STS Dissertation Seminar
Proselytizing Problem-Solving: The Religious and Secular Values of Engineering for Good
Presented by: Marie Stettler Kleine, STS PhD Candidate
What does it mean for engineers to be doing their work "for good"? Over the last twenty years, engineers increasingly dedicate their time, energy, and expertise to humanitarian efforts. Thousands of volunteers enroll in international development projects for non-profits like Engineers Without Borders and Bridges to Prosperity to "build a better world through engineering projects." More recently, engineers and critical scholars develop curricula blending normative charges to "enhance human capabilities" with technical expertise. Differing interpretations of "good" are shaped by historical reconciliations with religious paternalism and proselytizing, hegemonic power dynamics, and the practical challenges of defining and implementing social change. Varying implementation strategies of service, international development, and social justice are further complicated by the types of religiosity that is acceptable or the forms of secularization that is expected in engineering spaces. This comparative project contrasts three university programs' efforts to train and professionalize engineers for good while engaging in complicated moral and value-laden practices. I ultimately ask what does doing "engineering for good" say about "traditional" engineering? And further, what does the importance of questioning engineering expertise as inherently good convey about society's insistent technological piety?