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Workshop: Little Technologies / Big Histories

November 15, 2018 - November 16, 2018

“Little Technologies / Big Histories”

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A one-day workshop featuring on-going and in-progress research by UW students, fellows, and faculty. The workshop highlights the trans-regional, global, and “big” histories of small, portable technologies—including consumer goods, household items, and office machines—that changed the way people conducted their everyday affairs and left an imprint on daily life. Taking inspiration from David Arnold’s work on “everyday technology”, Tom Mullaney’s history of the Chinese typewriter, and recent scholarship in bureaucracy studies, the histories of science and technology, and print history, this workshop brings together scholars working on Asia, Africa, and the Americas to showcase the global travel of technology through imperial and consumer networks and the contributions of inventors, tinkerers, and designers who made these technologies meet local demands and individual needs.


Thursday, November 15, 2018
University Club (803 State St.)

900–9:30: Opening Remarks (Elizabeth Lhost)

9:30–11:00: Session 1

  • Jo Ann Oravec (UW–Whitewater): Everyday Technologies of Instruction, Attention, and Collaboration:Ephemerality and Materiality Perspectives on Blackboards, Greenboards, Whiteboards, and Smartboards
  • Lu Liu (UW–Madison, Asian Languages and Cultures): Bacterial Imaginations: Regime of the Microscope in the 1952 Anti-Germ Warfare Campaign”

11:15–12:45: Session 2

  • Kevin Walters (UW–Madison, History): A Tale of Two Transfers: Harry Steenbock and the Movement and Transformation of University Technology, 1925-1980
  • Yujie Li (University of Chicago, History): The Birth of Phoenix: The Socialist Transformation of Shanghai Bicycle Industry in the 1950s

1:00–2:00: Lunch for Participants and Discussants

2:15–3:45: Session 3

  • Andrew Amstutz (University of Arkansas, Little Rock, History): ’The Lead Letters of Nasta’līq’: Calligraphy and Type in late colonial India
  • Florence Hsia (UW–Madison, History): Cutting Corners

3:45–4:15: Wrap-up Discussion, Day One

4:30: Hilldale Lecture at The Pyle Center“Asymmetries in Global Information and Language Technology, 1800 to the Present”

Thomas S. Mullaney
Stanford University, Department of History

Friday, November 16, 2018
University Club (803 State St.)

9:00–10:30: Session 4

  • Elizabeth Fretwell (Reed College): Tailoring Technologies: The Transformative Power of Sewing Machines, Measuring Tapes, and Diplomas in Benin, West Africa
  • Yanie Fécu (UW–Madison, English): Frantz Fanon and the BBC’s Resistant Frequencies

10:45–11:45 Session 5

  • Kevin Walters (UW–Madison, History), Discussion: Wisconsin Technologies in the World
  • Elizabeth Lhost (UW–Madison), Discussion: Teaching the Histories of Technology

With comments from: Anthony Cerulli (ALC), Anatoly Detwyler (ALC), Judd Kinzley (History), Elizabeth Lhost (Legal Studies) Siddharth Menon (Geography), Keren Omry (IRH); Dan Stolz (History)

12:00–1:30: Book Panel Discussion, University Club Banquet Room

Join us for a discussion of Thomas Mullaney’s The Chinese Typewriter: A History (MIT Press, 2017)

Featuring: Anatoly Detwyler (UW–Madison, ALC), Greg Downey (UW–Madison, Journalism/Mass Comm), Lu Liu (UW–Madison, ALC) and the author, Thomas S. Mullaney (Stanford University, History)

Moderated by Elizabeth Lhost (UW–Madison, Legal Studies)

RSVP for lunch to rsvp@humanities.wisc.edu by November 8th.

Papers for the workshop are pre-circulated. Please email elizabeth@wisc.edu for access.



November 15, 2018
November 16, 2018
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University Club
803 State St
Madiison, WI 53703 United States
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