Recent studies in STS and anthropology have elucidated that the travel of science has been entangled with various forms of travel, including indigenous modes. While the Western style of travel often entails comparative imaginations about the difference between places and people focusing on culture, some anthropologists argue that the indigenous conceptualization of difference and travel can be radically different from Western notions. This article explores the intricate relationship between travel of technology and imaginations about difference by focusing on two modes of comparisons found in engineering practices in two significantly different contexts in Thailand: in a technology-transfer project sponsored by the Japanese government and in small factories in the informal sector, which is the supposed target of the project. In both contexts, comparisons between engineering practices are almost inevitable as the Japanese engineers and Thai mechanics make sense of the relationships between the two countries as iterated in their practices. Embedded in the structure of the Japanese transfer project is an interest in the social contexts of technology; following that impulse, this article juxtaposes two largely different modes of travel and comparative imaginations and sheds light on the unnoticed presumptions of the modern comparative imagination.
Traveling Engineers, Machines, and Comparisons: Intersecting Imaginations and Journeys in the Thai Local Engineering Industry
Atsuro Morita is associate professor of anthropology at Osaka University. He has been researching the development of local engineering practice and technology transfer in Thailand and published an ethnography of the local engineering industry titled Engineering in the Wild (in Japanese, 2012). His English publications include “Anthropology as Critique of Reality: A Japanese Turn” (with Casper Jensen, 2012) and “Environmental Infrastructures of Emergency: The Formation of a Civic Radiation Monitoring Map during the Fukushima Disaster” (with Anders Blok and Shuhei Kimura, 2013).
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Atsuro Morita; Traveling Engineers, Machines, and Comparisons: Intersecting Imaginations and Journeys in the Thai Local Engineering Industry. East Asian Science, Technology and Society 1 June 2013; 7 (2): 221–241. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/18752160-2145403
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