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Courses

The following information is from the 2017-18 Vassar College Catalogue.

Science, Technology and Society: I. Introductory

105a. 20th Century Revolutions in Physics 1

(Same as PHYS 105) Lord Kelvin, one of the most distinguished physicists of the 19th century, is famous for his 1900 proclamation: "There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now." In the fall of that same year Max Planck provided the spark that would become the revolutionary fire from which a new physics was born. The multiple revolutions in physics that proceeded Kelvin's proclamation are the subject of this class. We examine the developments of Quantum Theory, Special and General Theories of Relativity, and Modern Cosmology studying each in its proper historical context. From both primary and secondary sources we learn the basic concepts that became the fabric of today's physics. Along the way, we are sure to unearth both the undeniable impacts these discoveries have had on society and the contingency surrounding the nature of these scientific revolutions. José Perillán.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 75-minute periods.

111 Science and Justice in the Anthropocene 1

(Same as ESCI 111 and GEOG 111) Geoscientists have proposed a new designation in the geologic time scale for our current time period, "the Anthropocene." The designation reflects the fact that human beings are acting as geological agents, transforming the Earth on a global scale. In this freshman seminar course we explore the possibilities of reconfiguring the actions of humans in the Anthropocene so as to lead to a flowering of a new Era once called 'the Ecozoic' by cultural historian Thomas Berry. Jill Schneiderman.

Open to freshmen only; satisfies college requirement for a Freshman Writing Seminar.

Two 75-minute periods.

131 Genetic Engineering: Basic Principles and Ethical Questions 1

This course includes a consideration of: 1) basic biological knowledge about the nature of the gene, the genetic code, and the way in which the genetic code is translated into the phenotype of the organism; 2) how this basic, scientific knowledge has led to the development of a new technology known as "genetic engineering''; 3) principles and application of the technology itself; 4) the ethical, legal, and economic issues which have been raised by the advent of this technology. Among the issues discussed are ethical questions such as the nature of life itself, the right of scientists to pursue research at will, and the role of the academy to regulate the individual scientific enterprise. Jennifer Kennell.

Not offered in 2017/18.

146b. The Culture and Chemistry of Cuisine 1

(Same as CHEM 146) A basic biological need of all organisms is the ability to acquire nutrients from the environment; humans accomplish this in many creative ways. Food is an important factor in societies that influences population growth, culture, migration, and conflict. Humans discovered the science and art of food preparation, topics that are explored in this course, not in a single step but rather as an evolving process that continues to this day. This course develops the basic chemistry, biochemistry and microbiology of food preparation; explores the biochemical basis of certain nutritional practices; covers social and political aspects of foods throughout world history. It covers controversies like genetically modified organisms, the production of high-fructose corn syrup, and the historic role of food commodities such as salt, rum, and cod in the world economy. Course topics are explored through lectures, student presentations, and readings from both popular and scientific literature. The course includes a few laboratories to explore the basic science behind food preparation. Miriam Rossi.

Not offered in 2017/18.

160 Relatively Uncertain: A History of Physics, Religion and Popular Culture 1

(Same as PHYS 160 and RELI 160) This course examines the cultural history of key ideas and experiments in physics, looking in particular at how non-scientists understood key concepts such as entropy, relativity, quantum mechanics and the idea of higher or new dimensions. It begins with an assumption that's widely accepted among historians -- namely, that the sciences are a part of culture and are influenced by cultural trends, contemporary concerns and even urgent personal ethical or religious dilemmas. In this course we are attuned to the ways that physicists drew key insights from popular culture and how non-scientists, including religious or spiritual seekers, appropriated (and misappropriated) scientific insights about the origin and nature of the world, its underlying laws and energetic forces, and its ultimate meaning and purpose. Brian Daly and Christopher White.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 75-minute periods.

172 Microbial Wars 1

(Same as BIOL 172) This course explores our relationship with microbes that cause disease. Topics including bioterrorism, vaccinology, smallpox eradication, influenza pandemics, antibiotic resistance, and emerging diseases are discussed to investigate how human populations are affected by disease, how and why we alter microorganisms intentionally or unintentionally, and how we study disease causing microbes of the past and present. The use of new technologies in microbiology that allow us to turn harmful pathogens into helpful medical or industrial tools are also discussed. David Esteban.

