Jessica Wang


Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

The Sea, the Ship, and I: Stories, Things and Objects from Oceanography during the Cold War (2015)

This dissertation examines how and why men on oceanographic research vessels in the middle of the 20th century used storytelling as part of scientific practice. I weave scholarship on literature and science together with the history of oceanography and demonstrate that oceanographers constructed their social world through narration. To begin, I look closely at a diary, memorandum, cartoon, and motion picture and then illuminate how the process of creating these narratives formulated collaboration, persuasive strategy, friendship, and community. Each author used the process of narration to make sense of expedition life and determine how best to proceed as a member of the oceanographic community. I argue that storytelling was not merely a pastime: it formed an integral part of social functioning of science at sea. Inspired by scholarship concerned with things and objects, the study also uses the content of the stories to investigate the ways in which things and objects at sea did four actions: influenced the oceanographic gaze on the Pacific, altered the patronage relationship between oceanography and the U.S. Navy, facilitated the construction of a shipboard ecology built upon collaboration, and came to represent Scripps as the dominant creator of knowledge in the Pacific. While historians have explained how elite actors created the geopolitical arrangements that determined ocean science in this period, this project argues that non-elite scientists, graduate students, Navy crew, and medical doctors recorded everyday experiences on expeditions in stories because their contributions to shipboard life and work were also a crucial component of the development of oceanography at sea during the Cold War.

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Experts at work : the Canadian state, North American environmentalism, and renewable energy in an era of limits, 1968-1983 (2014)

This study examines the emergence of sustainable development and renewable energy in Canada during the 1970s and the interplay between environmental politics, state structures, and intellectual discourse which made this emergence possible. The dissertation focuses on two events, the construction of the New Alchemists’ Ark on Prince Edward Island with the help of the provincial and federal governments, and the Department of Energy, Mines, and Resources’ $600 million (in 1978 dollars) subsidy program for renewable energy. These events provide a lens into North American environmental politics, the policymaking of Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s government, and the intellectual influence of Cold War science on the early foundations of sustainability in the 1970s. I make four interconnected arguments about the nature of environmental politics, expert authority, the Trudeau government, and sustainability in this dissertation. First, the Trudeau government embraced the Cold War rationality of the 1960s and attempted to reorganize Canadian governance around objective analysis in an effort to transform policymaking into an exercise in calculation rather than political compromise. This privileging of technical and scientific knowledge that enhanced the authority of experts leads to my second argument. The state’s ability to shape discourse through ideology and policy feedbacks encouraged specific forms of environmental politics and, as a result, privileged an influential minority of environmentalists in the 1970s. Third, rather than rejecting or attacking this highly technocratic approach to policy, some environmentalists embraced it. These groups employed the technical knowledge preferred by the Trudeau government – modeling and forecasting – to conceptualize and advocate sustainable development. Fourth, government advisors worked directly with these technocratic environmentalists to champion renewables, thereby making Canadian sustainable development a co-production of government analysts and environmental advocates. Furthermore, the successes of renewable energy and sustainability in the 1970s rested upon the work of Cold War scientists, a formalist approach to rationality, and a belief in the efficacy of planning, as much as environmental concern.

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The Trial Within: Negotiating Justice at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, 1946-1948 (2012)

This dissertation explores the inner-workings of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE). Commonly known as the Tokyo trial, Tokyo tribunal, or Tokyo IMT, the IMTFE brought Japan’s wartime leadership to justice for aggression, crimes against humanity, and war crimes committed during World War II. Using rare sources in three languages from public and private collections in eight countries, this dissertation presents a multi-perspective experiential history of the IMTFE in operation. By placing the court in a distinct international moment that produced the United Nations, the Nuremberg trial, the Genocide Convention, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, among other outgrowths of global community, this work explores the IMTFE as both a groundbreaking judicial undertaking and a pioneering multilateral institution. Other scholars use overly reductive and judgmental constructs based on outside-looking-in perspectives to assess the court’s legal or moral legitimacy without appreciating or detailing its nuance and complexity. This dissertation prefers an inside-out view to explain the trial, not judge it. It describes the IMTFE as a collective endeavour and experience behind the scenes. Chapters review the personal, emotional, administrative, logistical, legal, political, and global dimensions of internationalism in action. Justice emerged as a contested encounter inside an involute web of intimate and external factors; transitional and transnational forces. Outside pressures – including postwar idealism, decolonisation, and the Cold War – meshed with and filtered through the intrinsic elements of ‘being international’ on the ground: social interaction, personal responses, and professional engagement. This ‘trial within’ influenced every aspect of IMTFE processes and outcomes, and the complexity of its internal dynamics best explains enduring criticism and memory of the court as a political trial or manifestation of victors’ justice. Although a unique historical moment, the IMTFE reveals basic, foundational truths about the essence of all international organisations and other modes of ambitious global governance. Ultimately, this dissertation uses the IMTFE to reinterpret modern internationalism as a complex, messy, and negotiated encounter rather than a staid set of promises and ideals: a process and experience that ultimately – inevitably – compromised principles for politics, and form for function.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

