global capitalism. Individual producers and advertisers are not in control of, indeed barely grasp, the commercial implications of these tastes and forms of consciousness. Nor do cultural critics know what they will come to mean in the future, what their political effects will be however much we might suspect terrors, or however much we might long for possibilities.

This brings me back to the notion of pastpresents, and of the "things" of various communities of practice, some of which, as in these TV shows and in the Inka khipu, are bits of pastpresents. Latour considers such "things" something both new and old simultaneously: he says: "'objects' which had been conceived as wholly exterior to the social and political realm, have become 'things' again, that is, in the sense of the mixture of assemblies, issues, causes for concerns, data, law suits, controversies which the words rescausachoseaitiading have designated in all the European languages." (Latour, 2002b)

Monday morning we run back to Science in American Life, now to think more about the forms of consciousness cultivated by this site of public knowledge, whose "things" are mixed together in nationalist, scholarly, scientific and industrial assemblies and controversies. Today we want to examine especially the life-size freestanding photo-figures of scientists which work to situate and create scales of importance all throughout the exhibit. One can stand next to one of these figures, inhabiting a space together with and also apart from them, simultaneously. They "speak" in exhibit labels written out or in video bits you have to initiate on monitors, commenting and making alliances across spacetime with other figures described or re-enacted in the exhibit. They inhabit recreated spaces set up as scenes in mini-historical dramas. For example, 21st century Harvard chemist Cynthia Friend's label tells me more about 19th c. MIT chemical instructor Ellen Swallow Richards, and allies with her as a woman scientist in the "Laboratory Science Comes to America" section. University of the District of Columbia South Asian biologist Vijaya L. Melnick's label explicates the complexities of the political history of birth control for the well being of women and children in the "Better than Nature" section. The life-sized mannequin of Susan Solomon in its re-enactment of the 1986 National Ozone Expedition site, speaks to us via video soundstick about the work of other women scientists in the "Science in the Public Eye" section. Science Studies critics Lynn Mulkey and William Dougan call these figures "Dummy Scientists" and these processes "shadowing." At the level of analysis they examine, they find these Dummy Scientists to be impositions of universalism normalizing science: they say: "...models and sketched caricatures and photographs of scientists are objectified images of abstract norms....From visual icons of persons of varied racial, ethnic, gender, and age origins emerges science. Science is important and witnessable against the backdrop of the unimportant attributes that change in relation to what is constant. This one is black and this one is white, this one is female and this one is male, but they all do science. To produce science, we ignore aspects or cues for how to associate--according to gender, race, age, and more." (Mulkey & Dougan, 1996)

But interlayered with a different scale of analysis highlighting instead agencies of varying ranges, these Dummy Scientists and the people they represent simultaneously might be understood also as "things" themselves in Latour's volatile fields of power, as well as "witnesses" and commentators within and upon these very processes. Again using but now also mutating Mulkey and Dougan, what they call the work of "shadowing," we might also understand as showing and tellingagencies as well as the compelling subjugations of subjectivity. They theorize: "Shadowing is a practice that styles, orders, shifts the observer's attention from 'knowing' to 'doing,' by encouraging the process of identification with the speaker, what is said and what is known. The observer first sees the scientists--'looks over her shoulder'--and then is the scientist. In essence, shadowing encourages the observer to identify with the object it observes. The persons speaking are no longer heard but may become internalized as the observer speaking. Shadowing distinguishes museum exhibition as a form of communication by accomplishing the task of getting the dissociated, estranged observer to 'act as if.' ...Particularly, the three-dimensional exhibits confront the observer with stark, life-sized scientist proxies. Viewers, in this case, unlike in television communication and in other forms of pictorial representation, are closely aligned with models of the subjects communicating." (Mulkey & Dougan, 1996)

But I want to lump together this shadowing with the doing re-enactments of this museum exhibition, and also with the re-enactments of TV shows and documentaries, using alternatively Donna Haraway's idea of "witnessing" in which persons and things have alliances too: "Witnessing is seeing; attesting; standing publicly accountable for, and psychically vulnerable to, one's visions and representations. Witnessing is a collective, limited practice that depends on the constructed and never finished credibility of those who do it, all of whom are mortal, fallible, and fraught with the consequences of unconscious and disowned desires and fears. A child of Robert Boyle's Royal Society of the English Restoration and of the experimental way of life, I remain attached to the figure of the modest witness. I still inhabit stories of scientific revolution as earthshaking mutations in the apparatuses of production of what may count as knowledge. A child of antiracist, feminist, multicultural, and radical science movements, I want a mutated modest witness to live in worlds of technoscience, to yearn for knowledge, freedom, and justice in the world of consequential facts...." "What will count as modesty now is a good part of what is at issue. Whose agencies will revised forms of 'modest witness' enhance, and whose will it displace?" (Haraway, 1997) (my emphasis)

