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4S Annual Meeting 2021

October 6 @ 8:00 am - October 9 @ 5:00 pm

Good Relations

Practices and Methods in Unequal and Uncertain Worlds

What does it mean in practice to strive towards good relations as humans, with technologies, in our modes of knowing, within environments, across distance, and with other-than-humans? When we speak of good relations, we address ethics of care, frameworks of responsibility, and solidarity that span disciplinary and subject boundaries. We invite these reflections in relationship to the insurgence of white supremacy, the intensity of grief, and continuing struggles against long standing oppressions at personal and structural scales.

As we convene for 4S 2021, we invite reflections on the practices of relations making at every scale. Although the relations that help constitute us are not always “good,” they are relations nonetheless. We might consider, for example, practices of consent in our own research, protocols of a lab, the ways we assemble in a conference, or our responsibilities for addressing structural violence. We invite scholarship that critically addresses the methods and practices that maintain oppressions within technoscience, especially as our universities increasingly become neoliberal places of “production.” How do we, in our university work, care for our societies under neoliberal rules? As academic work increasingly becomes digital, what methods are being invented, what racist practices reproduced, what possibilities opened? To be in good relations means confronting the challenges of colonialism, racism, and inequality, but it also highlights the generative and relational work of Indigneous, Black, feminist, and queer scholarship. Practices and methods are at stake in the transnational circulations of knowledge, violence, and solidarities.

Home to the most mining corporate headquarters and a hub of digital technology research, Toronto raises urgent questions about good relations in sites of extraction, consent, racial capitalism, surveillance, environment, governance, and justice. As a city occupying Indignenous land, Toronto necessitates questions about our relations to colonialism, property, and white supremacy. Thus, this 4S conference invites work that takes up the challenge of addressing methods and practices — both our own and those that our research engages — as enactments of commitments to worlding better worlds. In foregrounding questions of practice and method, we hope the conference will provide a way to learn from one another about our ongoing experiments.

Vision for the 2021 Conference in a Shifting World

We are excited to host 4S in Toronto. Tkaronto, or Toronto, has been home of Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe peoples since time immemorial and part of the original homelands of the Wendat people. The name Tkaronto comes from a Kanyen’ keha word meaning where the trees stand in the water. Because Toronto serves as a hub for Indigneous, anti-racist, feminist, transntioanal, and social justice research, we aspire for the conference to support this dimension of STS, which includes a commitment to hospitality and good relations in hosting the varied and international research and researchers that 4S draws together each year.

The COVID-19 pandemic means facing a year of uncertainty. Therefore, we are planning for a hybrid conference that features a significant welcoming and generative virtual dimension. We will evaluate the possibility of in-person assembly in the spring of 2021, and revisit that possibility again in the summer and fall. We expect that the challenges of in-person assembly and well-being will not only shift with the seasons, but also differ across the varied locations of 4S’s international membership.


October 6 @ 8:00 am
October 9 @ 5:00 pm
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