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Indiscipline as Method: From Telescopes to Ventilators in Times of Covid

Irina Turner
Siri Lamoureaux
James Merron


There is no unproblematic way to study things as “African”, yet an epistemologically situated approach based on concrete technological projects situated in Africa and their social and political implications offers an important account of the intersection of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and African Studies. We explore this perspective through the notion of “indiscipline” using the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope project (SKA) based in South Africa as a case study through which to observe “indiscipline” as a methodological approach to technoscience at work. Indiscipline helps frame the socio-technical (by)products of astrophysics and engineering, and we present the production of ventilators for COVID-19 patients as an example of how the design of mega-science projects can become entangled with the dynamic concerns of society. Our conclusion elaborates on the politics of large technological systems, opening up a conversation on the intersection of science and society in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in African settings, using the template of experiences with the SKA and the National Ventilator Project in South Africa.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2408-5987
print ISSN: 2276-8386