Cluster Courses in Science Studies, 2012-13

FALL 2012

COMM_ST 488-20 (16864)
Topics in the History of Information and Communication Technology
Jennifer Light W 2-4:50 Frances Searle Building 1483

Course Description: The history of information and communication technology has attracted attention from scholars across a variety of disciplines--communication and media studies, library and information science, history of technology, education, science and technology studies, computer science, sociology, history, business, engineering, geography, political science, architecture and planning, art history--the list goes on! This course, recognizing that no single scholarly tradition has a lock on the study of ICT history, seeks to introduce students to prominent voices across fields. The class centers on several topics that have brought together researchers in multiple disciplines for discussion and debate. As an introduction to the fields and methods of historical research on information and communication technology, the course requires no previous exposure to the subject. However, students who would like to use the class to continue research on a historical project-in-progress are welcome.

HISTORY 405-20 (12321)
Seminar in Historical Analysis: Histories of Material Culture
Ken Alder W 2-5pm Harris Hall L40

Course Description: How might our interpretations of the past be transformed by placing material objects at the center of our accounts? Can histories organized around artifacts knit together social, political, economic, cultural, and intellectual histories—not to mention histories of science and technology? What are "things," and can they be considered historical actors? For instance, do artifacts have politics? We will consider diverse approaches to material objects in cultures ranging from ancient Sumeria to contemporary America—although our two main sites of interest will be early modern Europe and industrial America. How has a reconsideration of the materiality of text/communication reshaped the history of ideas? How has attention to mass produced commodities reshaped cultural history? How has a reconsideration of mind-body relations reshaped gender history? We will pay attention to the many people who have designed, produced, used, or commented on objects: artisans, engineers, laborers, Luddites, futurists, anthropologists, and consumers of all stripes, as well as hackers, hobbyists, and DIY'ers.

We will consider the life-cycle of the "banal" objects of ordinary life, as well as those liminal objects that mediate diverse realms of experience: fetishes, placebos, and art. Above all, we will read contending approaches to the history of material culture—materialist history, gift exchange, evolutionary theory, art history, systems theory, infrastructure studies, semiotics, and performance studies—as they are articulated by such theoreticians of things as Laurence Sterne, Karl Marx, Marcel Mauss, and Bruce Latour. For their final assignment, students will write a review essay that assesses a few secondary sources that might help them frame the history (the biography?) of a material artifact of their own choosing.

TENTATIVE Reading List:
Collections (selections only)
Arjun Appaduria, ed., The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Culture Perspective (1998).
Wiebe Bijker, T. P. Hughes, T. Pinch, eds., The Social Construction of Technological Systems (1989).
Fiona Candlin and Raiford Guins, eds., The Object Reader (2009).
Lorraine Daston, ed., Things that Talk: Object Lessons from Art and Science (2007).
Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel, eds., Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy (2005).
Neil MacGregor (British Museum), ed., A History of the World in 100 Objects (2011).
Jessica Riskin, ed., Genesis Redux: Essays in the History and Philosophy of Artificial Life (2007).
Langdon Winner, The Whale and Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology (1989).
Monographs (this list will be revised and abbreviated)
Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (2010).
T. H. Breen, The Marketplace of Revolution (2005).
William Cronon, Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West (1992).
Robert Friedel, Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty (1992)
Gabrielle Hecht, Being Nuclear: Africans and the Global Uranium Trade (2012).
Jonathan Goldberg, Writing Matter: From the Hands of the English Renaissance (1990).
Adrian Johns, The Nature of the Book (2000).
Michael Sonenscher, The Hatters of Eighteenth-Century France (1987)
Nicholas Thomas, Entangled Objects: Exchange, Material Culture and Colonialism in the Pacific (1991).
John Tresch, The Romantic Machine: Utopian Science and Technology after Napoleon (2012).
Elizabeth A. Wilson, Psychosomatic: Feminism and the Neurological Body (2004).

SOCIOL 406-2-20 (13318)
Modern Theory in Sociological Analysis
Wendy Espeland M 9:30-12:00 SOCIOL Sem Rm 107, 1812 Chicago Ave

Course Description: Modernity has become a contested term. This class investigates how various thinkers have conceived of what it means to be "modern" or "post-modern," critiques of modernity that have profoundly shaped our images of it, and skeptics who challenge the idea of modernity. It also includes sections that investigate in detail what I call, for want of a better term, "mechanisms" of modernity: procedures, devices, approaches or strategies that people adopt or promulgate in their efforts to be rational, manage uncertainty and conflict, or attain efficiency in various institutional arenas. These mechanisms include quantification, standardization, discipline, development and science.


