Engineering and social inequalities in modern world literature: of disembodied forces and provocative intrusions

TitleEngineering and social inequalities in modern world literature: of disembodied forces and provocative intrusions
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsStraker, JD
JournalEngineering Studies
Volume2
Pagination61-83
Date Published2010/04/01
Publication Languageeng
ISBN Number1937-8629
AbstractWhile the material consequences of engineering projects figure prominently in modern world literature, individual engineers are hard to find. Despite the centrality of engineering knowledge and technologies in creating the very conditions of possibility for wide-ranging personal and collective dramas explored by literary artists, the task of imagining and depicting engineers' personal biographies, sociopolitical allegiances, emotional states, decision-making processes, or specific material actions has appealed to very few. Surveying the work of some of the most accomplished authors of the Caribbean, West Africa, South America, and South Asia, this article outlines dominant patterns in postwar representations of engineering as a disembodied, unreflective, almost inhuman force that has spurred or exacerbated social inequalities across the global south. It then examines more sympathetic, alternative countercurrents in the literary imagination that cast the engineer as a potential ally in more open, participatory forms of change across the same world regions. Through this juxtaposition, the article seeks to foster new reflections on optimal relationships between literary and engineering studies at a juncture marked by increasing interdisciplinary investigations and interrogations of globalization, development, and local and transnational inequalities.
URLhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19378621003596365

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