Course Archive

STS 501 001 (cross-listed with PHIL 561A) – Term 1 (Alison Wylie)

The thematic focus of this seminar will be the nature, status, production and circulation of data, facts and evidence. The empirical foundations and products of science have been a perennial focus of research in all the cognate fields of STS, and their study in contextualist, constructionist terms has been a flashpoint for science wars-style debates within these fields, between them, and in popular debate about the status and authority of the sciences. So this conceptual framework provides a useful lens for reviewing “classic work in the history, philosophy, rhetoric, and sociology of science,” taking stock of the formation of STS as a field, and exploring current work that represents new and emerging lines of inquiry.

STS 502 002 (cross-listed with ENGL 509A) – Term 2 (Judy Segal)

Rhetoric of Health and Medicine (RHM) is an assembly of theoretical and methodological dispositions aimed at discovering what is going on, in contexts of health and medicine, when people act discursively on other people. Rhetoricians of health and medicine may take among their objects of analysis medical journal articles, illness narratives, doctor-patient interviews, diagnostic manuals, public health messages, pharmaceutical ads, health-information web sites, and health technologies, including wellness apps. They study health citizenship beyond the individual body, taking among their topics, for example, health ideologies, health politics and policies, and health inequities: health power in general—and rhetorical power.

Over the past two decades, especially, RHM has established itself as a robust field, with allegiances and intellectual commitments to Science and Technology Studies, Health/Medical Humanities, and Disabilities Studies, among other interdisciplines—and, particularly now, in pandemic times, ties to the project of Public Humanities. Rhetoricians of health and medicine have, over time, turned their attention to discursive/persuasive elements in matters of, for example, HIV/AIDS (J. Blake Scott), contested illnesses (Lisa Keränen), mental illness (Carol Berkenkotter), neurodiversity (Melanie Yergeau), health and race (Kelly Happe), global health (Raquel Baldwinson), pain (S. Scott Graham), breast cancer (Phaedra Pezzullo), food (Colleen Derkatch and Philippa Spoel), vaccination (Heidi Lawrence), hormones (Amy Koerber), in/fertility (Robin Jensen), sexual desire (Judy Segal), and gender identity (Karen Kopelson).

It’s not a straightforward thing to separate work directly informed by rhetorical theory and done by self-identified rhetorical critics (exemplified in the scholarship cited above) and work done by sociologists, anthropologists, philosophers, historians, literature specialists and others with a deep interest in rhetoric (scholars like Joseph Dumit, Emily Martin, Ian Hacking, Keith Wailoo, and Catherine Belling, respectively). But this course will, in the first instance, focus on the work of, well, card-carrying rhetoricians, in order to give an account of RHM both in itself and in its inter-, pan-, poly-, and post-disciplinary modes. The course will formulate an answer to the question of what rhetorical studies has to offer to STS and to other interdisciplinary conversations concerning perspectives, problems, and practices, in health and medicine.

STS 597/598 Colloquium in Science and Technology Studies – Term 1-2

STS Related Courses Taught by STS Affiliated Faculty

Graduate Courses

PHIL 560A 001 Philosophy of Science – Term 1 (John Beatty)

ENGL 561A 001 Topics in Science and Technology Studies – Term 1 (Kavita Philip)

We understand ourselves to be living in the Age of Information. How do scholars, activists, and artists understand the nature of the “revolution” that brought this Age into being? How has it reconstituted subjectivity, society, economics, and geopolitics? What changes has this brought to the arts, humanities, and culture? Examining the rise of digital information and its consequences, we ask whether the information revolution has drawn historical patterns of inequality (including race, gender, orientalism, and post-colonial geopolitics) into new political configurations. This course is an introduction to the transnational politics of information. We pursue a long historical view, a global political perspective, and a cultural analysis. Assigned texts (subject to change) include Mario Biagoli on early modern authorship; Foucault on the Enlightenment and classical authorship; Rosemary Coombe on the cultural life of intellectual property; Wendy Chun, Gabriella Coleman and Chris Kelty on coding; Brian Larkin on Nigerian media infrastructures; Samuel Delaney’s short novel Babel-17; and selections from two decades of feminism at the intersection of art and technology. This course is cross listed with LIBR 569B.

