Postcolonial Histories of Computing

Prieto-Ñañez, Fabian
IEEE Annals of the History of Computing

In the early 1990s, Indian historian Dipesh Chakrabarty proposed an agenda for “provincializing Europe.” According to Chakrabarty, philosophers, historians, and other scholars who shaped the nature of western social science developed their theoretical and empirical projects to embrace the entirety of humanity. However, they also produced this knowledge in relative, and sometimes absolute, ignorance of the histories and experiences of those living outside of the western world. In his response, Chakrabarty sought to demonstrate how our categories may be more contingent, and less universal, than we have accepted-often without evidence. In other words, this historical method promotes a more limited and thus accurate use of core concepts that usually are translated without any problem, making the provincialization of Europe a cautious engagement with historical research. Since that time we have seen a rise in what is called postcolonial studies of science and technology. Ultimately this field seeks to reevaluate our theories and systems of society and technology in light of the ways that they are influenced by the long history of colonialism. Here I want to continue and encourage a discussion on what postcolonial science and technology studies mean for historians of computing.