Histories of Science and Capitalism in Latin America and the Caribbean


Jordan A. Howell

Harvard University


Stuart McCook

University of Guelph


Session Abstract

At least since the publication of Eric Williams' Capitalism and Slavery (1944), historians working on and in Latin America and the Caribbean have argued that modern capitalism originated with Indigenous dispossession and the slave plantation economies of the Americas. The peoples and spaces of the Americas likewise proved an important ""laboratory"" for the development of global science. Our roundtable aims to draw together literature on the history of science and capitalism in Latin America and the Caribbean, from the precolonial period to the present. On one hand, we will consider how privately-funded, profit-driven scientific work produced, reshaped, and even undermined colonial, imperial and national power in the region. How, for instance, did corporate-funded science facilitate the control and dispossession of bodies and land, including the extraction of labor and resources? On the other hand, we will consider how capitalist-funded science in Latin America and the Caribbean has changed over time and how it has or has not informed narratives about the global history of science. And furthermore, we will reflect on the historiographical and epistemological significance of the clandestine nature of much for-profit scientific work, whether it was within the transatlantic channels of the Spanish Empire (Cañizares-Esguerra, 2018) or the vertically-integrated economies of multinational corporations, such as the United Fruit Company, the United States Smelting, Mining and Refining Company, and the Aluminum Company of America.

Presenter 1

Jordan A. Howell

Harvard University

Presenter 2

Angélica Márquez-Osuna

Harvard University

Presenter 3

Israel García Solares

University of California San Diego

Presenter 4

Megan Raby

University of Texas Austin

Presenter 5

David Singerman

University of Virginia