A democratic science of rational control: the Chicago Program of Research and Education in Planning, 1946-1956 (2024)

From 1946 to 1956 at the University of Chicago, the Chicago Program of Research and Education in Planning—or the Chicago Planning Program, as its members often called it—operated as a degree-granting program whose faculty aspired to train future urban and regional planners in the social sciences, and also to develop a basic, unified approach to planning. Charles Merriam initially conceived of the program as an extension of the work of the New Deal in 1945. Rexford Tugwell, one of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Brain Trusters, helmed the program and many of the faculty members had worked in Roosevelt’s federal government. By 1956, however, to both its proponents and detractors, the approach to comprehensive planning developed and promoted in the Chicago Planning Program appeared largely indistinguishable from military operations research techniques. In the furnace of the Chicago Planning Program, New Deal planning was melted down and refashioned in a narrower mold, which redefined planning as the rational direction of a discrete entity towards the future by a group of trained and prudent decision-making experts. In the Chicago Planning Program, parts of the comprehensive approach that Tugwell envisioned, such as the model of Taylorist scientific management, were preserved, while others, such as the hopes of the emergence of a unified and coordinated public, were cast aside. In this way, the story of the Chicago Planning Program shows how trends often attributed to the military research agenda and ideological exigencies of the early Cold War in the United States—from the emergence of “public choice” theory and its critiques of the Keynesian state to the narrowed domain of planning as inappropriate for a state but appropriate for a university or a city—have alternate origins in the continued efforts of former New Deal social scientists to reckon with the project of coordinating the relationship between expert knowledge, the public, and the administrators of the state.

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Citizen scientists and environmental stewards in Pacific Spirit Park (2024)

Citizen science offers a unique opportunity to reconcile relational and substantive definitions of environmental expertise within STS scholarship. Additionally, because significant overlap exists between the work done by citizen scientists and environmental stewards, it may be prudent to incorporate environmental stewardship as a framework through which to understand citizen scientists, and, by extension, their capacity as environmental experts. As environmental expertise rests upon the ecological knowledge of a specific place, I conducted a six-month long participatory ethnographic study as a volunteer with the Pacific Spirit Park Society, a nonprofit organization of volunteer environmental stewards and citizen scientists in Pacific Spirit Regional Park in Vancouver, B.C. I also combined qualitative, semistructured interviews of my fellow volunteers with my own autoethnographic account of restoration and interpretation work to illustrate the process by which volunteers developed varying levels of expertise in regards to local ecological knowledge. Interlocutors also considered their responsibilities to both human and nonhuman members of their community, negotiated their own responsibilities as interpreters of ecological knowledge to the lay public, and reflected on how their lived experiences as boundary workers contrasted with traditional institutional epistemologies of science. I found that while there were volunteers who served as nexuses of information, the transfer of knowledge from one person to another was never unilateral, and a person’s expertise always developed in concert with that of another. The act of interpreting knowledge so as to make it accessible for fellow volunteers as well as for the public helped recruit people for the mission of care and stewardship. The lens of stewardship likewise enhances STS analyses of citizen science by providing context for how knowledge is applied and carried by practitioners.

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Livestock in the living history laboratory: backbreeding, whole systems, and the living historical farms movement (2020)

As various social and ecological upheavals of the 1970s laid bare the failed promises of modernity and progress, the living history museum began to take its form as a mode of re-enactment that re-created living processes rather than static, visual tableaus. In particular, living historical farms—reconstructions of farming operations complete with period-appropriate plants, animals, and costumed staff—became central to American historical re-enactment. Guided by the newly formed Association for Living Historical Farms (ALHFAM), the living historical farms movement drew on forms of empirical research to re-create the social and material worlds of the nation’s rural past, which included not only fashioning historically accurate implements, clothing, and buildings, but also period-appropriate plants and livestock. The “backbreeding” program, developed at Old Sturbridge Village in the 1970s, sought to return various types of cattle and sheep to their pre-industrial states in order to complete a three-dimensional historical farming experience and code it as authentic.At once, living historical farm re-enactment resembled the concurrent countercultural “back-to-the-land” communes that had emerged throughout the 1960s and 70s: both offered a return to small-scale systems of production on the land as well as operated within, as scholars have argued, a new mode of historical consciousness that championed immersive and sensory engagements with the past. However, as this these argues, the living historical farm movement and, in particular, the practice of backbreeding, embodied both the counterculturalism of the 1970s and the “empiricist” research culture and state and institutional power of the 1950s and 60s. It was not simply that the elite, state-centered motives that led to the beginning of backbreeding and living farms were completely subverted by a new generation of practitioners focused on subjectivity, embodied experience, and the collapsing of past and present. Rather, these two modes of historical thinking were entangled through the practice of backbreeding and the intensive focus on the biological, which indeed defined living historical farms. This thesis, then, urges a closer look at the intersections of science, technology, and animals with the forms of history-based cultural production that emerged around living history museums in the 1970s.