HIST 575 101 Readings in International and Global History – Term 1 (Jessica Wang)

“Landscapes of Power: Resources, States, and Societies”

This seminar brings together approaches from environmental history, agrarian studies, the history of capitalism, and studies of state power to explore the global contexts of cultivation and extraction from the early modern period to the near-present, with a particular focus on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  Land use, control of waterways, the development of agricultural commodities and mineral resources, and efforts to manage and govern rural and nomadic peoples have constituted pivotal sites of political and economic development and conflict.  From processes of state-building, nation-building, exploration, trade, and projection of imperial power emerged the basic commodities, built environments, property regimes, and forms of governmentality that we now take for granted on a daily basis.  “Landscapes of Power” examines the historical underpinnings of these processes in diverse parts of the world in order to interrogate the collisions between nature, state, society, and humanity that undergird the material world we live in and the systems of resource management and exploitation that we depend on for food and other basic necessities.

RES 500D 101 (Gunilla Öberg) Expertise under fire. Navigating the divide between scientific practice and science studies 

Scientific expertise is under fire. There is an urgent need for scientists and science scholars alike to jointly grapple with the attacks on science by populist politicians who claim that expertise is elitist and a threat to democracy. In this course, students will jointly explore how science experts can support democracy without turning democracy over to experts.

Science students will grapple with the role of value-judgements in science and how it is plays out in their own field of research.

Humanities students studying the scientific enterprise will grapple with the communication barrier between science studies and the scientific practice.

Through the use historic and contemporary cases, students will work in mixed groups to jointly seek ways to fruitfully navigate the divide between the two communities to find ways to appreciate the social elements of science while seeking a constructive way out of the post-truth quagmire.

Background: Science studies have raised questions about the role of expertise in a democracy. Who counts as an expert? Who should be at the table? It is well documented that scientists on opposite sides of a policy-relevant scientific controversy commonly perceive the other side as biased but see themselves as objective. More data and rigorous analysis rarely resolve such conflicts, yet the expectation is that it is possible to reach consensus. This expectation hinges on the idea that the scientific enterprise is free of values and that science is a deliverer of irrefutable facts. Value-judgements are a necessary part of rigorous science because 100% certainty will never reign. Consensus is therefore not always possible and probably not even desirable. Yet, little is known about how to sensibly navigate this terrain.

Undergraduate Courses

ENGL 309 001 Rhetoric of Science, Technology, Medicine – Term 2 (Sara Press)

The Rhetoric of Science and Medicine examines the role of language, argument, and persuasion, and how it affects the production, translation, and circulation of scientific and medical knowledge. Our guiding questions for the course are based on what rhetorician of medicine Judy Segal identifies as the central questions of rhetorical criticism: “Who is persuading whom of what?” and “what are the means of persuasion?” We will read articles from rhetorical theory and criticism, rhetoric of science, science and technology studies, rhetoric of health and medicine, and public news sources to examine the persuasive elements in science and medicine.

We will interrogate how argument is used to “manufacture controversies” regarding issues like vaccination, and observe how metaphors work in science and medicine (genes as maps; the egg and sperm as romance; wars against Covid-19) to communicate concepts of biological processes. We will be attentive to the biased practices in medicine that discriminate against marginalized populations based on race, gender, class, sexuality, age, and ability. We will also examine the persuasive interactions between pharmaceutical companies and patient consumers, as well as the power dynamics between doctors and patients. Throughout the course, we will be thinking about how experts communicate to the wider public, and how non-experts interact with science and medicine with their own motivations and vocabularies. Given the prominence of health topics in public discourse, the course will pay special attention to the rhetoric of health and medicine.

PHIL 464 001 Philosophy of Biology – Term 2 (Chris Stephens)