Rustam is broadly interested in the transformation of natural and built environments that spearheaded techno-industrial and scientific revolutions over the course of the twentieth century. He looks at communities located in the former Soviet Union and other (socialist) spaces in the Global South, where whirlwinds of ‘modernization’ and ‘development’ have radically altered the lives of individuals and the world. Rustam is specifically interested in the production and circulation of chemical commodities (e.g. minerals and fertilizers) and how these reshaped a wide range of industries, from agriculture, pharmaceuticals to current battery productions, earth and biological sciences, and the international political economy. For example, one may think of a trail starting with the mining of nickel in Russia’s Far North, transported to processing facilities in Northeast China, and ending up in consumer markets in the West. Tracing such rich stories through a combination of historical, ethnographic, and STS methods asks us who pays what price for what ‘progress’, the rise and crises of global capitalism, and also how they have shaped international public and expert discourse on biological hazards in human and ecological contexts. Prior to coming to MIT, Rustam received his BA and MA in history at the University of Leuven in Belgium. He also received his MPhil in history at the University of Hong Kong, where he researched the history of urbanization in Soviet Russia and East Asia.
PhD Student, History, MIT Home Massachusetts Institute of Technology