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Simulating the nature of cities: ecology, planning, and systems science in the Inter-Institutional Policy Simulator (IIPS) project, 1970-1974 (2020)

This thesis studies the intersection of ecology, urban planning and systems science in the Inter-Institutional Policy Simulator (IIPS) project between 1970 and 1974. I examine the project in the milieu of the popular environmental movements and its challenges to the established political and scientific authority in North America. While previous scholarship in the history of ecology has illustrated the Cold War’s influence on the “systems ecology” research programme and its focus on computer simulation and mathematical models, this thesis examines how ecologists extended their discipline from the management of natural ecosystems to planning for “urban systems.” By investigating the networking strategy of ecologists and urban planners, the first part of my thesis studies the rise and fall of IIPS as the interaction between “IIPS the Platform” and “IIPS the Product,” or between the network of experts and the simulator they aimed to create. Although IIPS failed to create a product capable of simulating the urban dynamics of Vancouver, it nevertheless exemplified the efforts of ecologists and urban modellers to address the social challenges in the early 1970s. The second part of my thesis concentrates on the public programs led by project members, in which the experts attempted to reformulate the relationship between technoscience and the public through a variety of educational and participatory events. I argue that the value of IIPS was its contribution to the reimagination of information technology and systems science in an era of environmental anxiety and social transformation, and suggest that the experience of the project can offer critical insights into contemporary questions concerning scientists’ roles in a challenging socio-political context.

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Bullets, bolos, and the Moros: policing and anthropology in the colonial Philippines, 1901-1914 (2019)

This thesis utilizes extensive archival material from the University of Oregon to argue that the Philippine Constabulary, founded by the US government in 1901, conducted important anthropological research on the Islands during the early period of American colonial rule. While previous scholarship has examined the importance of anthropology and the Constabulary in the consolidation and operation of American overseas empire, no study has yet significantly considered the linkages between them and the impact that this partnership may have had on the nature of American colonial rule. This thesis argues that anthropology provided a framework through which the white, male, American officers of the Constabulary could understand their experiences leading and policing racial others, and this provided both guidance and justification for their actions as imperial agents.This thesis uses personal records and mementos left behind by Constabulary officers to uncover the ways in which these men engaged with and employed anthropological ideas daily in their work policing the Islands. As the colonial agents most frequently in contact with the inhabitants of the Islands, the anthropological work conducted by officers in many ways played a more crucial role in the day-to-day governance of the Islands than that done by colonial officials far removed from the peoples they governed. As such, this thesis brings to the forefront the integral role that early-twentieth-century science, through its alliance with colonial policing, played in not just justifying but in actually undertaking American empire. Through an examination of the beliefs and actions of the individual men who served as officers in the Philippine Constabulary, this thesis uncovers a hitherto understudied aspect of American empire in the Philippines and, in doing so, expands our understanding of exactly what American empire meant at the beginning of the twentieth century.

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Re-imagining America: the Princeton Military Studies Group and the cultivation of the national security imagination, 1933-1947 (2016)

This essay examines the invention of national security in the United States in the 1930s and 1940s. Whereas previously Americans spoke of ‘national defense,’ by 1945 ‘national security’ became common parlance and Washington began building the national security state. I argue that a group of social scientists at the Institute for Advanced Study called the Princeton Military Studies Group spurred this shift. Led by Edward Mead Earle, members of the group projected geopolitical anxieties—about global economic instability, the failures of the Versailles system, and the rise of totalitarianism—inward on to the United States and helped develop the institutional role of the defense intellectual, construct the cold war university, make citizens into manpower, and popularize geopolitical thinking. Most consequentially, they created a novel way of imagining and speaking about the world. We are the heirs of their national security imagination.

