Sociology 560A: Technology and Science

Instructor: Thomas Kemple
Section: 001

Term: 1
Meets: Wednesdays 10:00am-1:00pm

The sociology of culture and knowledge begins from the premise that beliefs, values, worldviews, and mental processes are always tied to historical times and places, and can therefore be understood as social practices and cultural discourses in their own right. Our seminar will examine a variety of classic and contemporary approaches to this thesis, with a focus on the empirical problem of technological culture and scientific knowledge. The argument that minds are bound up with bodies, and that intelligence oscillates through mechanical mediations, has been explored through ‘documentary methods’ which trace how knowing subjects – from the ordinary person to the scientific genius — are socially distributed, centered, and organized (Mannheim, Foucault, Shapin, Mialet). A related group of thinkers extends these insights by studying the contradiction or complementarity between the realms of commonsense knowledge and technoscientific expertise, including the conceptual practices of social scientists themselves (Weber, Marx, Schutz, Smith). Recently another tradition of thought has considered how even non-human objects exhibit a kind of social agency in forming attachments and networks, often between and within the multiple realities of mundane and divine beings (Durkheim, Bennett, Bourdieu, Latour). Rather than providing instructions for linking mind to matter, course readings can be used as an open tool-box or resource kit for tracking relations and making connections between the facts, fictions, and fabrications of social life.

Required – One term paper, 18-25 pages double-spaced. Due Wednesday, December 5, 2012.
Optional – The following are strongly recommended, but ultimately optional:

a) ‘First word’ – An informal 5-10 minute oral presentation at the beginning of class touching on any aspect of one or more reading(s), and providing a starting point for further class discussion. To be assigned randomly.
b) Essay outline – 3-6 pages that display the organization of your term paper and the development of your main ideas, including: working title; introduction or abstract (1-2 paragraphs); body of the argument; and conclusion (in point form with section heading and pertinent references); and bibliography (preferably with 1-2 sentence annotation for each). Due by Nov. 21.
c) ‘Précis’ or ‘Reflection Papers’— Maximum of 4 synopses, critical commentaries, and/or personal remarks, 1-2 pages each, touching on one or more of the readings. Due in class.
N.B.: The précis/reflection papers, first word, and outline may count for 10% each and up to 40% of the final grade, but will be counted only in so far as they improve the final mark.

Bennett, Jane (2010) Vibrant Matter: A Political Economy of Things. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
Latour, Bruno (2010) On the Modern Cult of the Factish Gods. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
Mialet, Helene (2012) Hawking Incorporated: Stephen Hawking and the Anthropology of the Knowing Subject. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.

plus course package:

  1. Mannheim, Karl (1971) “On the Interpretation of Weltanschauung” [1912-22]. From Karl Mannheim. Kurt H. Wolff ed. New York: Oxford University Press. Pp. 8-58).
  2. Foucault, Michel (1984) “What is Enlightenment?” Catherine Porter trans. The Foucault Reader. Paul Rabinow ed. New York: Pantheon. Pp. 32-50.
  3. Foucault, Michel (1982) “The Subject and Power”. Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics. Hubert L. Dreyfus, Paul Rabinow trans. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Pp. 208-226.
  4. Weber, Max (1989) “Science as a Vocation” [1917/1919]. Micheal John trans. Max Weber’s Science as a Vocation. P. Lassman, I. Velody trans. London: Unwin Hyman. Pp. 3-31.
  5. Weber, Max (2005) “Remarks on ‘Technology and Culture’” [1911]. Beatrix Zumsteg, Thomas Kemple trans. Theory, Culture & Society 22 (4): 23-38.
  6. Shapin, Stephen (2012) “Science and the Modern World”. Never Pure. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. Pp. 377-391.
  7. Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels (1977) “The German Ideology”  [1845-1847]. Karl Marx: Selected Writings. D. McLellan ed. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Pp. 159-171.
  8. Smith, Dorothy (1990) “The Ideological Practice of Sociology”. The Conceptual Practices of Power: A Feminist Sociology of Knowledge. University of Toronto Press. Pp. 31-57.
  9. Smith, Dorothy (1999) “The Ruling Relations”. Writing the Social: Critique, Thoery, and Investigations. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Pp. 74-95.
  10. Schutz, Alfred (1970) “Transcendences and Multiple Realities” [1945/1955]. On Phenomenology and Social Forms. H. R. Wagner ed. University of Chicago Press. Pp. 245-262.
  11. Kemple, Thomas and Renisa Mawani (2009) “The “Sociological Imagination and its Imperial Shadows”. Theory, Culture & Society 26 (7-8): 228-249.
  12. Simmel, Georg (1997) “The Concept and the Tragedy of Culture” [1912]. Simmel on Culture. David Frisby, Mike Featherstone eds. London and New York: SAGE. Pp. 55-75.
  13. Simmel, Georg (1977) “Bridge and Door”. Simmel on Culture: Selected Writings. David Frisby, Mike Featherstone eds. London and New York: SAGE. Pp. 170-174.
  14. Durkheim, Emile and Marcel Mauss, “Conclusions”, Primitive Classification [1903]. Rodney Needham trans. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Pp. 81-88.
  15. Bourdieu, Pierre (1985) “Social Space and the Genesis of Groups”. Theory & Society 14 (6): 723-744.
  16. Bourdieu, Pierre (1991) “Authorized Language”. Language and Symbolic Power. John B. Thompson ed. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Pp. 107-116.
  17. Latour, Bruno (1991) “Technology is Society Made Durable”. A Sociology of Monsters: Essays on Power, Technology, and Domination. J. Law ed. London: Routledge. 103-131.