186 Philosophy of Medicine 0.5

(Same as PHIL 186) How does medicine look at and see the body? What kind of body does it envision, and what the means by which it locates within the space of the body that which threatens the body's organic unity? This six-week course engages in the philosophies of medical perception and diagnostic practices. From the constitution of health and disease in a body, the discovery of illnesses (as a category, and located in the body), to the construction, via legislation, of a healthy society (body-politic), and the use and abuse of metaphors of disease, this course examines the ways in which medical science fashions its object of study, discovers and diagnoses buried beneath the symptom the movements of disease, and aims to treat the body of the individual and society from the constant threat of illness.

Readings include authors such as: Georges Canguilhem, Frantz Fanon, Michel Foucault, Annemarie Mol, and Susan Sontag. Required work includes reading, short weekly writing assignments, class participation, and attendance. Osman Nemli.

Second six-week course.

Two 75-minute periods.

Science, Technology and Society: II. Intermediate

200b. Conceptualizing STS: Theories and Practice 1

An introduction to the multidisciplinary study of contemporary science and technology through selected case studies and key texts representing the major perspectives and methods of analysis, including work by Thomas Kuhn, Robert Merton, Bruno Latour, Sandra Harding, Helen Longino, and Naomi Oreskes. Some of the issues include the concept of scientific revolution, the nature of "big science" and "high technology," the sociology of scientific knowledge, the social construction of science and technology, the ethics of funding/owning science and technology, and feminist approaches to science and technology. José Perillán.

Prerequisite(s): one other Science, Technology and Science course.

Two 75-minute periods.

202 History of Modern Science and Technology 1

This course is a survey of major developments in Western science and technology from 1800 to the present with increased attention to contemporary developments in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Major issues include the rise of weapons ammunition (automatic firearms), viral immunization (HIV/AIDS), the human sciences (Darwinism), reproductive technology (birth control), cybernetics (AI), and genetic manipulation (cloning). These topics are discussed in relation to larger processes of colonialism, militarism, higher education, and queer/women's rights. Students will learn from this course that science and technology are phenomena rooted in historical events, emerging through human exchange, social controversies, and political challenges. Long Bui.

Prerequisite(s): one unit of natural or social science.

Two 75-minute periods.

220a. The Political Economy of Health Care 1

(Same as ECON 220) Topics include the markets for physicians and nurses, hospital services, pharmaceuticals, and health insurance, both public and private; effects of changes in medical technology; and global health problems. A comparative study of several other countries' health care systems and reforms to the U.S. system focuses on problems of financing and providing access to health care in a climate of increasing demand and rising costs. Shirley Johnson-Lans.

Prerequisite(s): ECON 102. Students with a strong quantitative background may enroll with the instructor's permission.

222 Bioethics and Human Reproduction 1

Scientific and technological advances are revolutionizing the ways in which human beings can procreate. This has given rise to debates over the ethical use of these methods, and over whether and how law and public policy should regulate these procedures and recognize the family relationships created by their use. This course examines topics such as fertility treatments, the commodification of gametes and embryos, contraceptive development and use, genetic screening and genetic modification of embryos, genetic testing in establishing family rights and responsibilities, and human cloning. We examine issues surrounding the ethical use of these methods, and consider whether and how law and public policy should regulate these procedures and recognize the family relationships created by their use. Nancy Pokrywka.

Not offered in 2017/18.

226 Philosophy of Science 1

(Same as PHIL 226) This course explores general questions about the nature of scientific inquiry, such as whether science is fully rational, and whether even our best scientific theories really provide us with accurate depictions of the natural order.  The course also treats philosophical issues that arise in relation to specific scientific theories. These include whether life originated in a series of unlikely accidents, whether human cognition may be understood in purely computational terms, and whether we should embrace the existence of multiple universes and abandon the requirement that scientific theories be testable. Douglas Winblad.

Prerequisite(s): one 100-level course in Philosophy.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 75-minute periods.

