Call for Panelists

46th Symposium of the International Committee for the History of Technology Katowice, Poland, 22-27 July 2019

Governing natures. From marshy wastelands to a symbol of power.
Session proposal by Sławomir Łotysz
Deadline: 15 February 2019

This panel aims to explore the question of managing nature, particularly the transformation of barren lands into arable areas as a political act, rather than an engineering/agricultural enterprise.

The reclamation of wetlands is often seen as an agricultural engineering process to turn swamps into productive farming land, or – particularly in the case of tropical zones – as a means of combating malaria. There is also a symbolic layer, in which drainage of swamps imposes dominion over land, allowing civilization and progress. History teaches us, however, that apart from economic reasons, health concerns or symbolic motives, the amelioration of wetlands has often been used as an effective tool in the political agenda of governments, particularly authoritarian powers. In the Italy of the 1920s for example, the draining of the Pontine marshes helped build Mussolini’s image as a leader. At about the same time the Polish authorities planned to do the same with the Pripet marshes; the drained land was to be populated by ethnic Poles, leading to a complete change in the ethnic composition of the so-called Eastern Borderlands. Both the Nazi Germans and Soviets took up and intensified drainage works in occupied Poland, using amelioration for propaganda purposes to paint themselves as good administrators of the land. Just like monumental architecture, large-scale landscaping projects are an emanation of power. Conquering nature require enormous resources and legions of well trained engineers that only the most wealthy and advanced nations can wield.

Apart from imposing political power over land and people, enormous melioration projects execute a human/ideological/technological dominance over nature that turns it into a theatre  of utopian, techno-enthusiastic interferences with its ecosystems. The land that is perceived as savage and wasted is turned into a productive asset that is manageable in technocratic terms.

This panel seeks contributions on similar reclamation projects in any part of the world, that support or challenge the above-stated arguments. Possible contributions could even go beyond the nature of land reclamation projects to include other kinds of large-scale interventions in the natural world.

Themes of particular interest to this panel include, but are not limited to:

  • Official and private narratives concerning particular projects,
  • Political agenda in the national and transnational contexts,
  • Cultural representations of great engineering projects in the visual arts, literature, and memory,
  • Resistance to projects on environmental/national/economical grounds,
  • Draining marshes as extending an ecumene – a habitable zone,
  • Changing the notion of swamps as ‘wasteland’,
  • Draining swamps as an act of healing ‘unhealthy’ land.

If you are interested in participating, please send an abstract (max. 300 words) and a short CV by the 15th of February to Sławomir Łotysz (

Negotiating Infrastructures: Inter- and Transnational Negotiations and Cooperation in Setting up and Launching Large Scale Infrastructure Projects during the Cold War

Session proposal by Jiří Janáč, Sławomir Łotysz, and Doubravka Olšáková

Deadline: 10 February 2019

Dr. Jiří Janáč, Institute of Contemporary History, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague
Dr. Sławomir Łotysz,  Institute for the History of Science, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland
Dr. Doubravka Olšáková, Institute of Contemporary History, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague

Global infrastructuralism considerably shaped the development of science in the 19th and 20th Century. On the one hand, the meteorology is one of classical examples of a new science promoting the global approach and cooperation. On the other hand, a new type of robust research infrastructures was born during the Cold War, their format ranging from international institutions such as CERN to monitoring networks initiated and granted by WHO. Nevertheless, both centuries are considered as centuries of the rise of nationalism (E. Hobsbawm) promoting national sovereignity and national interests. How did such seemingly contradictory phenomena play out in the evolution of science? How should we define the role of science diplomacy under these circumstances? And how did the fast expanding architecture of the monitoring networks/institutional infrastructures interplay with the political dynamics of the Cold War?

Cold War historiography has been recently subjected to twofold revision – first, it has been positioned within larger processes of historical change, beyond the simplistic perspective of East-West antagonism and, secondly and subsequently, the focus moved away from the two superpowers and bipolar Europe to global affairs and broad cultural context.

How can we describe the role of various intergovernmental, international, transnational and supranational organizations, such as the EEC, UNO, NATO or the COMECON (CMEA), in the implementation of this kind of infrastructures in Cold War context? We welcome all papers dealing with European history as well as the history of the Third World countries or any aspects of the global history.

The panel/symposium is co-sponsored by the DHST Commission on Science, Technology and Diplomacy.

Proposals must include: (1) a 300-word (maximum) abstract; and (2) a one-page (maximum) CV. Abstracts should include the author’s name and email address, a short descriptive title, 3-5 key words, a concise statement of the thesis, a brief discussion of the sources, and a summary of the major conclusions. Please send your proposals to – the deadline: 10th February 2019.

Session proposal by Stefan Poser and Artemis Yagou: “Challenging Power through Playing with Technology”

Deadline: 13 January 2019

Private and public institutions shape life through the design of various technical products and services for daily use. In many cases, users employ such products and services as recommended by advertisements and manuals provided by manufacturers or as dictated by institutionally-defined regulations. Other users do not follow these conventions and develop their own modes of usage or technical solutions. We aim to explore new historical perspectives on the question of how and why people deal with technology, by examining playful and unconventional uses of technical products and services. Such approaches to technology question the power relations embedded in products and services, but may also be classified as exercises in power. What are the consequences and wider implications?