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"We know them all as men who shall receive the protection of the law": Chinese participants in the coursts of Port Townsend, Washington Territory (2013)

Studies of the relationship between American law and Chinese migrants in the nineteenth century have focused upon the legal, administrative, and social effects of the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882), elite merchant use of contract law, and the failure of law enforcement to address or prevent mass anti-Chinese violence by whites in the mid-1880s. The literature has neglected, however, detailed inquiry into the practices of everyday law, or the legal resolutions of mundane, small stakes conflicts in specific local contexts. For Port Townsend, Washington Territory, study of the practice of law during the territorial period reveals that in this locality, Chinese litigants of transient or labourer status could access the court to recoup unpaid debts and, rarely, to redress instances of everyday violence. The professionals of the courts - judges, clerks, and lawyers - as well as juries of whites from the community, all regularly granted Chinese defendants and litigants their rights to testimony and due process throughout the territorial period. This is significant because the court system granted the rights even during moments of anti-Chinese political power, which shielded some defendants from the effects of racially targeted municipal ordinances. The evidence also shows that coercive and punitive aspects of migrant-official legal relations, including the refusal to grant a defendant's rights, did not enter into other areas of law beyond the charges under the Exclusion Act. It is also significant because indigenous peoples in Washington Territory (and, in Port Townsend itself, the Klallam and Chimakum) consistently endured far fewer rights and rights which changed more drastically within the American legal system at the same time, thus signalling that white Americans judged Chinese to be more like themselves than indigenous peoples. The unenthusiastic efforts of law enforcement to punish everyday violence against Chinese victims, however, shows that whites did not consider Chinese victims worth protecting except in cases where community actions clearly sanctioned official action.

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Learning internationalism : NASA's shift from national security to international cooperation on the space station, 1980-1994 (2013)

In 1980, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) made its first serious pitch to Congress in support of a permanently manned outpost in low earth orbit. Their initial case for the program’s necessity heavily relied on Cold War logics and military thinking, with international participation functioning as a mere afterthought. Although NASA and its foreign partners now flaunt the evidence of their successful cooperation, the internationalism inherent in the station’s current name and form was the result of station development, not the initial goal of NASA officials. Two major shifts defined NASA’s treatment of the space station over the course of its development. The first was a turn away from collaboration with the military. For previous projects, such as the space shuttle program, NASA had depended on military backing to justify the expense of human spaceflight to Congress. This military backing ensured that NASA’s interactions with international agencies remained shallow. The shift away from the military which occurred with the space station revealed the tension between NASA’s civilian nature and its military ties, and proved the turning point in NASA’s evolution into a truly civilian agency. Of all the international partners, Japan’s involvement was crucial to the changes which took place at NASA through the space station program as, in the moment of truth, Japan’s strident objections to the possibility of Pentagon contributions made military and international involvements incompatible. The second change was a transition towards more substantial international collaborations with foreign space agencies, which NASA increasingly saw as crucial to the success of the project and as a replacement for military backing before Congress. This paper argues that this increasing focus on the international aspects of the space station was driven by the cooling of the relationship between NASA and the military, which left NASA scrambling for funding and supporters for the space station. It was the domestic political situation, not a sense of internationalism, which compelled the internationalization of both the station and the agency.

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Sideshow revisited: Cambodia and the failure of American diplomacy, 1973 (2010)

After the Paris Peace Agreement formally ended America’s involvement in the Vietnam war in January 1973, there still remained the unsettled issue of Cambodia, embroiled in a civil war between a coalition of insurgents (including the Khmer Rouge, the Cambodian communist party destined for infamy) and an American-backed regime in Phnom Penh. In the months between the Paris Agreement and the US Congress’ forced cessation of American military activities in August 1973, the Nixon administration sought a diplomatic solution to its Cambodian problem, but the details of this period remain contested. Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s top diplomat, has consistently maintainedthat he was engaged in delicate negotiations with his counterparts in Hanoi and Beijing inan attempt to broker a settlement between the warring Cambodian factions, but that Congress’ actions deprived him of the necessary leverage to bring it to fruition; that Cambodia fell to the Khmer Rouge, therefore, was Congress’ responsibility, and not the administration’s. Using primary documents that have become available in recent years, it is now possible to test Kissinger’s claims by partially reconstructing the diplomatic activity that took place in the corridors of power in Hanoi, Beijing, Paris andWashington. Examination of the available record indicates that Kissinger’s claims aredisingenuous at best; although he did have extended discussions with Le Duc Tho, ZhouEnlai and others about the Cambodian issue, these talks were tedious, repetitive and notconducive to any kind of breakthrough. Moreover, upon scrutiny, Kissinger’s interlocutors appeared to be sending subtle messages to the Americans that the solution to the Cambodian problem was to be found through direct contact with the insurgency, rather than through Beijing or Hanoi. These signals were, however, ignored by adiplomatic crew that, despite Kissinger’s reputation for strategic brilliance, provedunimaginative and obstinate, with tragic results for the Cambodian people.

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