Rather than distinguishing museum goers, I would interconnect them--as re-enactors, shadows, witnesses--with television viewers of do-it-yourself pastpresents in a wide variety of science TV documentaries playing off of reality shows and re-enactment histories. Re-enactors who play at being "there": on set, on site, in that past, in a past: mentally enacting, re-enacting, experimenting, speculating, trying to find evidence for various pastpresents. Witnessing as a root of the experimental life is given a literality in these do-it-yourself pastpresents, sometimes a participatory anti-elitism that may confirm or may silence its "parliament of things." These do-it-yourself pastpresents invite forms of identification and dis-identification: communities brought together and also pushed apart as the "us" moves around. Chronology becomes a tool for scale-making which allows for grained historical analyses of varying degrees, creating layers of "locals": the day, the year, the decade, the century; for example each describe a different grain for assessing the level of detail, particularity, locality. Scale-making and chronology are engaging partners. Together they make what anthropologist Kath Weston calls "time claims."

"There can be no time claim without a time frame: history, infinity, chronology, generation, era, future/past. Implicit in these claims are modes of temporality (regressing, moving ahead, modern traditions, coming back around) and morality (stolen futures, lost generation, better days). In relativizing fashion, time claims tether me, you, and our brother's keeper to our respective timespots .... Time claims can even naturalize or denaturalize the very modes of reckoning embedded within them." (Weston, 2002) (my emphasis) Situating our moment's globalization processes in which we are encouraged to make time claims by "traveling through a racialized, sexualized museum called the past," Weston is careful to point out that globalization is not a new phenomenon, although some of its current features are specific: "Since the days of the Silk Route, since the even earlier period of Buddhist maritime trade, the earth has witnessed many rounds of what could be called globalization. In the latest episode, capital flows and speculation cast a long shadow over trade." (Weston, 2002) And she has a very different take on the shifting salience of such categories as age, race, gender, nation than their erasure under universalism as described by Mulkey and Dougan. Rather under globalization's layers of locals and globals salience is dynamically scaled and rescaled, in terror and possibility: "It can help to know that a genderless world is now and here.... In the nations that direct this global economy, gender zeros out on a regular basis as bodies are called in and out of classification.... During that flash of an instant when a person become unsexed, gender temporarily passes away, rather than bringing the curtain down on some world-historical stage.... Gender relations in the era of global capitalism constantly vanishing, never quite gone.... The zero that is unsexed holds open a place for regrouping in the wake of those moments when things come undone." (Weston, 2002)

When I pointed out earlier: "For exhibit makers, for teachers, for cultural critics, for analysts of all kinds, talking about something may appear to others to include denying that something, or include making talking about it more important than the thing itself..."; here it was scale-making itself at issue, levels of abstraction and salience, significance. Shifting scales make it possible for Latour to suggest: "The relevant question...would no longer be, 'Is it or isn't it constructed?' but rather: 'How do you manufacture them?' And, above all, 'How do you verify that they are well constructed?' Here is where the negotiations could begin: with the question of the right ways to build." (Latour, 2002b)

In the anteroom of the Science in American Life exhibit, where the Dummy Scientists assemble, and where their voices speak into the air without reference to any intention on our parts, Mulkey and Dougan's debunking of the multicultural universalism constructed by figuring scientists in mere accidental variants of age, gender, ethnicity, race and nation makes one kind of sense. But that very sense is mutated elsewhere, when they speak more directly and particularly, echoing Donna Haraway's version of Whitehead, "reaching into each other, through their 'prehensions' or graspings... constitut[ing] each other and themselves," and us, when we invite their speech. (Haraway, 2003) By implication they and we associate and dissociate these only sometimes "accidentals" with other interests, situated knowledges and spacetimes; they offer commentary less amenable to such flattening out, and one feels more and less inclined to ally with particular folks on the basis of their differing implicit and explicit social and epistemological politics. Calling them and oneself in and out of alliance and its classifications, that momentary universalism shades into other ranges of affiliation and disfiliation, such momentary universalisms occasionally holding "open a place for regrouping in the wake of those moments when things come undone." Salience becomes tangible, literal, experimental. These flexible knowledges, create, depend upon, intra-act in what I call "audience polyphony." Audiences and markets shift and converge in that complex address of multiple audiences, in that contradictory nest of niche political and epistemological "markets." Rich contradictory nestings permit and require visitors to select among possible salient narratives by animating differently layers of locals and globals.

