Between Democracy and Technocracy: Ecology as Multidisciplinary Science in the Transpacific Cold War

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Leo Chu


This paper investigates the circulation of ecological knowledge and practices between North America and Southeast Asia via ecologists’ involvement in the politics of science during the Transpacific Cold War. Historians have documented how American scientists in the early Cold War (1945–1965) faced the contradiction between their apparent ‘freedom’ to conduct research compared to scientists in socialist countries, on the one hand, and the imperative to depoliticise the connection between their research and the military-industrial complex, on the other hand. Historians have also shown how the environmental, civil rights and antiwar movements severely challenged this apolitical science by the late 1960s. The popularisation of ecology and its convergence with environmental politics after the 1970s are often viewed as part of this trend of repoliticising science in North America.

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Author Biography

Leo Chu, University of Cambridge

Leo Chu is a PhD student in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University. His interests cover the intersection of the history of science and environmental history in the late twentieth century. He also writes broadly about popular culture such as sci-fi films, anime and games. His work has been published in the Journal of Planning History and Extrapolation.