Science in Human Culture at Northwestern University
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KLOPSTEG LECTURE SERIES

 

Klopsteg Lecture Series, 2014-15

All lectures are open to the public, thanks to the generosity of the Klopsteg fund, and (unless indicated otherwise below) are held in the Hagstrum Room (University Hall Room 201) on Mondays from 4pm-5:30pm.

Poster of SHC lectures.

FALL 2014

September 29, 2014

GEORGE STEINMETZ: Sociology, University of Michigan

"The Colonial Moment in French and British Sociology, 1940s-1960s"

Description: This lecture examines French and British colonial sociology between the 1940s and the 1960s, asking about the ways political contexts, including colonial and imperial contexts, shape social research; about the sources of scientific autonomy and heteronomy; and about the construction and reconfiguration of disciplinary boundaries, especially the boundary between sociology and anthropology. The paper also explores the ways the two imperial intellectual fields differed, converged, and interacted with one another. The first finding is that colonies and empires constituted a central object and terrain of investigation for sociologists in both empires during this period, when sociology was reemerging as a scientific field. The widespread engagement with colonialism had a significant imprint on the discipline, even if this episode was subsequently forgotten. Sociologists engaged in imperial careering, moving from one colonial site to another and between metropoles and colonies.  Imperial academic sociological fields began to emerge, with a primary orientation toward their metropoles and with asymmetrical but increasingly important relations between colonizing and colonized sociologists. Colonial sociology made several contributions, some of which have recently been rediscovered or unwittingly reinvented by theorists of postcolonialism, transnationalism, and race relations.

October 13, 2014

MORANA ALAC: Communication and Science Studies, UC San Diego

"On Everyday Encounters with an Educational Robot and the Quest for Individualized Instruction"

Description: US mass media and academic discourses on digital technologies for education are animated by the idea of individualized instruction.  I engage this idea in the context of an ethnographic study of a social robotics project in a university laboratory of machine learning.  In this project, the researchers design low-cost educational robots geared toward children between 18 and 24 months of age, and, to inform and further evolve the robot’s design, immerse the robot in a preschool setting.  Following scientists around, I ended up observing the preschool’s local methods employed in interacting with the robot. In this talk, I pay attention to touch, spatial organizations, and how communicative modes, such as gesture, speech, gaze and body orientation, feature in concerted action between preschool inhabitants, researchers and their robot. While the design of educational robots uses as a resource and inscribes the idea of individualized instruction in its technologies, I show how particular instances of the embodied and multisensory interaction on the occasion of robot’s design and use both produce and challenge this idea.

October 27, 2014

JAVIER LEZAUN: Institute for Science, Innovation and Society, University of Oxford

"Almost There? Hopes and Regrets in Antimalarial Drug Development"

Description: After decades of divestment, pharmaceutical research on new antimalarials is experiencing something of a renaissance. Since the turn of the century, multiple public-private partnerships have embarked on new drug development projects, often with the financial support of philanthropic organizations – primarily the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This paper will focus on the case of Tafenoquine, an investigational new drug currently undergoing its final Phase III clinical trial. What makes Tafenoquine a fascinating example is that this molecule has been “in development” for more than three decades. In that limbo – “neither alive nor dead” – it has witnessed profound transformations in the political economy of neglected diseases. Initially developed by the US Army as a prophylactic to protect troops deployed overseas, the drug is now poised to enter the market as a “radical cure” for patients suffering from chronic Plasmodium vivax infections in malaria-endemic countries. The paper analyzes the twists and turns in Tafenoquine’s long and convoluted career, and explores the volatile mixture of hope and disappointment that characterizes the contemporary “global health” era.

