Systems of Systems: Fieldwork on Systems  as Relational Technologies in U.S. Outer  Space and Marine Environments

Systems of Systems: Fieldwork on Systems as Relational Technologies in U.S. Outer Space and Marine Environments
Valerie Olson
Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, UC Irvine
“System” is a ubiquitous modern concept that tends to have more histories written about it than ethnographies. In the wake of critiques of 20th century systems theory as totalizing and deterministic, anthropologists prefer using post‐
systems concepts like network, assemblage, and infrastructure to analyze things that hang together and are in processes of emergence. However, in 21st century settings, worlds are known and experienced as systems of systems.
In the U.S., elite social groups continue to research, build, and manage systems as authoritative objects of scientific practice, political control, and spatial governance. Using data from fieldwork on U.S. human spaceflight and the 2012 BP oil spill, I describe how “system” is deployed as a powerful relational technology to know and manage an unmarked ecosystemic human. In these settings, “system” is a tool for scaling human ecologies, ordering human connections between living and nonliving things, and creating governable “systems subjectivities.”
12:00‐1:00 FREE EVENT in Burke Auditorium, Kroon Hall
Lunch will be provided – first come, first served