231 Topics in Archaeology 1

An examination of topics of interest in current archaeological analysis. We examine the anthropological reasons for such analyses, how analysis proceeds, what has been discovered to date through such analyses, and what the future of the topic seems to be. Possible topics include tools and human behavior, lithic technology, the archaeology of death, prehistoric settlement systems, origins of material culture.

May be repeated for credit if the topic has changed.

Topic for 2017/18b:  People in a New World. (Same as ANTH 231) Approximately 15,000 years ago, according to current scientific thought, humans expanded into the last large landmass left in the world without human inhabitants:  The Americas.  Who were these people?  How did they get here and from where?  What were the environmental and ecological conditions they faced, and how did they overcome them?  What technologies did they bring with them, and what new technologies did they create in order to colonize these continents? This course examines the history of studies of the earliest Americans, what theories emerged about their origins over time, which have been discarded, and which still exist and compete with one another.  Our current sources of information about the earliest immigrants – archaeology, biological anthropology, linguistics, ecology, genetics, geology, geophysics, chemistry among them – are examined to consider what leads they can produce and how they must be evaluated in coming to conclusions about what happened in the Americas 20-10,000 years ago. Lucy Johnson.

Prerequisite(s):  ANTH 100 or ANTH 235.

Two 75-minute periods.

234 Disability and Society 1

(Same as SOCI 234) The vision of disability has changed radically over the past twenty years. Public policies have been legislated, language has been altered, opportunities have been rethought, a social movement has emerged, problems of discrimination, oppression, and prejudice have been highlighted, and social thinkers have addressed a wide range of issues relating to the representation and portrayal of people with disabilities. This course examines these issues, focusing on the emergence of the disability rights movement, the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the various debates over American Sign Language, "deaf culture," and the student uprising at Gallaudet University and how writers and artists have portrayed people with disabilities. Marque Miringoff.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 2-hour periods each week; one 2-hour period is devoted to lecture and discussion of reading materials, the second 2-hour period serves as a laboratory for films, speakers, and trips.

235a. Introduction to German Cultural Studies 1

(Same as GERM 235) Topic for 2017/18: Literary Science: Exploring the Fusion of Literature and the Natural Sciences. Departing from C.P. Snow's famous thesis that the sciences and the arts comprise two distinct cultures, this course investigates the border crossings between these domains, with an emphasis on literature and the natural sciences practiced in German-speaking Europe from the Enlightenment to the present.  We consider how and why scientists such as Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Alexander von Humboldt, and Sigmund Freud cultivate a literary style in their evocations of nature or human psychology.  We also study how and why authors such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe appropriate in their literary work principles derived from the natural sciences, and how and why authors such as Bertolt Brecht, Janna Levin, or Daniel Kehlmann (author of the best-selling novel Measuring the World) depict the lives of scientists and mathematicians such as Galileo, Humboldt, or Kurt Gödel.  In addition, we discuss the extent to which scientific methodology can be applied to literature.  Our overarching questions are: What have the modern arts and sciences learned from one another, and what can we in turn learn by studying literature and science in relation to one another? Other authors, scientists, artists, and mathematicians we may consider include Carl Friedrich Gauss, Georg Büchner, Frederic Edwin Church, Kurd Lasswitz, Werner Heisenberg, Robert Musil, Michael Frayn, and Rebecca Goldstein. Elliott Schreiber.

Two 75-minute periods.

245 Medicine, Health and Diseases in East Asia 1

(Same as ASIA 245 and HIST 245) From the globalization of acupuncture to the proliferation of biobanks to the fight against the deadly SARS virus, the history of East Asian medicine and society has been marked by promises and perils. Through examining the ways in which East Asians conceptualized medicine and the body in their fight against diseases from a myriad of sources, this course critically examines the persistence, transformation, and globalization of both "traditional medicine" and biomedicine in East Asia. Topics covered include the knowledge of nature as embedded in the changing categorization of pharmaceuticals, the contestation over vaccination and the definition of diseases, the construction of gender and sexuality in medicine, the importance of religion in healing, the legacies of colonialism in biopolitics and biotechnology, the development of healthcare systems, and the imaginations of Asian medicine in the West. Wayne Soon.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 75-minute periods.

