STS 101
STEM's Empire: A Critical Introduction to Science and Technology Studies
Last Offered Spring 2022
Division II Difference, Power, and Equity
This course is not offered in the current catalog

Class Details

Who follows the science? The COVID-19 pandemic has upended many’s beliefs in the rationality of scientific enterprise, exposing the institutions, power dynamics, and inequalities that shape its constitution. Meanwhile, the “tech fix” approach to ending the pandemic solely through vaccination has produced staggering death tolls compared to non-pharmaceutical interventions like masking, social distancing, and contact tracing implemented in places such as Liberia, Rwanda, and the Asia-Pacific, which have contained COVID-19 with relative success. As feminist and postcolonial scholars have long told us, the power of science often operates through division, producing dichotomies such as West/non-West, modern/traditional, global/local, developed/underdeveloped, and science/non-science. It is inextricably linked to the colonial conquest of territories, bodies, and minds. In this course, we will explore scientific practice and the production of scientific knowledge through the metaphor of empire: How might we understand scientific claims to truth, knowing that colonial relations of power are still embedded in our identities and institutions, and in the hegemonies that shape our world? We will explore this question by engaging with feminist and postcolonial critiques of science, studying controversies over the environment, medicine, indigenous knowledge, diversity in STEM, and other topics. We will pay particular attention to the situated processes out of which claims to the universal or global are made, asking who is left out of making such claims as well. An introductory course, students will be exposed to key debates in STS and learn critical tools for analyzing science and technology in an unequal but interconnected world.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 14
Expected: 14
Class#: 3416
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Several short response papers, mid-term paper, final project
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: first-years and sophomores
Distributions: Division II Difference, Power, and Equity
DPE Notes: This course will demonstrate how issues of power shapes the practices of empiricism.

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