Graduate Student Conference

Science, Technology, and the Politics of Knowledge in Global Affairs

Scientists, state actors, international institutions, and lay activists vie for credibility and legitimacy to both frame and control global issues. Science and technology experts are routinely cast into a supporting role to bolster their claims.

From nuclear weapons in war, to nuclear energy in the battle against climate change; from new information technologies in surveillance regimes, to the use of randomized controlled trials in international development research – scientific and technological expertise operate as instruments of power and authority, which can serve to legitimate or contest new policies and regimes of global governance.

The Buffett Institute’s second annual graduate student conference will investigate expert knowledge in global affairs, looking at the ways this knowledge is created, invoked, circulated, and contested in the international political arena. The conference will provide a platform for answering questions such as:

  • How do various international actors attempt to position themselves as credible participants in global politics?
  • Under what conditions does expert knowledge come to be seen as legitimate?
  • In what ways do international actors frame global issues and what must be done about them?
  • How do global problems become understood as primarily technical, rather than political?
  • How is scientific and technological expertise marshaled among various epistemic communities in processes of claims-making and action?

Conference organizers

  • Kevin Baker is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at Northwestern University who works on the history of prediction, computer simulation, and environmental and economic modeling. His dissertation focuses on the Limits to Growth report and the birth of global modeling in the 1970s.

  • Savina Balasubramanian is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at Northwestern University whose work is at the intersection of gender and sexuality studies, science and technology studies, and political and historical sociology. Her dissertation examines the role of the social and behavioral sciences in the technopolitical governance of reproduction and population in Cold War India.

  • Omri Tubi is a second-year student in Northwestern’s sociology PhD program. His research interests are political sociology and science studies, and his work focuses on the relationship between public health campaigns and state-formation, examining malaria eradication and Jewish state-formation in Palestine.

For inquiries regarding this event, please contact