The Committee for the Anthropology of Science, Technology & Computing (CASTAC) is part of the General Anthropology Division of the American Anthropological Association.
CASTAC’s mission is to facilitate communication within the AAA among anthropologists working in areas related to science, technology and computing, and to promote the visibility of anthropological research on technoscience. CASTAC offers a forum in which to organize sessions for meetings, exchange ideas and network with anthropologists who have similar research interests. To support these activities, CASTAC:
- Publishes the CASTAC blog (blog.castac.org) and Twitter feed (@CASTAC_AAA).
- Operates the CASTAC mailing list.
- Awards the Diana Forsythe Prize (with Society for the Anthropology of Work, SAW) and the CASTAC Student Paper Prize.
- Facilitates a Junior-Senior Mentor Program at the AAA Annual Meeting.
- Works with groups like SAW and the Science, Technology, and Medicine (STM) interest group within the Society for Medical Anthropology (SMA) to organize sessions.
CASTAC was founded nearly 20 years ago by anthropologists working on the newly emergent topic of computing. The Committee for the Anthropology of Computing, as it was first known, soon developed into CASTAC as anthropologists working at the intersection of anthropology and the interdisciplinary field of Science and Technology Studies (STS) joined together to grapple with new theoretical and methodological questions. For example, at a time when ethnography was being critically reexamined in anthropology and uncritically adopted in STS they asked: How should anthropologists study “technoscience” in contexts unfamiliar to anthropology like laboratories, hospitals, universities, corporations and the virtual worlds of computing? What is the boundary between humans and machines?
In the 1990s, CASTAC constituted the primary institutional setting within the AAA for anthropologists working on technoscience and it was during this period that the anthropology of technoscience came of age. Michael Fischer and then AAA President Annette Weiner lauded the anthropology of technoscience as a major new area of innovative research. Gary Downey, Joseph Dumit and Sarah Williams organized a prominent invited double session at the 1993 AAA Annual Meeting in San Francisco featuring a who’s who of anthropologists of technoscience. CASTAC also organized a series of summer conferences and produced directories that facilitated the expansion of the anthropology of technoscience. As the “science wars” in anthropology flourished in the mid to late 1990s, so did the anthropology of technoscience and STS. With success came the expansion of institutional venues for anthropologists of technoscience. CASTAC was no longer the only place within the AAA for them to affiliate. Thus, CASTAC has transformed its mission to be one of public outreach as well as collaboration across anthropological subfields, not only on topics related to the social life of technoscience, but also on ethnographic innovation and the possibilities it offers for work at the juncture of anthropology and STS.