November 10, 2014

NORTON WISE: History, Institute for Society and Genetics, UCLA

"The Steam-Powered Gardens of Industrializing Berlin"

Description: The naturalistic beauty of the large landscape gardens in and around Berlin attracts residents and tourists alike. It is not often remarked today, however, that the gardens were built during the nineteenth century with steam engines at their heart, nor that their aesthetic quality derives in part from the engines (now electric motors) that power them. It was not always so. Originally the engines were intended to be celebrated by a wondering public, who visited them in their often splendid houses, designed by such architects as Schinkel and Persius. Over the course of the century, as industrialization developed, ownership of steam-powered gardens continually expanded, from the royal family to individual entrepreneurs to bourgeois colonies to the larger public. The gardens and their engines, therefore, provide a unique opportunity to view the social history of industrialization literally on the ground, by making the now-invisible technology visible once again and by reuniting it with the aesthetics of the gardens.

November 17, 2014

SHEILA WILLE: AKIH, History, and EPC, Northwestern University

"The Insect Empire Invades! Unmanageable Nature in Eighteenth-century Britain and the Empire"

Description: Over the course of the eighteenth century, insects were increasingly visible to Britons both at home and abroad. British naturalists, colonials, and agriculturalists noticed, discussed, and wrote more about insects’ destructive and invasive capabilities, as well as their potential profitability and aesthetic qualities, than they ever had before. Primarily, though, these men began to see insects as natural forces to be managed by the industrious for the benefit of the nation and humanity. In this talk, I will examine the increasing visibility of insects over the course of this period and pay special attention to the growing consensus that humans were both able and compelled to intervene in insectile Creation. Perhaps surprisingly, the late-century encouragement of human intervention is not a case study in the secularization of science, but shows instead the remarkable adaptability of seventeenth-century natural theology – especially its foundational assumptions about the stability and fruitfulness of nature – to the program of enlightened entomological improvement.

WINTER 2015

January 26, 2015

KATJA GUENTHER: History, Princeton University

"Localization and Its Discontents: A Genealogy of Psychoanalysis and the Neuro Disciplines"

Description: This talk will offer a historical approach to the relationship between the “psy” and “neuro” disciplines, in particular psychoanalysis and neurology/neurosurgery. Despite their opposition, they both trace intellectual and practical roots back to the same “neuropsychiatry” (Hirnpsychiatrie) that was dominant in the German-speaking world in the late nineteenth century. The analysis of the relationship between neurology and psychoanalysis is guided by their common engagement with the principles of localization and what is best termed “connectivity”—principles of major importance in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century medicine. My historical investigation not only reframes the relationship between psychoanalysis and the “neuro” disciplines, providing resources for thinking about how they developed as independent fields, and shedding new light on their theory and practice. It also offers a new perspective on the contemporary brain sciences. I suggest that recent developments in neuroscience can be read as a re-articulation of the relationship between localization and connectivity. An understanding of this new articulation helps reframe anxieties about the place of neuroscience in contemporary academic culture, and in particular in the humanities.

February 16, 2015

MATTHEW KOPEC: Philosophy, Northwestern University

"Economics and the Self-fulfilling Climate Tragedy"

Description: It has become common practice within the economic literature on climate change to model the problem of international greenhouse gas emissions game-theoretically as a so-called “Tragedy of the Commons.” If this choice of model is the correct one, we’re in trouble – the conditions under which such commons problems have historically been “solved” are almost entirely absent in the case of international greenhouse gas emissions. While I believe that this model will support many accurate predictions, I don’t believe this is necessarily a cause for concern. In this essay, I will argue that the predictive accuracy of the tragedy model stems from the model’s ability to make self-fulfilling predictions within our current international setting. Each nation’s expectation of self-interested actions on the parts of other members in the game, in effect, modifies each nation’s behavior. I present some recent work in behavioral economics that offers a glimmer of hope. In particular, individuals don’t typically act in what such models consider to be rationally self-interested ways. A call for nations to act “irrationally,” much like we all seem to do, may well be our best promise in solving the climate problem.

