Cluster Courses in Science Studies, 2018-2019
The Politics of Knowledge: A Sociological Introduction to Science and Technology Studies
Steven Epstein, Department of Sociology
This course is motivated by the assumption that questions of knowledge and technology have become central to the political and cultural organization of modern societies. The fundamental goal of the course is to develop tools to understand not just the social organization of science but also the technoscientific underpinnings of social life. Although much of the actual course content concerns science and technology, the theoretical and analytical frameworks developed in this course are intended to apply to any domain involving knowledge, expertise, or technical tools. We will ask: What have been the dominant approaches to the sociological study of science, knowledge, and technology? How do these various approaches help us understand such topics as the organization of intellectual work, the politics of knowledge production, the design and dissemination of technologies, the standardization of knowledge products, the character of “knowledge societies,” the resolution of conflicts around knowledge and technology, the relations between laypeople and experts, the tensions between expertise and democracy, the measurement and management of technological risk, the technological mediation of identity formation, and the nature of governance in technologically sophisticated societies? Finally, in which ways are present-day studies of science and technology consistent with, and in which ways are they in tension with, other approaches to understanding knowledge, culture, politics, etc., that are employed within sociology today? The course focuses largely (but not completely) on the United States, though we will try whenever possible to place developments in a global context. While much of the scholarship we will consider is broadly sociological, some of it is drawn from other fields. Students from other disciplines are welcome.
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