Skip to main content


Cluster Courses in Science Studies, 2014-15

FALL 2014

HISTORY 405-20 (12049)
Daniel Immerwahr Th 2:00-4:50pm Harris Hall L40

Course Description: This graduate seminar offers an introduction to the major themes and methodologies pertinent to the study of modern (1750-present) empires. How and why did empires become the dominant form of international politics for most of the modern period? How did they work? How were the colonized governed? How did they resist? Our survey will include works on the British, French, U.S., Dutch, German, and Japanese empires. Among the major themes will be gender, state formation, military violence, anti-imperialism, imperial knowledge production, and settler colonialism. The emphasis in this class will be on reading books that have received critical acclaim in their fields. The writing load will be comparatively light.

We'll spend probably three weeks reading books that have something to do with power/knowledge, but that's more about census-taking, police records, and so forth than with science narrowly construed. Other weeks will be political, economic, and gender history.


MTS 525-24 (27714)
James Schwoch Th 3:00-6:00pm Frances Searle 2107

Course Description: This course explores various trajectories and developments that shape research, scholarship, and literature in Media, Technology, and Society. In part, this course takes an historical approach and selectively examines past research in the field. Another component of this course includes selectively examining various topics, themes, issues, and concerns that have attracted attention from scholars in the past, and continue to attract attention today. Yet another component of this course selectively examines changes over time in scholarship related to Media, Technology, and Society how ideas and interests of scholars can rise, can fade, and can be transformed.

HISTORY 405-20 (25139)
Ken Alder T 2:00-4:50pm Harris Hall L40

Course Description: In this course we will consider diverse approaches to the history of material culture. We will examine case studies that range from the Trobriand Islands and ancient Sumeria to near-contemporary America and Africa—though our principal focus will be on the past two hundred years of industrial and consumer culture. How might our interpretations of the past be transformed by placing material objects at the center of our accounts? Can histories organized around artifacts knit together social, political, economic, cultural, and intellectual histories—not to mention histories of science and technology? What are "things," and how can they be considered historical actors? Do artifacts have politics? To answer these questions we will consider the variety of people who design, produce, use, or comment on objects: artisans, engineers, laborers, Luddites, futurists, critics, and consumers of all stripes, as well as hackers, hobbyists, and DIY'ers. We will consider the life-cycle of "banal" objects, as well as liminal objects that mediate diverse realms of experience, like fetishes, placebos, and art.

Above all, we will read contending approaches to the history of material culture—Marxist readings of commodities, the social construction of knowledge, studies of gift exchange, museology, literary studies, analyses of the body and gender politics, evolutionary theory, art history, systems theory, infrastructure studies, semiotics, and performance studies—as articulated by theoreticians of things such as Laurence Sterne, Karl Marx, Marcel Mauss, and Bruno Latour, among others. For their final assignment, students will write a review essay that can help re-frame the history of a material artifact of their choosing.

In addition to a range of theoretical articles, we will read historical works such as:

- T. H. Breen, Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence (2005).

- Robin Burnstein, Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights (2011).

- Deborah Cohen, Household Gods: The British and Their Possessions (2009).

- David Edgerton, The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History Since 1900 (2006).

- Gabrielle Hecht, Being Nuclear: Africans and the Global Uranium Trade (2012).

- Nicholas Thomas, Entangled Objects: Exchange, Material Culture and Colonialism in the Pacific (1991).

- John Tresch, The Romantic Machine: Utopian Science and Technology after Napoleon (2012).

- Elizabeth A. Wilson, Psychosomatic: Feminism and the Neurological Body (2004).


ART HISTORY 440-20 (38696)
Claudia Swan F 2:00-5:00pm Locy Hall 213

Course Description: This seminar offers an introduction to the historical record and recent historiography of transcultural encounters between European states, the Ottoman Empire, the Mughal Empire, Asia, and the Indies. The primary focus of the seminar will be on the production, exchange, and consumption of exotic objects in Europe and along Eurasian contact routes during the early modern era, from roughly 1450 through the seventeenth century. Readings will be taken from early modern history and art history, cultural and material history, the history of science, and maritime and diplomatic history, and our approach will tend to be object- and agent-focused. One aim of the seminar will be to study the early modern category of ‘the exotic’, which animates artistic and collecting practices alike. We will examine theoretical models of gift exchange and hybridity; we will explore recent work on agents of trade and culture in the context of early modern state formation; and we will study individual cases of artists’ encounters with foreign goods, from Dürer’s exposure to the gold and featherwork from South America and Rembrandt’s response to Mughal miniatures to South Asian and Ottoman representational responses to European mapping and western prints. Students will have the opportunity to explore selected subjects in depth, while gaining a broader grasp of the central ‘positions’ in the global world of early modern art and material culture.

SOCIOL 476-23 (35332)
Steve Epstein W 2:00-4:50pm Parkes Hall 222

Course Description: This course will provide an introduction to central topics in the sociology of medicine while also suggesting how that field is being redefined and reinvigorated by science and technology studies. We will seek to understand health, health care, and biomedicine by exploring multiple domains: the work sites in which health professionals interact with one another and with their clients; the research settings where medical knowledge and technologies are generated; the cultural arenas within which ideas of health and disease circulate; the market relations that produce health care as a commodity; the institutions that transform social inequalities into health disparities; the social movements that challenge biomedical practices and the authority of experts; and the bodies and selves that experience and are remade by illness.

Back to top