Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy



Collaborative Specialization

Environment and Sustainability


Pitman, Allan

2nd Supervisor

Tarc, Paul

Joint Supervisor


In this work I study two cases involving practices of science and technology in the backdrop of related and recent curricular reforms in both settings. The first case study is based on the 2005 South Asian earthquake in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan which led to massive losses including large scale injuries and disabilities. This led to reforms at many levels ranging from disaster management to action plans on disability, including educational reforms in rehabilitation sciences. Local efforts to deal with this disaster led to innovative approaches such as the formation of a Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) model by a local NGO, which I study in detail. The second case study is based on the recent reform of science and technology curriculum in Ontario, which is related to the release of the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) reports. With climate change science driving this reform with curricular demands for students to learn ‘what scientists do’, my second case study details the formation of the Canadian CloudSat CALIPSO Validation Project (C3VP) and scientific practices which depict cutting edge science related to climate change.

Towards contending with the complexity inherent in these cases, I have developed a hybrid framework which is based on Actor-Network Theory (ANT) and the mobilities paradigm while drawing on some aspects of the Annales school of historians. The resulting historical sociology or historiography depicts how these various networks were formed via mobilities of various actor-networks and vice versa. The practices involved in both cases evolved over time and required innovation in times of crises and challenges, and are far more than simple applications of method as required by biomedical and positivist representations of science inherent in both educational reforms. Non-human agency in the form of crisis and disaster also emerges as a key reason for the formation of these networks. Drawing from both cases, I introduce the concept of “transectionalities” as a metaphor which represent configurations of actor-networks in science and technology geared towards dealing with crisis and disaster scenarios. Based on these findings, I also extend the idea of “multiple ontologies” by Mol (2002) to “Epistemic-Ontologic-Techne-” configurations which is sensitive to considerations of time. Moreover, I also find that mathematics is a key mobilizing actor and material semiotic which mediates communication between humans and non-humans and term these dynamics as “mathematical mobilities.” Based on case study one, I also suggest the notion of “affective care” in clinical reasoning, which is based on enhancing the beneficial effect of human to human relationships in these engagements.