February 23, 2015

LAURA PEDRAZA-FARIÑA: Law, Northwestern University
"Scaffolding Innovation: Constructing Collaboration Across Knowledge Domains"

Description: Traditional accounts of the role of patents and grants in fostering innovation justify these forms of governmental intervention as necessary to correct market failures. Patents, the standard argument goes, prevent free riding by copyists who did not invest in research and development. Similarly, grants to individual researchers, usually to conduct basic research, incentivize long-term socially beneficial activities for which there is no significant market demand. These two accounts, however, ignore the architecture of knowledge distribution.  Scientific and technical knowledge is produced by communities of innovators rather than by lone scientists. These communities can be conceptualized as nodes in a knowledge network. Some communities have close ties with each other and frequently share information. Others, despite having complementary information needed to solve social problems, have few or no ties—they are separated by what sociologists call “structural holes.” This project focuses on the types of institutions and property rights (in the form of patents) that can support useful scientific communication, break down barriers, and help produce multidisciplinary inventions. Specifically, this research analyzes when and how the architecture of knowledge distribution erects barriers to knowledge acquisition, and how policy instruments such as patents and grants could be redesigned to bridge structural barriers to innovation. I will examine the emergence of cross-disciplinary collaboration in the “Interdisciplinary Research Program Consortia,” a NIH-initiative whose goal is to foster an inter-disciplinary, team science approach to research. NIH has funded nine interdisciplinary research consortia, whose foci range from the study of fertility preservation in female cancer patients to efforts to develop treatments for neurogenetic disorders. I propose that the NIH is attempting to build a “scientific scaffolding.”  The term “scaffolding” denotes temporary bridges across communities of innovation, bridges that help seed and diffuse collaboration. I argue, first, that rather than serve only as incentives to invest in innovation, a subset of grants and patents can serve a scaffolding function that fosters collaboration across communities. Second, I hypothesize that scaffolding patents can produce particularly creative and high-impact innovations. If this is the case, adequately incentivizing the most socially-desirable innovations will require re-conceptualizing innovation incentives to include a scaffolding component.

March 2, 2015

EDEN MEDINA: Informatics and Computing & History, Indiana University

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March 9, 2015

JAMES DELBOURGO: History, Rutgers University

"How To Collect the World"

Description: This talk explores the relationship between collecting things and collecting people in the career of Hans Sloane (1660-1753). Sloane is an understudied figure whose exploits have fallen into relative obscurity. This is especially surprising because his thousands of plant specimens survive almost completely intact in London's Natural History Museum; his library and correspondence remain at the core of the British Library; many of his artificial curiosities remain in the British Museum; and most of the catalogues in which he recorded his possessions also survive, making his perhaps the best documented natural history collection of the early modern period. Born in Ulster in 1660; Sloane travelled to the slave colony of Jamaica as a young man, published a Natural History of Jamaica in 2 volumes (1707-1725); became a wealthy society physician and naturalist and president of both the Royal Society and the Royal College of Physicians. In the half-century after his return from the Caribbean, income from his medical practice, offices, investments and his family’s slave plantations allowed him to amass a ‘universal’ collection through travellers operating around Britain’s expanding colonial system, from the West Indies to East Asia and beyond. On his death, he bequeathed his collection to the British nation in return for £20,000 and the British Museum, created by Act of Parliament in 1753, opened its doors in 1759. Sloane’s career is pivotal to understanding the transformation of a private encyclopaedic collection into a public museum in the context of global commerce and colonization. In Sloane’s case, collecting things entailed collecting people: through the networks by which he accessed curiosities from different parts of the world; and the social collectives generated by the collections themselves. This singular career sheds light on the relationship between early modern empire-building, universal knowledge and the foundation of public institutions in the Enlightenment.

 

 

SPRING 2015

May 4, 2015

STEVEN SHAPIN: History of Science, Harvard University

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SPECIAL EVENT: May 8-9, 2015
Midwestern STS Conference | "Making Knowledge and the Problem of Place: A Midwest Conference for Science and Technology Studies"
featuring keynote speaker: ADRIANA PETRYNA: Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania

"What is a Horizon? Extinction and Borrowed Time amid Climate Change"

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Science in Human Culture, 020 University Hall, 1897 Sheridan Rd., Evanston, IL 60208
tel: 847-491-3525 | fax: 847-467-2733
Director: Helen Tilley, University Hall, Room 025, shc-dir@northwestern.edu
Administrator: Natasha Dennison, University Hall, Room 020, shc-program@northwestern.edu