South America

A failed platform: The Citizen Consensus Conference travels to Chile

Sebastián Ureta

This article starts by reviewing the setbacks that the recent Science and Technology Studies literature has identified in the functioning of technologies of democracy, the different arrangements that look to enact deliberation on technoscientific issues. Putting a focus on the Citizen Consensus Conference, it then proposes that several of these setbacks are related to the kind of “work” that these technologies are expected to do, identifying two kinds of it: performing a laboratory-based experiment and constituting a platform for the dissemination of facts. It then applies this framework to study a Citizen Consensus Conference carried out in Chile in 2003. After a detailed genealogy of the planning, implementation and afterlife of this exercise, the article concludes that several of the limitations experienced are derived from a “successful outcome” conceived as solely running a neat lab-based experiment, arguing for the need to incorporate its functioning as a platform with all the associated transformations and messiness.


Citizen cartography, strategies of resistance to established knowledge and collective forms of knowledge building

Jorgelina Sannazzaro

Cultivation of genetically modified soybeans with the use of herbicides is now becoming widespread in Argentina. This work addresses an emblematic case of knowledge articulation between experts, professionals and communities, namely, the case of an association of people affected by fumigation Grupos de Pueblos Fumigados (GPF). The GPF warns against agrochemical spraying in urban areas, and its activists collect and disseminate information about its impact with a view to banning the practice. Here, we apply Parthasarathy’s framework, used to analyse the strategies employed by activists to break the expertise barrier, to the case of the GPF, adding a new category to her original four strategies. There is an institutionalizing potential in these social and environmental movements, many of which are organized in the form of Civic Assemblies. The composition of the assemblies reflects a heterogeneous and multi-sectorial character; they articulate a new kind of knowledge that can be an appropriate interlocutor for traditional expert knowledge.


Natural Wonders and Scientific Performance: A Mexican Eclipse and Its Uses

Susana Biro

The observation of the total eclipse of the sun of 1923 by Mexican astronomers was a scientific expedition like many of the time. It was also the conjunction of a wonderful natural spectacle and the performance of scientific observation staged by Mexican astronomers before three audiences: other scientists, government officials, and members of society. This case study shows how demonstrations are an integral part of the practice of science and can be useful for obtaining visibility and support.


‘On my mind’s world map, I see an Africa’: Bando de Teatro Olodum’s re-routing of Afro-Brazilian identity

Michelle Nicholson-Sanz

A group of black children in the city of Salvador da Bahia, intrigued by their teacher’s explanation that black Brazilians are descendants of Africans, embark on a quest to search for Africa. This is the central plot of Áfricas – Bando de Teatro Olodum’s theatre production for young people that premiered in 2007 (Teatro Vila Velha, Salvador da Bahia). In this critical reflection I focus on the productive intersections between diaspora and race, and consider the ways in which Áfricas claims a diaspora sensibility for Afro-Brazilians by enacting, both for the performers and for the audience, an awareness of themselves as an ethnic group with transnational roots. Drawing on understandings of diaspora as a contingent process rather than a way to reify certain communities, I argue that Áfricas’ staging of the connections between Brazil and Africa opens up a space in which young audiences can engage in what Chantal Mouffe calls ‘agonistic pluralism’ (2007), a debate in which passions and affects critically inform ‘the creation of collective political identities’. I assert that the show’s exploration of new formulations of Afro-Brazilian identity serves a therapeutic function for the black community in Salvador, who are often excluded in a country where the whiter one looks ensures greater access to social and economic privileges.