The Modern Subject: Transpacific Exchanges and the Racial Politics of Mathematics in America

Date / Time

February 22, 2024

4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

The Institute for the Humanities presents the Faculty Fellow Lecture Series with Clare S. Kim, history and Global Asian studies, who will present on “The Modern Subject: Transpacific Exchanges and the Racial Politics of Mathematics in America.”

From statistical modeling to optimization algorithms, the proliferation of computational techniques in politics and everyday life have attracted increased scrutiny from scholars and politicians as well as the broader public. In this lecture, Kim examines the relations between two regulatory control mechanisms that have structured the management and use of computational knowledge, knowledge regulation and immigration, looking at both through the figure of the Asian American technical expert in Cold War America. During this period, policy reforms selecting for mathematically skilled students and workers from East Asia accompanied security concerns over the circulation of computational knowledge and know-how. An analysis of these entangled relations makes visible the increasingly ambivalent status of Asian American technical experts as agents and users of computation. Moreover, it reveals how racialized logics of enmity have become embedded in policies and knowledge infrastructures that shape modern governance.

Clare S. Kim is assistant professor of history and Global Asian studies at UIC. Her research examines the relationship of 20th- and 21st-century mathematical and computational sciences to the formation and representation of national, professional and racialized identities in the United States, as well as how these identities, in turn, shape the dynamics of knowledge exchange. Prior to joining UIC, Kim was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Modeling Interdisciplinary Inquiry at Washington University in St. Louis. She received her PhD from the Program in history, anthropology, and science, technology and society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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