Professor Cagle’s new book explores the intersection of science, culture and politics in Portugal’s empire and sheds light on little-known connections between Asia and the Atlantic World.
On what inspired him to write the book, Cagle said, “I was struck by just how ubiquitous is this idea that the tropics are a coherent, internally consistent, global region--that we envision the so-called "tropics" in this way even though we also know that this vast swath of the globe is actually incredibly diverse in human, environmental, climatic, and epidemiological terms. I wanted to know how that contradiction came to be so. This idea of ‘the tropics’ turns out to be more complicated than we usually admit. Really, it's a fabrication--an invention.”
Cagle asserts that one of the book’s most important lessons is that everything about the world we live in today, has a history. “Even basic scientific concepts (facts!) have histories, which means that they are part of the cultural world that produced them. They are not simply a reflection of the world around us.”
Cagle hopes the book will help, students specifically, learn to investigate and critique the claims of science in a responsible way. He asserts that the outright dismissal of expertise helps no one, and the ability to critically think about information is essential.
“That's really what's at stake: how can we critique the power and authority of science without ignoring the value and utility of its insights? I show how we can do that using the example of this idea of ‘the tropics.’”
*Students can learn more about how to critically engage with science in Professor Cagle’s spring 2019 course, HIST 4075 – Intro to the History of Science
Click HERE to purchase “Assembling the Tropics”