Trang X. Ta
Introduces the study of science and technology as social and cultural phenomena. Considers both theoretical and methodological questions. Readings include key texts from interdisciplinary field of science studies as well as selected ethnographic texts. Examples taken from U.S. society and other local contexts. Prerequisite: one 200-level ANTH course.
As the boundaries between synthetic and natural, mimesis and alterity, sacred and profane, and human and non-human become increasingly blurred, the practices and products of the biotech industry represent a provocative new understanding of the limits of the human body and the extremes of the commodification of multiple forms of life. We will begin with the social construction of knowledge and then move into a deeper exploration of contemporary ethnographies of science and technology. This seminar is designed to focus on both theoretical and methodological strains of inquiry. Thus, we will be reading the ethnographies for both an understanding of its theoretical underpinnings and as an example of the range of research methodologies employed by scholars. The global pharmaceutical industry, the expanding human tissue market, explorations into the ocean, virtual worlds, and genetically modified foods represent a broad cross-section of the emerging literature on science and technology. These examples illustrate the complex network of scientific practices, market logic, medical ethics, public policy, and social values that inform the contemporary human condition and the future of biotechnological research and development.
Student learning goals
• To become an open thinker who can engage with complex ideas.
• To become a close reader of theoretically challenging material.
• To develop better writing skills through composing a research proposal.
• To develop skills in public speaking, making presentations, and leading class discussions.
General method of instruction
Seminar style discussion.
General liberal arts courses. History and philosophy of science and technology will be useful.
Class assignments and grading
Design a research proposal, lead discussion, go-posts, and participation.
Grades are based on the clarity of the presentation of ideas, perceptive analysis of the research topics, and quality of written prose and research design.