Nanotechnology's controversial role for the South

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Science, Technology and Society, 2008, 13 (1), pp. 123 - 148
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The possibility that nanotechnology will turn into an instrument to aid development or alleviate poverty has been discussed explicitly in academic circles, at meetings held by international bodies, and in non-governmental organisations since 1997. The different positions on the role that it can play in the process reflect particular interpretations of the relationship between science, technology and society. We divide the arguments expressed in this discussion in two broad groups. One can be identified as the instrumental position, which emphasises the technical capacity of nanotechnologies to solve poverty problems and spur development. The other group of arguments can be identified as the contextual position by emphasising the social context wherein technology is produced, used and adapted. We summarise and analyse the main arguments in the debate on nanotechnologies, development and poverty. We consider the most influent opinions from organisations, institutions and meetings, presenting their main ideas in chronological order. The outline covers the period from 1997 to late 2007, and reviews the documents that most directly address the issue. Afterwards, we highlight and analyse the main issues at stake in this controversy.
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