247 Albert Einstein 1

(Same as HIST 247) This course explores the complex life and work of the iconic scientist of the 20th century. Using recent biographical studies and a wide range of original sources (in translation), Einstein's revolutionary contributions to relativity and quantum mechanics, his role in Germany in the opposition to the rise of Nazi ideology and anti-Semitism, and his work as a political and social activist in the United States are examined. Students are encouraged to make use of Vassar's Bergreen Collection of original Einstein manuscripts. José Perillán.

Two 75-minute periods.

254a. Bio-Politics of Breast Cancer 1

(Same as WMST 254) We examine the basic scientific, clinical and epidemiological data relevant to our current understanding of the risks (including environmental, genetic, hormonal and lifestyle factors), detection, treatment (including both traditional and alternative approaches), and prevention of breast cancer. In trying to understand these data in the context of the culture of the disease, we explore the roles of the pharmaceutical companies, federal and private foundations, survivor and other activist groups, and the media in shaping research, treatment and policy strategies related to breast cancer.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 75-minute periods.

255 Introduction to Forensic Chemistry 1

(Same as CHEM 255) Forensic chemistry is the application of chemistry in the study of evidence in criminal or civil cases. This course covers underlying chemistry concepts and scientific methods in the analysis and evaluation of several types of forensic  evidence.  Topics include crime scene investigation and case studies, overview of rules of evidence, finger-printing analysis, GCMS and FTIR  characterization of organic compounds and fibers,  hair and glass analysis, and DNA profiling. Sarjit Kaur.

Prerequisite: CHEM 244.

Three 50-minute periods; one 4-hour laboratory.

258 Black Holes, Human Clones and Nanobots: The Edge of Science 1

Will the newest version of the CERN accelerator in Europe create a mini black hole on earth? What are the implications of our advances in genetic engineering and nanotechnology? Twentieth-century science gave us revolutions in many diverse fields, but three of the most important and pervasive innovations were relativity, quantum theory, and the mapping of the human genome. The effects of these advances on human knowledge have begun to ripple through our society but they are far from having realized their full potential. Where do we stand now and where are we headed? These are the fundamental questions we will grapple with in this course. The implications of understanding nature, and by extension learning to manipulate nature, straddle multiple disciplines. We explore topics in the conceptual understanding of modern science and its relationship to religion, politics, economics, and philosophy. No mathematical background is necessary; a sincere interest in the subject matter is the only pre-requisite for this course. Readings may include works by authors such as Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, James Watson, Justine Burley, Thomas Kuhn, Hilary Putnam, Arthur C. Clarke, Richard Dawkins, and Brian Greene among others. José Perrillán.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 75-minute periods.

260a. Health, Medicine, and Public Policy 1

(Same as SOCI 260) The Zika Virus, Flint Michigan's lead crisis, the Heroin-Opioid epidemic, the "health care as a right" debate, the changing role of physicians, are all issues of contemporary concern in the fields of medicine and public health. In this course, we address  the analytical context for these problems and debates. We begin by looking at a long-standing problem, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, nationally and globally, its fraught history, current status, social construction, and impact on the fields of medicine and public health. We consider too the history and current status of infectious diseases as a public health crisis. Finally, we look at public health and health care policy, their history, Obamacare, and what may come next. Marque Miringoff.

Two 75-minute periods.

266b. Genetic Revolution & Identity 1

This course draws on a variety of scientific, ideological and sociological frameworks to consider the impact of the genetic revolution on our identities as biological and cultural beings. In recent years the unprecedented availability of genetic information has led human beings to redefine themselves in genetic terms. Various researchers have claimed to discover genes influencing intelligence, sexuality, gender, religiosity, aggression and addiction among others. DNA evidence has become a common legal tool, and individuals can acquire extensive genetic information about themselves via "personal genetics" companies. We discuss the ethical, legal, and social implications of this new genetic determinism using multiple frameworks. We also examine the depiction of genetics in popular culture and the effects it has on perceptions of identity. Topics may include nature and nurture, epigenetics, the commercialization of genetic information, DNA databases, and privacy, sexual identity, and race. Nancy Jo Pokrywka.