ART HISTORY 430-20 (33411)
Studies in Renaissance Art: Transculturalism in Early Modern Europe
Claudia Swan W 2:00PM - 5:00PM Kresge 3-430

Course Description: This seminar offers an introduction to the historical record and recent historiography of transcultural encounters between European states, the Ottoman Empire, the Mughal Empire, Asia, the Indies, and the Americas. We will begin with an examination of Late Medieval, Arabic, and Byzantine cultural exchange (exemplified by courtly gift exchange); the primary focus of the seminar will be on the production, exchange, and consumption of exotic objects in Europe and along Eurasian contact routes during the early modern era, from roughly 1450 through the seventeenth century. Our readings will be taken from early modern history and art history, cultural and material history, the history of science, and maritime and diplomatic history, and our approach will tend to be object- and agent-focused. One aim of the seminar will be to examine and define the early modern category of 'the exotic', which animates artistic and collecting practices alike. We will examine theoretical models offered by extensive literature on the gift and gift exchange, on hybridity, and on Oriental- ism; we will explore recent work on agents of trade and culture in the context of early modern state formation; and we will study individual cases of artists' encounters with foreign goods, from Dürer's exposure to the gold and featherwork from South America and Rembrandt's response to Mughal miniatures to South Asian and Ottoman representational responses to European mapping and western prints.

Studies in 18th-Century Literature: Rise of the Novel: Fictional Matter
Helen Thompson M 2:00PM - 5:00PM University Hall 118

Course Description: In this seminar, we will pursue two goals: first, we will survey the rise of the eighteenth-century British novel. We’ll examine the historical and political determinants, the thematic preoccupations, and the formal developments that define this distinctively modern genre. At the same time, the seminar will trace the novel’s engagement with what was at once the most real and most elusive thing in the eighteenth-century episteme, matter. We will begin the seminar by reading some key texts in eighteenth-century microscopy, experimental chemistry, and empirical philosophy (Robert Hooke, Robert Boyle, John Locke) to understand how the new particulate theory of matter, named “mechanical” or “corpuscular philosophy,” defined the relation between particles of matter and the larger bodies they compose.

Because corpuscular philosophy transformed eighteenth-century conceptions of essence, identity, and perception, we’ll spend most of the quarter reading exploring how the novel pursues the formal, phenomenological, and thematic repercussions of qualities that flow not from innate essence but from contingent interactions between perceivers and objects. We will pay special attention to the form of persons, especially to their division into appearance as opposed to interiority. We’ll also pay special attention to the qualities of persons, especially the qualities of race, status, and sex. There will be accompanying readings in the history of the novel; the history of chemistry and particulate matter theory; the history of chemical medicine as it was deployed in the Great Plague of 1665–6; the history of the construction of race; thing theory; and some contemporary psychophysical theories of the perception of color and of depth.

POLI_SCI 469-20 (31748)
Special Topics in Knowledge & Politics: Politics after Biopolitics: Michel Foucault and His Critics
Jacqueline Stevens T 9:00AM - 11:50AM Scott Hall, Ripton 201

Course Description: This course will analyze concepts that are in the orbit of biopolitics broadly conceived, that is, conflicts over how to reproduce and maintain a particular body politic, in order to engage with the specific concept as appears sporadically in the work of Michel Foucault and is used and criticized by other thinkers. The objective is to understand the advantages and disadvantages of Foucault's critiques of sovereignty for analyzing current political conflicts situated in practices of the nation, race, class, and the family, as well as the subject positions associated with these, i.e., citizens, immigrants, Whites, Asians, rich, poor, the 1%, dependents, women, men, LGBTF, queer, and many more.

The course will attend to the intellectual and political history informing Foucault's decision to develop critiques of the discourse of sovereignty, including juridical discourses. During class meetings we will discuss the uses and disadvantages of Foucault's historical periodizations of changing power/knowledge relations associated with biopolitics and evaluate the metanarrative that informs his new heuristics. The class will read extensively from works by Foucault as well as texts by Giorgio Agamben, Wendy Brown, Judith Butler, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Jacques Rancière, Ann Stoler, and others.


Sociology of Law
Grégoire Mallard

Course Description: This course focuses on various socio-historical approaches to law, with a specific focus on the role that law plays in contemporary modes of global governance, e.g. the new set of codified rules and regulations of transnational scope, and the sources of authority that have managed, monitored and/or enforced these rules during the past century. Legal languages and legal experts have claimed to embody an essential source of authority and a new source of inspiration for the regulation of new problems for at least a century: from the protection of the rule of law in constitutional democracies and its post-conflict restoration of the state, to the regulation of collapsing financial markets and the elimination of weapons of mass destruction. In this course, we will focus on the role that law and lawyers played in different historical periods, characterized either by colonial relationships, or by the Cold War logic of multilateral state relationships, or by the rising involvement of civil society actors in the open world society during the"new globalization"era. We will survey different disciplinary approaches to the topic, from history, political science, anthropology and sociology. Students will be encouraged to develop an original approach to the topic and to illustrate their approach by researching cases of interest to them.

Research Methods on Internet and Society
Eszter Hargittai

Course Description: The Internet, digital media and new computational tools raise new challenges while also offering new opportunities for ways to study our social world and the social, political, cultural and economic aspects of the Internet in particular. The goal of this seminar is to explore rigorous ways of studying the Internet's societal implications empirically using a myriad of social scientific research methodologies.