Panel 48

STS in Italy before STSItalia

Organizers: Gerardo Ienna (1,2); Alvise Mattozzi (3)

1: Università di Verona; 2: University of Maryland; 3: Politecnico di Torino

Topics: Sociomaterialities of conflict and peace; Knowledge co-creation, citizens science, co-design processes, material publics and grassroot innovation; Ethics, innovation and responsibility in technoscience; The value of science, technology, innovation and research practices; Building alliances in public participation and engagement

Keywords: History of STS, Italy, movements, Marxism, sixties and seventies

Italy has gone through various interesting times. Among them, one of the most relevant has been the season of struggles, contestations and reforms that occurred between the 1960s and the 1970s (’68, autunno caldo, ’77). During such season, a Marxism inspired reflection about the relations among science, technology and society emerged, together with alternative ways of engaging in such relations. At the time, questioning, reframing and experimenting with the relations among science, technology and society regarded, among others,

  • the social and political responsibility of physicists
  • the role of public and occupational health, life sciences, environmentalism in industrial conflicts, a battle that anticipates more acknowledged lay-experts involvement in health research and policies,
  • the impact of the emergence of computer science in advanced capitalist societies (e.g., division and organization of labor; uses in health care; impact on scientific production; surveillance, etc.)
  • various forms of citizen re-appropriation of technology (e.g., “radio libere”, etc.) that may be considered precursors of various groups that promote innovation from below studied today by STS scholars.

These reflections and engagements were, of course, not an exception. For instance, during the same years Science for the People in the US, the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science and the Radical Science Journal in Great Britain, as well as intiatives connected to the idea of the “Critique des sciences” in France, were developing similar practices of reflection and engagement.

However, whereas the relevant role played by social movements in US, Great Britain and France has been investigated in order to understand their contribution to the genesis of STS and similar fields of research, the role of Italian movements, groups, organizations and initiatives has not been considered in connection with STS.

Though there have been contacts between specific Italian groups and initiatives and those of other countries more directly related to the birth of STS, there is no a direct connection between what happened in Italy and the development of STS. Thus, the analysis of what happened in Italy in the 1960s and 1970s in the field of science, technology and society still remains not only largely unexplored, but also completely removed from the narratives of the STS field, in Italy and, of course, elsewhere.

However, we deem that the Italian way of questioning, reframing and experimenting with the relations among science, technology and society has original aspects that deserve to be explored and put in tension with the development of STS and with the present STS knowledge and researches, thus remediating a situation characterized by an almost neglect.

This call asks for papers of historical and sociological nature, as well as for epistemological-methodological reflections about these almost forgotten paths (in Italy or elsewhere), with the threefold goal of 1) reconstructing a narrative of STS history that takes into account the mentioned marginalized threads, 2) understanding the reasons of the neglect these threads have undergone, 3) consider what can be learned from those experiences for interesting worlds to come.