 

Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 75-minute periods.

267b. Environmental and Natural Resource Economics 1

(Same as ECON 267) This course examines environmental and natural resource issues from an economic perspective. Environmental problems and controversies are introduced and detailed, and then various possible policies and solutions to the problems are analyzed. Economic analyses will determine the effectiveness of potential policies and also determine the people and entities which benefit from (and are hurt by) these policies. The goal is for students to develop a framework for understanding environmental problems and then to learn how to analyze policy actions within that framework. Topics include water pollution, air pollution, species protection, externalities, the energy situation, and natural resource extraction. Paul Ruud.

Prerequisite(s): ECON 102 and permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods.

268a. Current and Emerging Issues in Public Health 1

This course examines public health topics of current and emerging interest in both developed and developing nations. Selected topics include theories of justice and public health ethics, social determinants of health, health promotion and disease prevention, health care delivery, environmental problems, and the issues that are influencing and that may influence the health status of populations now and in the future. Contemporary case studies are used to examine and demonstrate the inter-relatedness of social justice, culture, politics, technology, and public health. Leroy Cooper.

Two 75-minute periods.

270b. Drugs, Culture, and Society 1

(Same as SOCI 270) This course draws on a variety of Science Studies and Sociological frameworks to consider the implications of various substances that we conventionally refer to as "drugs." Topics include medical, psychiatric, instrumental, or recreational use of licit and illicit substances. Relevant conceptional frameworks are used to explore and analyze the impact of new chemical technology, debates regarding the safety and efficacy of pharmaceuticals, the consequences of globalization on patterns of use, policy and enforcement, as well as the social construction of drugs as a social problem. Heroin, Cocaine, Marijuana, Methamphetamine, MDMA, Ayahuasca, ADHD drugs, SSRIs and hormonal Steroids are all of special interest in so far as they constitute strategic sites for the study of social or technological controversy.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 75-minute periods.

273b. The New Economy 1

(Same as SOCI 273) The new economy is, in one sense, a very old concern of sociology. Since the discipline's 19th-c. origins, sociologists have asked how changes in material production and economic relations alter the ways that people live, work, understand their lives, and relate to one another. However, current interests in the new economy center upon something new: a flexible, "just in time" mode of industry and consumerism made possible by information technologies and related organizational innovations. The logic of this new economy, as well as its consequences for society, are the subject of this course. Topics include the evolving role of technology in economic globalization; the precarity of today's workplaces and labor markets; the question of the "creative class"; digital divides in technology access, education, and lifestyles; and the cutting edges of consumerism. Leonard Nevarez.

Not offered in 2017/18.

277b. Feminist Approaches to Science and Technology 1

(Same as WMST 277) In this course students examine the intersections of science and technology with the categories of gender, race, class, and sexuality. We explore the ways that science and technology help to construct these socio-cultural categories and how the constructions play out in society. Examples come from the history of science and technology, concerns about gender identity, health care, environmentalism, and equal opportunity in education and careers. Throughout the course, we ask how the social institution and power of science itself is affected by social categories. We also investigate alternative approaches to the construction of knowledge. Jill Schneiderman. 

Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 75-minute periods.

282 The History of Mediascapes: Critical Maker Culture 1

(Same as  ENGL 282) This class takes as its jumping off point the point made in Colonial Mediascapes and the work of Arjun Appadurai's "Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy" and his definition of "mediascape,": "the second of the five "scapes"… an elementary framework for understanding the new phenomenon of information distribution in "a world in which both points of departure and points of arrival are in cultural flux…" (Germaine Warkentin, "Dead Metaphor or Working Model?, Colonial Mediascapes, 49). This class decolonizes book history and "maker culture." In particular, we consider issue of race, gender, disability, neurodiversity, sexuality in working and making an alternative history of the book that includes the khipu, the girdle book, the wampum, pamphlets, zines, and wearable media technology. This is also a media maker class in which you are asked to scrape vellum, try your hand at papermaking, sew, knot, and sodder circuits, and tackle an Arduino kit. Dorothy Kim.

