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SOC 338
Transhumanism: Religion, Technoscience, Obsolescence Fall 2020
Division II
Cross-listed HSCI 338 / SOC 338 / STS 338 / REL 338

Class Details

This interdisciplinary seminar invites students to pursue sociohistorical analysis and sustained critical discussion of the transhumanist movement and its overriding aims: the augmentation, transformation, and eventual transcendence of human biological constitution; the realization, through speculative technoscientific means, of an enhanced or even “postbiological existence”–a “posthuman condition,” “Humanity 2.0.” Through close readings of primary historical documents, transhumanist texts, scholarship on transhumanism, works of science-fiction film, literature, and popular culture, we will position the movement as an empirical conduit through which to explore the sociohistorical conditions under which transhumanist ideas and practices have emerged, circulated, and taken up residence. To that end, we will consider the ties of transhumanism to eugenics and massive investments in pharmaceuticals, anti-aging medicine, and so-called “GNR” technologies (i.e. genetics, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence and robotics); the movement’s affinities with neoliberalism and what some have pointed to as transhumanism’s racialized subtext of whiteness. We will furthermore devote considerable attention to the technological singularity, the figure of the cyborg, mind-uploading, space colonization, and cryonic suspension, all of which, like transhumanism broadly, suggest that science and technology have in some sense come to operate as powerful channeling agents for the very sorts of beliefs, practices, and forms of association that theorists of secularization expected modernity to displace. Lastly, throughout the course of the seminar we will take transhumanism as a provocation to think broadly and seriously about religion, technology, embodiment, and ways of being human.
The Class: Format: seminar; Remote
Limit: 14
Expected: 14
Class#: 2004
Grading: yes pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Prerequisites: Prior coursework in sociology-anthropology, history, religion, or science and technology studies.
Enrollment Preferences: Anthropology and Sociology majors and Science and Technology Studies concentrators
Distributions: Division II
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
HSCI 338 Division II SOC 338 Division II STS 338 Division II REL 338 Division II

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