Decolonizing the Technological Imagination: Towards a Framework for the History of Technology
For the last 50 years, historians of technology have focused primarily on case studies of recent history. I argue that scholars need a new framework — one that includes prehistory and archaic states' technological systems — to better understand history. Otherwise, history is reduced "to a mere stuttering repetition of the present." (C. Tilley) For prehistory, I illustrate this point using Chrisophe and Helwige Boesch's studies of chimpanzee tool-use. Their findings suggest a vastly different gender-technology relationship for hominids' discovery and early use of stone tools. The socio-political and technological systems of archaic states provides a second example. Scholars' have vastly increased knowledge about these systems allow historians to revisit the relationship between technology and society. Human learning often advances using comparison and contrast. Knowledge about prehistoric and archaic states' paradigms and world views enables a comparison of many different systems (and their embodied values) with industrial technological systems. Better historical understanding can help humanity find appropriate technological systems for the future.
Keywords: History of Technology, Frameworks, Prehistory, Archaic States, Paradigms, Thomas Kuhn, Gender and Technology, Socio-political systems
Dr. Kathleen Ochs
Associate Professor, Liberal Arts and International Studies, Colorado School of Mines