When, in community colloquia, I first introduced women's studies colleagues to the scholarship of such feminist technoscience theorists as Leigh Star and Lucy Suchman, that their investigations had at times been conducted at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (Xerox PARC) was deauthorizing for some. They were skeptical about the work of those "commercially contaminated." Collective research supported by such "global" commercial facilities was especially foreign to the epistemological alliances and political resistances in the communities of practice of those in the humanities in our public, state-funded university. My colleagues misrecognized in understandable but inadequate resistance our own already existing, although sometimes invisible and certainly unevenly distributed and layered implication in enterprise culture under academic capitalism. (Poovey, 2001) We desperately need sometimes thoughtful sometimes extravagant strategies for resisting, refusing, altering, mutating academic capitalism, and I look to forms of glocalization to help us understand and imagine them.


[1] The Dummy Scientists are named, representing specific people. They are, in rough order of appearance (* indicates which ones appear in later parts of the exhibit):

*Vijaya L. Melnick, biology (South Asian woman)

*Cynthia Friend, chemist (white woman)

*Matthew George, evolutionary biology (black man)

*S.B. Woo, physicist (Asian man)

Jo Anne V. Simson, cell biologist (white woman)

Jonathan A. Coddington, arachnologist (young white man)

Samuel T. Durrance, astronomer and astronaut (white man)

Rita R. Colwell, microbiologist (older white woman)

*Susan Solomon, atmospheric chemist (white woman)

*Jose V. Martinez, chemical physicist (Hispanic man)

The children are:

Mitzuki Tanabe, 8th grade (Asian girl; interest in genetic engineering)

Kyle Connor, 6th grade (black boy; interest in chemical science)

The laminated book, which describes all of them, not in any obvious order, uses these categories for adult scientists: name, position, photo, quote; most exciting thing about your work, proudest moments, most important [--lost word?]; spare time pursuits, another photo. For the children the categories are: name, grade, photo, quote; science interest, photo, hobbies.

[2] Joan Jett in episode # 92101-5 (5th episode in season one 1992) "Free Fall." See (Davis, Panzer, Charret, & Ginsburg, 1995a) I believe it was originally broadcast 9 December 1992. Vanity in episode # 92109-10 (10th episode in season one 1992) "Revenge is Sweet." See (Davis, Panzer, Charret, & Ginsburg, 1995b) I believe it was originally broadcast 9 December 1992. More successful was Sheena Easton in episode # 93205-27 (5th episode in season two 1993) "An Eye for an Eye." See (Davis, Panzer, Charret, & Ginsburg, 1995d) It may have been originally broadcast 25 October 1993.

[3] Episode # 92121-18 (18th episode in season one 1993) "The Lady and the Tiger." See (Davis, Panzer, Charret, & Ginsburg, 1995c) I believe it was originally broadcast 10 November 1993.

[4] Episode # 93207-29 (7th episode in season two 1993) "The Return of Amanda." See (Davis, Panzer, Charret, & Ginsburg, 1995e) I believe it was originally broadcast 15 December 1993. Episode # 93219-41 (19th episode in season two 1994) "Legacy." See (Davis, Panzer, Charret, & Ginsburg, 1995f) I believe it was originally broadcast 10 May 1994.

[5] For example (Dugaw, 1989) (Blanton, 1993; Burgess & Wakeman, 1994; Fraser, 1989; Newark, 1989; Wheelwright, 1989) Later examples: (Creighton & Norling, 1996; Davis-Kimball & Behan, 2002; Druett, 2000; Howe, 2002; Lorimer & Synarski, 2002; Stanley, Chambers, Murray, & Wheelwright, 1995)

[6] (Goldman, 1982) Also (Enloe, 1983, 1990, 1993) For changing numbers and career paths see {(DoD) Department of Defense , 2002 February #5479} For women soldier re-enactor sites see (AMI, 2002; W. A. King, 2002) For discussions of women in the US military today see (Feinman, 2000; Francke, 1997; Herbert, 1998; Rhem, 2002)

[7] Episode # 92101-5 (18th episode in season three 1995) "Take Back the Night." See (Davis, Panzer, Charret, & Ginsburg, 1996) I believe it was originally broadcast 11 December 1995.

[8] (Rami, Tapert, & MCA Television, 1995-2001)


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