The session in Katowice will focus on the following themes in the history of technology:

– Playful and challenging approaches to products and services (e.g. Tinkering, Geocaching)

– Creatively overcoming technical limitations or undermining technologies (e.g. Hacking)

– Transgressing boundaries and taking risks (e.g. Train surfing).

Contributions on other playful approaches to technology are also welcome.

Please send your proposal (abstract of 300 words and one-page CV) to Stefan Poser and Artemis Yagou until 13 January 2019. Thank you.

Dr. Stefan Poser, Helmut-Schmidt University, Hamburg,

Dr. Artemis Yagou, Deutsches Museum, Munich,

Session proposal by Magdalena Zdrodowska: “History of Technology and Disability” 

Deadline: 15 February 2019

Dear Colleagues,

I am planning a session on complicated and mutual relations between technology and the disability for 2019 ICOHTEC conference to be held in Katowice, Poland 22-27 July 2019 and seeking panelists. Panel will engage with the conference theme (technology and power) by examining the disability-technology relations in local, state contexts as well as globally, and intersections of disability and poverty, gender or ethnicity – all these aspects influence the accessibility as well as development of instruments, services and “technical literacy”.

Please have a look at the list of potential topics, and consider it more as an inspiration than a closed and ready catalog of problems:

  1. The bio/medical technologies as biopolitical tool
  2. strategies and contexts of resistance against bio/medical technologies
  3. prosthesis as cultural artefact and political statement
  4. dis/emancipatory technologies
  5. global and postcolonial aspects of relations between technology and disability
  6. special – mainstream – and back again: assistive technologies
  7. the cyborgisation of the disabled body
  8. disabled users and DIY practices: reusing, repairing and tinkering as inventing
  9. the disabled inventors

To submit proposal please send it to by 15 February 2019, as the session proposals deadline is 18 February 2019. In your proposal please include a 300-word abstract and a one-page CV.

Symposium proposal by Bart Hacker and Ciro Paoletti: 14th Annual Symposium of the Social History of Military Technology at the46th Symposium of the International Committee for the History of Technology, Katowice, Poland, 22–27 July 2019

We seek proposals for papers to be presented in the 14th Annual Symposium of the Social History of Military Technology (14SSHMT), scheduled as part of the program for the 46th Conference of the International Committee for the History of Technology (ICOHTEC), Katowice, Poland, 22–27 July 2019. ICOHTEC has selected the general theme of Technology and Power.” Among the several subthemes listed, one is particularly relevant to our symposium: State Power and Military Technology, which identifies a number of specific topics (see the ICOHTEC 2019 CfP at: In submitting a proposal for 14SSHMT, you are encouraged, but not required, to address the ICOHTEC theme and subthemes. General information about lodging, transportation, travel grants, and other matters will be posted on the conference website:
The Symposium of the Social History of Military Technology, a regular part of the ICOHTEC annual meeting since 2005, strives to move beyond the narrow material focus that the history of military technology often assumes among fans, antiquarians, and many historians. As commonly practiced, the history of military technology centers on weaponry, warships, fortifications, or other physical manifestations of warfare, stressing their making, workings, or usage. Historians have also tended to assume a strictly utilitarian and rational basis for military technological invention and innovation. However necessary they may be, such approaches largely ignore some very important questions. What are the contexts of social values, attitudes, and interests, non-military as well as military, that shape and support (or oppose) these technologies? How do the social order and military technology reciprocally interact? Or, more generally: How do social and cultural environments within the military itself or in the larger society affect military technological change? And the indispensable corollary: How does changing military technology affect other aspects of society and culture? In brief, this symposium will address military technology as both agent and object of social change, taking a very broad view that encompasses not only the production, distribution, use, and replacement of weapons and weapon systems, but also communications, logistics, medicine, and other technologies of military relevance, as well as sciences of military interest.
We seek papers about: (1) representations of weapons as well as weapons themselves, about ideas as well as hardware, about organization as well as materiel; (2) ways in which social class, race, gender, culture, economics, politics, or other extra-military factors have influenced and been influenced by the invention, r&d, diffusion, or use of weapons or other military technologies; (3) the roles that military technologies play in shaping and reshaping the relationships of soldiers to other soldiers; soldiers to military, political, and social institutions; and military institutions to other social institutions, most notably political and economic; and/or (4) historiographical or museological topics that discuss how military technology has been analyzed, interpreted, and understood in other fields, other cultures, and other times. Pre-modern and non-Western topics are particularly welcome.
All proposals must be submitted in English. Although papers may be presented in English, French, German, Spanish, or Russian, ICOHTEC does not provide simultaneous translation. Proposals must include a short descriptive title of the paper, an abstract (maximum 300 words), and a short CV (maximum 1 page).
(1) Abstracts are strictly limited to no more than 300 words. They should include a concise statement of the thesis, a brief discussion of the sources, and a summary of the major conclusions. Please do not include notes or bibliography.
(2) Your CV must be no longer than 1 page, It should include your educational and professional employment histories, notice of significant publications and/or presentations. You may include other relevant information in the CV, as long as you do not exceed the 1-page limit. Be sure to include your name and email address, and to specify your present institutional affiliation (or independent status).
Do not submit your paper proposal to ICOHTEC. Bart Hacker and Ciro Paoletti are organizing the symposium. Send your proposal to Bart Hacker at: <>, no later than 10 January 2019, but earlier is better. Bart and Ciro will assemble and submit the complete symposium. Please feel free to distribute this CFP to anyone you believe may be interested and qualified.