Theme issue of Geographica Helvetica – call for papers: "Development in action: development geography meets science and technology studies"

25 March 2021

With his landmark book "Science in Action" (1988) philosopher of science Bruno Latour famously summarized an – at the time more widely emerging – empirical philosophy that aimed to understand science in situ or as it happens. Over the following decades, ethnographers have entered labs, planning and design offices, corporations, and hospitals to study how science is done or enacted in lived practice. However, until today, the large majority of studies of "science in action" remain focused on the global north. Especially in the field of development studies, material-semiotic perspectives such as actor–network theory are almost completely absent. Nevertheless, ever since the Truman doctrine, science has played an important role in development cooperation and visions of societal transformations more generally. Development projections, policies, and projects still have immense authority in societies of the global south.

Yet the role of science and its workings and effects remain little studied in development geography. While practice theories and postcolonial perspectives are well established in German-speaking development geography (Neuburger & Schmitt, 2012; Deffner et al., 2014), with this call for papers we seek to initiate an empirically based discussion on the opportunities and possible pitfalls of a development geography being in close conversation with science and technology studies. Emphasizing that development can only be understood in its respective manufacturing processes, we invite contributions that examine development geographies "in action" and provide answers to (at least one of) the following questions:

  • What role does scientific literature and evidence play in formulating desirable futures reachable through development projects?
  • What role do artefacts such as flagship reports, evaluation methods and indices, scientific pedagogy, and infrastructure etc. play for the construction of success or failure of development policies?
  • What kind of evidence counts, and which (academic and scientific) approaches might be neglected or sidelined?
  • In what ways are theoretical concepts, empirical studies, and political agendas intertwined with each other when it comes to development research?
  • How does scientific knowledge produced in development studies contribute to a silent reproduction of taken-for-granted facts and unquestioned states of affairs?

Deepening and extending the initial ideas of Carolin Schurr and Julia Verne (2017), this theme issue seeks to foster a lively conversation between science and technology studies and development geography with the aim to jointly craft a new perspective on how science, technology, and development are interwoven with each other and work in their manifold actualizations.

To participate in the planned theme issue, please send an abstract with a maximum of 300 words by Friday, 2 April 2021 to, or Final papers should be submitted by 30 July 2021.