Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies
Human societies fashion themselves through rites of memory, gilding and illuminating
some pages of the past while consigning others to forgetfulness. Official memories reinforce dominant cultural narratives, asserting continuities where skeptics might see breaks
or ruptures, contradictions or untruths; indeed, revolutions, scientific or otherwise, can
be thought of as violent breaks with comfortable connections between past and present.
To see the power of such story-telling, consider for example the myth of the durability of
the US Constitution, a myth that proclaims the unchanging identity of that founding
document through a secession, a civil war, and numerous democratizing amendments
that totally transformed the look of the nation’s voting polity. To this day, that myth
legitimates styles of constitutional analysis that challenge, under the rubric of strict
constructionism, attempts to treat the Constitution as a source of living and evolving
principles. Or, at the opposite pole of the Earth, take Australia’s ritualistic annual
observance of Anzac Day. That remarkable celebration connects the forging of the
nation’s identity to Gallipoli: to a dawn landing on faraway shores almost a century ago,
in a war of others’ making, to a failed military enterprise that ended in an inglorious
evacuation, following a bloody, months-long stalemate.
Jasanoff, Sheila. "Genealogies of STS." Social Studies of Science 42.3 (June 2012): 435-441.