284 The Transplanted Body 1

Organ transplantation has had a profound influence not only on medicine and medical ethics, but also on definitions of the self, configurations of the body, the boundaries of life and death, and the nature of gifts and commodities. This course focuses on the meanings and realities of the transplanted body. We explore the ethics of donation and organ markets, property rights and the body, xenotransplantation, and regenerative medicine. We also discover the rich vein of fictive, folkloric, anthropological, and historical texts, films, and paintings that represent the surgical act of tissue transfer and explore the metaphorical and aesthetic possibilities it contains. We see how these representations resonate with the legal, philosophical, and bioethical essays we read. Throughout the semester, we map out the transplanted body as something both real and symbolic, based in medical history, but also mythology. Eric Trump.

Two 75-minute periods.

290a or b. Field Work 0.5 to 1

298a or b. Independent Work 0.5 to 1

Science, Technology and Society: III. Advanced

300a. Senior Thesis 1

301b. Senior Seminar 0.5

The seminar meets during the first six weeks of the second semester. Senior majors present and defend their senior theses before the student and faculty members of the program.

302 History of Science and Technology Since World War II 1

An examination of major developments in science and technology since 1945, with particular emphasis on the social contexts and implications. The topics to receive special attention are: the origins and growth of systems theories (systems analysis, operations research, game theory, cybernetics), the development of molecular genetics from the double helix to sociobiology; and the evolution of telecommunications technologies.

Prerequisite(s): one unit of natural science and one unit of modern history, or permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2017/18.

310 Seminar in Analytic Philosophy 1

(Same as PHIL 310) Topic for 2017/18b: Philosophy of Mental Illness. This senior seminar focuses on two main issues: (1) What is the best way to define psychopathology, and what can we do about controversial cases? Should all mental illnesses be grouped into classes based on their biological characteristics or their physical causes, or is there a better model? How do we differentiate illness from socially realized disability? What are recent controversies in psychiatric research of pathology? (2) What are ethical implications of current or possible taxonomies of psychopathologies: in particular, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), and the International Classification of Diseases (ICD)? What can we learn about mental disability from the disability rights movement? Are current treatment options, particularly pharmacological approaches, ethically sound? And finally, how do all of these issues impact child patients? Readings include Foucault, Szasz, Wakefield, Hacking, the DSM-V, and recent empirical work. Students are encouraged to pursue independent research on the topics of most interest to them. Sofia Ortiz-Hinojosa.

Priority will be given to Philosophy majors. 

One 3-hour period.

323 History of Geological Thought: 1690-1980 1

(Same as ESCI 323) In this course we examine the historical context and scientific ideas put forth by natural philosophers and scientists including Thomas Burnet, Nicolas Steno, James Hutton, Charles Lyell, Charles Darwin, Alfred Wegener, Marie Tharp, Bruce Heezen, Stephen Jay Gould, Niles Eldredge, James Lovelock and Walter Alvarez. Topics of study include geologic time, continental drift and plate tectonics, evolution and punctuated equilibrium, Gaia, and bolide impacts. Jill Schneiderman.

Prerequisite(s): Must be a science or Science, Technology, and Society major at the junior or senior level, or by permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 75-minute periods.

331b. Topics in Archaeological Theory and Method 1

The theoretical underpinnings of anthropological archaeology and the use of theory in studying particular bodies of data. The focus ranges from examination of published data covering topics such as architecture and society, the origin of complex society, the relationship between technology and ecology to more laboratory-oriented examination of such topics as archaeometry, archaeozoology, or lithic technology.

May be repeated for credit if the topic has changed.

Topic for 2016/17b: Technology and Ecology. (Same as ANTH 331 and ENST 331 ) Examines the interactions between human beings and their environment as mediated by technology, focusing on the period from the earliest evidence of toolmaking approximately up to the Industrial Revolution. Student research projects often bring the course up to the present. Includes experimentation with ancient technologies and field trips to local markets and craft workshops. Lucy Johnson.

