2020 Mahoney Prize


Belcher, Oliver. “Sensing, Territory, Population: Computation, Embodied Sensors, and Hamlet Control in the Vietnam War,” Security Dialogue 50.5, 416-436 (2019).

Prize Citation:

Oliver Belcher – a geographer and Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and the School of Government and International Affairs at Durham University – has written a remarkable history of the Hamlet Evaluation System (HES) created and deployed by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. As Belcher details, the story of HES is an important episode both in the history of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and in the history of U.S. “pacification” actions in Vietnam. Particularly striking are Belcher’s arguments that U.S. military advisors acted as “embodied sensors” for HES, and that their transformations of the realities of village life into the data format of HES constituted a form of “epistemic violence” implicated in the broader landscape of physical violence during the war. In this, Belcher positions his study as a contribution to a “history of computers as a technology of imperial violence.”

About the Mahoney Prize:

The Mahoney Prize recognizes an outstanding article in the history of computing and information technology, broadly conceived. The Mahoney Prize commemorates the late Princeton scholar Michael S. Mahoney, whose profound contributions to the history of computing came from his many articles and book chapters. The prize consists of a $500 award and a certificate. The Mahoney Prize is awarded by the Special Interest Group in Computers, Information, and Society (SIGCIS) and is presented during the annual meeting of our parent group, the Society for the History of Technology.