Impossible Engineering: Technology and Territoriality on the Canal Du Midi

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Princeton University Press, 2009 - History - 304 pages
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""Impossible Engineering" is a masterful work. Mukerji gives us a convincing, original explanation of the baffling technological feat of the construction of the Canal du Midi. She elegantly combines science and technology studies, cultural history, cognitive science, and sociology to show us how cultural memory and collective intelligence contributed to marvels of engineering that no single group of experts could have accomplished. A must-read."--Karin Knorr Cetina, University of Chicago

"Mukerji brings phenomenal scope and originality to the story of the Canal du Midi. Demonstrating how a material object can be the result of collective social intelligence, she provides a model for how to write a new kind of history of science and technology. She brings together material and intellectual history and connects, in an exemplary way, the history of material objects to the development of new patterns of thought and social organization."--Pamela H. Smith, Columbia University

""Impossible Engineering" offers a fascinating account of the planning, construction, and interpretation of a major public-works project in seventeenth-century France. Mukerji stresses the participation of many people who have often have been written out of this story, especially the peasant workforce, which included a significant contingent of women. She also raises large general issues about the modes and limitations of human interaction with the natural world. I read this book with great pleasure."--Harriet Ritvo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"Drawing on a vast array of original archival data, "Impossible Engineering" offers an elegant and original analysis of a feat of engineering, the construction of the Canal du Midi. Mukerji weaves various strands of the story with impressive dexterity to produce an account that is undoubtedly that of a scholar at the top of her game. This is a fascinating and theoretically significant study."--MichEle Lamont, Harvard University

  

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Contents

Impossible Engineering i
1
Territorial Politics
15
Epistemic Credibility
36
New Rome Confronts Old Gaul
60
Shifting Sands
91
The New Romans
117
Thinking Like a King
154
Monumental Achievement
176
Powers of Impersonal Rule 2 03
203
Notes
229
Bibliography
277
Index
293
Copyright

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About the author (2009)

Chandra Mukerji is professor of communication and science studies at the University of California, San Diego. She is the author of "Territorial Ambitions and the Gardens of Versailles, A Fragile Power: Scientists and the State" (Princeton), and "From Graven Images: Patterns of Modern Materialism".

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