 

Prerequisite(s): previous coursework in Anthropology, Environmental Studies, or Science, Technology, and Society, or permission of the instructor. 

May be repeated for credit if the topic has changed.

Not offered in 2017/18.

One 2-hour period plus one 4-hour lab.

340 Controversies in Context: Technoscientific Futures 1

Will the CERN particle accelerator in Europe create a mini black hole on earth? What are the intended and unintended consequences of genetic and technological enhancements on humanity? Are we headed towards a technological singularity? Will we colonize other planets? These seem like plot lines ripped from science fiction stories, yet recent advances in scientific knowledge and technological innovation have begun to ripple through societies leaving a trail of confusion, excitement, terror, and controversy. In this seminar, we  grapple with the controversies surrounding humanity's technoscientific future. Einstein observed that "[s]cience as something existing and complete is the most objective thing known to man. But science in the making, science as an end to be pursued, is as subjective and psychologically conditioned as any other branch of human endeavor." Our work in this seminar is based on the assumption that science is a human practice and a social phenomenon, and as a result, humanity's technoscientific future is fundamentally contingent and not predetermined. We engage with scientists, STS scholars and science fiction writers as we reflexively explore our tethered extrapolations of the frontiers of technoscience. José Perillán.

Prerequisite(s): STS 200.

One 2-hour period.

350 Comparative Studies in Religion 1

(Same as RELI 350) In this course we examine closely religious rituals and how they are used to understand or approach the divine. We focus in particular on ritual prayer, meditation, spirit possession and other practices of listening or speaking to God(s).  The course examines these practices across a number of cultures and religious traditions.

Topic for 2017/18b: Science, Religion and Technology: Controversies and Problems: In this seminar we survey recent arguments and controversies between scientists and religious believers in the modern West.  We  investigate sources of conflict, issues that have caused tension, and different possibilities for reconciliation between the two groups.  We also examine ways of talking about science, religion and technology that go beyond the "conflict" model (science versus religion) and look instead at how these different parts of culture shape and influence one another. How have new sciences and technologies challenged and altered religious beliefs and practices?  How have religious people in turn shaped new scientific ideas?  We examine these questions by looking at specific controversial cases such as evolution/creationism, the mind/body problem, medical ethics, human cloning, artificial intelligence and emerging technologies. Christopher White.

One 2-hour period.

352 Medicine and (Dis)order: A Social Geography of Healthcare 1

(Same as GEOG 352) The healthcare industry is a central component of the modern world. In the case of the United States, it has co-evolved with capitalism, inequality, mass incarceration, and urbanization-among other phenomena. Using a social and historical geographic lens, this course examines the development of medicine as it relates to these phenomena as well as matters of social difference (e.g., gender, sexuality, class, and race) and associated social struggles. Topics include the development of healthcare institutions and related labor regimes, race and medical experimentation, and transgender identity and the healthcare system. In exploring these topics, the course also engages alternative understandings of health and wellness, and organized efforts "from below" to realize alternative, more democratic forms of healthcare.

Not offered in 2017/18.

One 3-hour period.

353 Bio-Social Controversy 1

(Same as SOCI 353) Scientific controversies take place not only within scientific communities but may be joined and waged in public arenas as well. This course is centered around the intense reaction triggered by extension of biological explanations and evolutionary logic to all aspects of contemporary life including race, sex/gender, violence and social behavior in general. Scientific Controversy is a strategic site for analyzing the social dynamics of various disputes including those among biological and cultural anthropologists, academic scientists and transgender activists, and between advocates of divergent views of race and sexual difference. Alternative perspectives -- Darwinian feminism and efforts by transgender biologists to challenge the gender binary -- are also relevant to our conversation. The range of conceptual frames deployed to interpret these controversies includes Popperian philosophy of science, the sociology of Relativism and Rhetoric, and a Foucauldian power/knowledge perspective. 

Not offered in 2017/18.

