Science as a History of the Present (APA2137.01)

David Bond

This course builds on the premise that scientific practice is a meaningful form of public action. This premise challenges popular understandings of science as a cloistered or abstracted world, turning attention instead to the lively interface between scientific practices and pressing problems. We will approach science as a history of the present; that is, as a cultivated way of knowing that indelibly shapes the texture and trajectory of life today. Revisiting some of the classic texts that first gave momentum to science studies, we will familiarize ourselves with key debates that orient this field of study. Yet we will also turn our attention towards more contemporary concerns, learning about problems that science has set in motion (like nuclear weapons and biotechnology) and problems that only science seems able to face up to (like climate change). Several questions will guide our inquiries: What is science? (And what is the history of that question?) What, exactly, do scientists do? What does scientific knowledge do? What kinds of social orders are enacted in scientific experiments and in the circulation of scientific facts? Our readings will touch on a number of topics, including: the porous boundaries between science and society; the laboratory as historical innovation; the gendered dynamics of objectivity; stabilizing nature; the co-constitution of problems and expertise; measurements of harm; and the communities and subjects that science creates. This course tacks back and forth between how scholarship has engaged and explained science and the problems that press into our lives that only science seems capable of taming.

Prerequisites: None.
Credits: 4
T 10:10am - 12:00pm; F 10:10am - 12:00pm
Maximum Enrollment: 20
This course is categorized as All courses, Four Credit, Updates, 2000, Advancement of Public Action, Anthropology, David Bond, and tagged , .