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Dr. Nicholas Buchanan

STS stripe


Dr. Nick Buchanan's interests are animated by two broadly interrelated concerns: how do science and technology underpin ideologies of control and mastery, both of people and of the natural world; and how do contests over what knowledge is, and who counts as a legitimate knower, permeate the dynamics of political conflicts.

He currently has two, parallel research foci. The first, centered on knowledge and control in genomic identity, explores the plurality of understandings and knowledges about genetic conditions among biomedical researchers, doctors, caregivers, and people with these conditions. Of particular interest is the fluidity of these groups, exchanges among them, and the ways that new forms of social mobilization and sources of information are reconfiguring authority and hierarchy in neoliberal biomedicine.

Dr. Buchanan is also critically engaged with ongoing political debates about legalizing forensic DNA phenotyping in Germany, with a focus on the relationship between technology, state force, and "law-and-order" rhetoric. You can find out more about this initiative, and its other members, here.

The second, centered on ideologies of environmental control and mastery, explores the history of building replica, model worlds based on changing chemical, biological, and physical principles. The project, entitled Experimental Earths, traces a path from Victorian aquaria (which scientists saw as "imitation[s] of nature herself") to late 20th-century biospheres, which were an outgrowth of life support systems for (unrealized) space colonization. Of particular interest is the ways artificial environments shaped scientific, popular, and policy understandings of the environment and the human place in nature. You can listen to a radio interview about this project here.

Dr. Buchanan is currently completing two books, both forthcoming in 2018 with Palgrave Macmillan. Together, The Uncertainties of Endangerment and Time Immemorial explore the topics of scientific expertise, expert disagreement, and uncertainty in environmental law, as well as tensions among ways of knowing the environment, especially indigenous and scientific (categories which his research critically examine).

Dr. Buchanan's teaching includes courses on science and technology studies, environmental studies, the history of technology, and ethics and law in science and technology.


Room 01027
Tel. +49 (0)761 203-96873

Other Appointments and Degrees

  • Affiliated Faculty, Program in the History of Science and Technology, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (2016–current).
  • Assistant Professor (visiting), Program in the History of Science and Technology, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (2013–2016).
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA (2010). PhD in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society.
  • University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA (2002). BA in Geography with Highest Honors and Highest Distinction, Phi Beta Kappa.

Selected Publications


  • Time Immemorial: Law, Narrative, and Native American Histories (London: Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming 2018).
  • The Uncertainties of Endangerment: Expert Disagreement and Environmental Futures (London: Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming 2018).

Edited Volumes

  • Does the Doctor Know Best? Knowledge, Authority, and the Reconfiguration of Medical Hierarchy. In preparation for Engaging Science, Technology and Society.
  • Mechanized Mills and Machines that Think: Technology and Culture in American History. San Diego, CA: Cognella Academic Publishing, 2016.
  • Law and the Problematics of Indigenous Authenticities. With E. Darian-Smith, Law & Social Inquiry, 36/1 (2011).

Recent Articles

  • "Eine Technologie der Angstkultur" ("A Technology for a Culture of Fear"). With S. Weitz. Freispruch, Heft 11 (September 2017), pp. 13-17.
  • "Which Fish? Knowledge, Articulation, and Legitimization in Claims about Endangered and Culturally Significant Animals." Science, Technology, and Human Values, 42/3 (2017), 520-542.
  • "Rethinking Down Syndrome: It's Treatable" with P. Buchanan. Promoted post on the Huffington Post (March 21, 2017).
  • "The Kitchen of Futures Past: Teaching about Gender and 'Progress' with Historical Predictions About the Future of Housework," The History Teacher, 49/3 (2016), 330-358.
  • "Down Syndrome Awareness Day, Dight Ave., and the Persistence of Intolerance." With P. Buchanan. MinnPost (March 21, 2016).