360 Issues in Bioethics 1

Topic for 2017/18b: Bodies into Other Bodies.  This course studies the medical, social, and cultural dimensions surrounding the ways in which our bodies, their meanings and realities, have been transformed through medical intervention. Advances in reproductive medicine and physician-assisted suicide, for example, have radically transformed how we view life and death and self and other. Preimplantation diagnosis has altered our definitions of what a human can be. Topics may include: blood, egg, and sperm donation, the definition of death, disability rights, regenerative medicine, and the body as property. Through a close reading of a variety of texts, including policy and theory, we will light on how bodies are transformed, dissected, and redefined. In the process, we understand the ethical frameworks surrounding the transformation of our bodies. Class discussion is built around texts from multiple genres, including bioethics, literature, and philosophy. Eric Trump.

One 2-hour period.

367 Mind, Culture, and Biology 1

(Same as SOCI 367) What can memes, genes or Darwinian social science tell us about religion, literature, or consumer culture?  To what extent can Biology explain culture or at least inspire substantive debate about the role of ideas?  This course addresses the "Darwinization of culture" and explores various competing perspectives ranging from Evolutionary Psychology and Bio-Sociology to Memetics and Social Construction. Seminar discussions include controversial attempts to interpret Homeric epics (Gottschall's The Rape of Troy), to claim universal standards of beauty (Etcoff's Survival of the Prettiest), and to account for the existence of a personal god (Boyer's Religion Explained).  Consider that Science -- arguably our most reliable source of valid knowledge -- can also serve as a source of contentious ideas that are simultaneously engaging, provoking and perhaps (for some) even dangerous.

Not offered in 2017/18.

One 2-hour period.

370 Feminism and Environmentalism 1

(Same as ENST 370 and WMST 370) In this seminar we explore some basic concepts and approaches within feminist environmental analysis paying particular attention to feminist theory and its relevance to environmental issues. We examine a range of feminist research and analysis in 'environmental studies' that is connected by the recognition that gender subordination and environmental destruction are related phenomena. That is, they are the linked outcomes of forms of interactions with nature that are shaped by hierarchy and dominance, and they have global relevance. The course helps students discover the expansive contributions of feminist analysis and action to environmental research and advocacy; it provides the chance for students to apply the contributions of a feminist perspective to their own specific environmental interests. Jill Schneiderman.

Prerequisite(s): permission of the instructor; WMST 130 recommended.

Not offered in 2017/18.

One 2-hour period.

375 Gender, Race, and Science 1

Not offered in 2017/18.

380 Techno-Orientalism: The Asian Connection to Science and Technology 1

This class analyzes the ways Asians have been tied to science and technology, an association that may seem obvious but poorly understood. Throughout the course, the overarching theme of techno-Orientalism helps frame discussions of manufacturing industry, globalization, STEM, and the information digital economy. Students understand how and why Orientalism--or the Western sense of people from the East as dangerous enemies/exotic foreigners--gets transformed and warped in the high-tech age. Our seminar explores how U.S.-Asian relations shaped the rise of superpowers like Japan, South Korea, India, Singapore, and China, as well as emergent powerhouses like Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan. The class focuses on the contemporary period, centering on the 20th century to early 21st century.

One 3-hour period.

382 Renewable Energy 1

This seminar is a careful examination of the renewable energy technologies currently available to replace fossil fuels. Primary attention goes to wind, solar power, hydroelectric power and biomass (including ethanol and biodiesel), with briefer consideration of other renewables such as geothermal and tidal energy. The seminar draws upon such methodologies as the social construction of technology and actor-network theory to understand the interaction of technological, economic, environmental and political factors currently shaping the field of renewable energy.

Prerequisite(s):  STS 200, and two units of natural science; or permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2017/18.

One 2-hour period.

385 Technology, Ecology, and Society 1

(Same as ENST 385) Examines the interactions between human beings and their environment as mediated by technology, focusing on the period from the earliest evidence of toolmaking approximately up to the Industrial Revolution. Student research projects often bring the course up to the present. Includes experimentation with ancient technologies and field trips to local markets and craft workshops.

 

Prerequisite(s): previous coursework in Anthropology, Environmental Studies, or Science, Technology, and Society, or permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2017/18.

One 2-hour period; plus 4 hour lab.

399a or b. Senior Independent Work 0.5 to 1