Volume 5.1 (Spring 2021)

Thomas David DuBois There’s a Body in the Kitchen! A Cook’s-Eye View of Sichuan Cuisine

Over the past century, transmission of Chinese cooking technique shifted from teacher to text, while its regional cuisines emerged as global cultural brands. Each of these phenomena represents a distinct way of knowing food. Based on the author’s experience learning Sichuan cooking in a Chengdu trade school and in the kitchens of two of the city’s best-regarded restaurants, this essay compares the relative weighting of artisanal and culinary knowledge. It questions the role of heritage programs in upscaling training, emphasizes the socialization process of a working kitchen, and extols the unique insights to be gained from getting your hands dirty.

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Damien Droney In the Path of the Black Panther: Science, Technology, and Speculative Fiction in African Studies

Drawing on Marvel’s Black Panther and the work of the authors Nnedi Okorafor, Tade Thompson, and Deji Olukotun, this article argues that African-oriented speculative fiction resonates with major narratives in the social study of science and technology in Africa. They depict the erasure of African expertise by hegemonic understandings of science and technology, illustrate historically specific meanings of the cultural categories of science and technology, and challenge conventional approaches to the distinction between magic and technology and the politics of temporality. Although always partial and situated, speculative fiction offers incisive analyses of science and technology in Africa.

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Daniel Margócsy The Pineapple and the Worms

This article examines how the reception history of Maria Sibylla Merian’s oeuvre may shed light on the role of medicine in interpreting art around 1700. The focus is on Merian’s iconic images of the pineapple, a fruit that many considered a potential source of disease. The years when Merian was active saw the eruption of debates over the origins of intestinal worms and the possible role of sweet fruits as carriers of the invisible eggs of these parasites. The key figures in these helminthological debates were also the interlocutors and collectors of Merian, including the physicians Richard Mead and Hans Sloane. A study of the writings of these medical professionals reveals that, for Europeans in this period, exotic fruits indicated not only the bountiful productivity of tropical nature but also its inherent dangers. Using this case study, this article therefore argues that dietetics and medicine played a key role in the interpretation of art in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when physicians had a strong presence in the world of collecting works of art.

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Alexander Campolo “Thinking, Judging, Noticing, Feeling”: John W. Tukey against the Mechanization of Inferential Knowledge

During the past half-century, a set of statistical techniques and ideas about inference have experienced a remarkable scientific success. Significance at the 5 percent level has come to mark a clear and distinct criterion for scientific knowledge in a wide range of fields. Recently, however, this convention has been embroiled in controversy, as the relentless pursuit of significance has produced a range of well-known scientific abuses. Instead of staking out a position in these debates, this article analyzes the history of epistemological values underlying them. It focuses on an earlier critic of the misuse of statistical tests: John W. Tukey. Speaking to behavioral scientists in the middle of the twentieth century, Tukey insisted that reducing inference to a set of universal rules or mechanical procedures to eliminate uncertainty was a pursuit doomed to failure. Scientists needed to accept the irreducibility of individual judgments and decisions in data analysis, even when they risked charges of subjectivism or arbitrariness. For Tukey, the enforcement of scientific consensus and even the value of objectivity must yield to empirical judgments and an ethic of individual conscience. These values were informed by his comparative understanding of the history of science, which reserved a special place for empiricism in younger sciences. Reconstructing Tukey’s work offers an alternative perspective on the quantitative, formal objectivity of the postwar sciences as well as the present, where big data and machine learning have raised thorny new problems for statistical inference and scientific expertise.

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Ku-ming (Kevin) Chang For the Love of the Truth: The Dissertation as a Genre of Scholarly Publication in Early Modern Europe

The “dissertation,” a text prepared for public disputation, constituted a special but expansive genre of scholarly publication in early modern Europe. This article explicates the significance of the dissertation in the production, communication, and organization of knowledge in this period, especially in Protestant Germanic countries. It shows how different the early modern dissertation was from its descendant today and places it in the context of development from the medieval disputation to the modern dissertation. It also explicates the importance of the dissertation in intellectual, cultural, and publication history and supplements the literature on the Republic of Letters.

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Alexander Campolo, Postdoctoral Researcher and Instructor, Institute on the Formation of Knowledge, University of Chicago

Ku-Ming (Kevin) Chang, Associate Professor/Research Fellow, Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica

Damien Droney, Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Oberlin College

Thomas David DuBois, Professor of Humanities, Beijing Normal University; Research Affiliate, Fudan Development Institute

Daniel Margócsy, Reader in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge