Recipient 2021: Suzanne Moon, University of Oklahoma
Suzanne Moon richly deserves the 2021 Leonardo da Vinci Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the Society for the History of Technology. For ten years, she did pioneering work as Editor-in-Chief of Technology and Culture, our field’s flagship journal. She has taken a leading role in deepening the Society’s attention to Asia as a compelling research area and as home to a vast and vibrant community of researchers. In 2013 she led our community by launching Technology’s Stories, an new online publication devoted to placing SHOT’s scholarship in dialogue with efforts to “make sense of contemporary technological challenges and aspirations.” Through a wide range of activities and demanding roles, Suzanne has been a central figure in encouraging SHOT to be an intellectually open, diverse thinking, globally aware scholarly community.
Suzanne became the first woman Editor-in-Chief of Technology and Culture in 2011. The journal had had just three prior editors since its creation in 1959, each presiding during key periods of change and challenge. Suzanne’s special achievement as Editor-in-Chief has been to boldly extend the journal’s research topics, perspectives, and audiences, including a variety of scholarly disciplines in dialogue with our field, while forthrightly maintaining the highest standards of rigor. Doing both successfully has entailed untold hours of intellectually demanding labor and required unusual diplomatic skills.
Moon’s own scholarship has helped define history of technology in relation to development theory, STS, global history, and post-colonial studies. Her Technology and Ethical Idealism: A History of Development in the Netherlands East Indies (2007) draws attention to the moral concerns and debates that shaped late-colonial Indonesia’s sociotechnical order. The book is widely cited in diverse fields. One of its most powerful and influential contributions lays in treating technology as “concrete ethics.” Another major contribution challenges simple equations of state and scale. Dutch colonial officials resisted the appeal of high modernism, instead promoting small-scale interventions. Moon thus complicated previous portrayals of colonialism, showing how smaller-scale technopolitics became a colonial state strategy.
Shifting her attention to the politics and ethics of technology in the post-colonial world, and using Indonesia as a place to investigate themes such as high technology in Islamic imaginaries of state and society, or the transnational circulation of expertise, Suzanne has published major articles in Osiris and the Journal of Southeast Asian Studies as well as in Technology & Culture and History and Technology. These and other publications further contribute to globalizing the perspectives of history of technology and STS beyond the West — a project that is actively ongoing. Finally, Moon is one of the general editors of the multi-volume Bloomsbury Cultural History of Technology, and has played a key role in formulating its expansive reach.
Along the way, Suzanne has also worked to build diverse scholarly communities, frequently with dizzying international scope. Her colleagues note untiring efforts in encouraging junior scholars, innovative teaching efforts, determined training of graduate students, and valued advisory roles to journals and foundations.
In 2019 the SHOT Executive Council made Suzanne a Life Member of the Society. Now SHOT is honored to award the 2021 Leonardo da Vinci Medal to Suzanne Moon for her sustained contributions as scholar, editor, intellectual, and diplomat in enlarging SHOT’s perspectives on and engagement with the world of technology.