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Presented By: Science, Technology & Society

STS Speaker Series. A World Cast in Concrete: How the US Built Its Empire

Vyta Pivo, U-M Taubman School of Architecture

Cement quarry Cement quarry
Cement quarry
We are familiar with concrete as a medium of everyday construction: from sidewalks to kitchen countertops, the material defines our daily experiences of life. But how has concrete performed as a medium of culture and politics? How did it serve as the critical materiel that structured the US empire and spread global capitalism?

This talk will weave together two stories: (1) how the US cement and concrete industries expanded their material and technological reach across the globe and into outer space; and (2) how the material itself became a tool for spreading US cultural values and racial politics. In the end, it will show that concrete---and ensuing critical infrastructure like roads, buildings, bridges, airplane landing strips, and oil drilling platforms, among others---was an essential medium for US imperialism.

Bio: Vyta Pivo is a historian of the built environment and a postdoctoral scholar with the Michigan Society of Fellows. Her current project is a social and cultural history of the US cement and concrete industries, their global and transplanetary ambitions, and environmental and social costs. She has published academic and public-facing articles on concrete, labor, and architecture, and her work has been supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Science Foundation, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, and others.
Cement quarry Cement quarry
Cement quarry

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