Dr. Hannah Zeavin’s proposed research project traces the place of technology within the American home in the long twentieth century. Put this way, the project may be seen as an extension of the previous work on the history of domestic technologies such as Ruth Cowan, Ruth Oldenziel, and Karin Zachmann. Zeavin, however, breaks new path by focusing on the media technologies of childcare, a topic that provides an opportunity to interrogate the meaning of technology in modern societies by juxtaposing mothering practices with novel technologies. This is a promising and important project that will contribute not only to history of technology, but also to media studies and feminist STS.
Zeavin’s project goes well beyond the standard social and cultural history of technology. It promises to examine a wide array of professional fields as American debated over the appropriate mode of parenting in an age of rapid technological change, intertwining the perspectives of history of technology and medicine. Many recent parents will sympathize with the ambivalence as we hand “smart” devices to whining children. As Zeavin points out, this sentiment is based on the widespread urge to “preserve ‘natural’ parenting.” By considering the panoply of fields from pediatrics and psychology to education and economics, she will bring the rich historical perspective to bear upon the contemporary debates over the “daily practices of techno-parenting.”
The Hindle fellowship will allow Zeavin to concentrate on completing the book manuscript, which will be her second book, as well as a peer-reviewed journal article on a related topic. She has completed most of the archival research at a staggering number of repositories around the United States. Members of this year’s Hindle fellowship committee believe that Dr. Zeavin is well poised to make an excellent use of the financial support to deliver a novel and meaningful monograph, and look forward to its successful completion.