Autumn 2017

KNOW 21407 (CHSS XXXXX, ANTH 22129)
The Vocation of a Scientist
Damien Droney

Max Weber wrote that to be a scientist one needed a “strange intoxication” with scientific work and a “passionate devotion” to research as a calling. And yet, such passion seemed to conflict with the ideal of value-neutral inquiry. This class considers the vocation of science since the turn of the twentieth century. What political, economic, and cultural forces have shaped scientific professions in the United States? How are scientists represented in public culture? How was American science experienced during the colonization of the Philippines? By exploring these questions, this class will examine the values and norms that make science into a meaningful vocation.

KNOW 21403 / 31403 (HIST 25421, HIST 35421)
Censorship from the Inquisition to the Present
Ada Palmer; Stuart M. McManus

Collaborative research seminar on the history of censorship and information control, with a focus on the history of books and information technologies. The class will meet in Special Collections, and students will work with the professor to prepare an exhibit, The History of Censorship, to be held in the Special Collections exhibit space in spring. Students will work with rare books and archival materials, design exhibit cases, write exhibit labels, and contribute to the exhibit catalog. Half the course will focus on censorship in early modern Europe, including the Inquisition, the spread of the printing press, and clandestine literature in the Renaissance and Enlightenment. Special focus on the effects of censorship on classical literature, both newly rediscovered works like Lucretius and lost books of Plato, and authors like Pliny the Elder and Seneca who had been available in the Middle Ages but became newly controversial in the Renaissance. The other half of the course will look at modern and contemporary censorship issues, from wartime censorship, to the censorship comic books, to digital rights management, to free speech on our own campus. Students may choose whether to focus their own research and exhibit cases on classical, early modern, modern, or contemporary censorship.

KNOW 27004 (NEHC 20215, HIST XXXXX)
Babylon and the Origins of Knowledge
Eduardo A. Escobar

In 1946 the famed economist John Maynard Keynes declared that Isaac Newton “was the last of the magicians, the last of the Babylonians.” We find throughout history, in the writings of Galileo, Jorge Luis Borges, Ibn Khaldun, Herodotus, and the Hebrew Bible, a city of Babylon full of contradictions. At once sinful and reverential, a site of magic and science, rational and irrational, Babylon seemed destined to resound in the historical imagination as the birthplace of knowledge itself. But how does the myth compare to history? How did the Babylonians themselves envisage their own knowledge? And is it reasonable to draw, as Keynes did, a line that begins with Babylon and ends with Newton? In this course we will take a cross comparative approach, investigating the history of the ancient city and its continuity in the scientific imagination.

KNOW 40102 (CLAS 40117)
The Commons & the Public: Figuring Collaborative Knowledge Production
Mario Biagioli
NOTE: October 16, 2017 - November 19, 2017
Mondays and Wednesdays 9:00 – 11:50 AM in SIFK 104

Starting with Roman Law and moving up to contemporary critiques of intellectual property, this seminar explores new ways of conceptualizing collaborative forms of knowledge production that have been typically referred to as "commons".  We do so by following a series of parallel and intersecting questions, starting with those concerning what the commons are about:  What were the traditional commons of things or resources (public lands, public spaces, fisheries, pastures, forests)?  What are the new commons of knowledge (academic publications, free software, wikipedia, etc)? And what is the relationship between infrastructures (roads, harbors, Internet, and the commons)?  We then look at the changing configurations of human actors associated with the commons, that is, the differences between the communities associated with the traditional commons of traditional resources and the publics, counterpublics, multitudes, and crowds, that are now associated with collaborative forms of knowledge making and political action.  We try, in sum, to conceptualize the relationship between the new knowledge commons and new notions of the public.

This course fulfills part of the KNOW Core Seminar requirement to be eligible to apply for the SIFK Dissertation Research Fellowship. No instructor consent is required, but registration is not final until after the 1st week in order to give Ph.D. students priority.

Winter 2018

KNOW 21404 / 31404 (HIST 25309, HIST 35309)
History of Perception
Michael Rossi

Knowing time. Feeling space. Smelling. Seeing. Touching. Tasting. Hearing. Are these universal aspects of human consciousness, or particular experiences contingent upon time, place, and culture? How do we come to know about our own perceptions and those of others? This course examines these and related questions through detailed readings of primary sources, engagement in secondary scholarship in the history and anthropology of sensation, and through close work with participants’ own sensations and perceptions of the world around them.

History of Medicine
Jennifer Pegg

This course surveys the history of medicine from the medieval period to the present. How did medicine emerge as a defined body of knowledge? To what extent do diseases and disorders have an independent existence, and to what extent are they cultural constructs? How have social mores—particularly those related to religion, class, nationality, race, and gender—influenced the ways in which health was and is understood and maintained, and illness treated? What does it mean to practice medicine ethically, and how has that changed over time? Topics include the emergence and evolution of the medical profession, the history of medical research and method, the interpretation and treatment of the unhealthy and healthy alike, eugenics, euthanasia, the quest for immortality, and the changing relationship between technology and disease.

Politics of Technoscience in Africa
Damien Droney
Tuesdays and Thursdays 2:00 – 3:20 PM in SIFK 104

Euro-American discourse has often portrayed Africa as either a place without science and technology or as the home of deep and ancient wisdom. European imperialists used the alleged absence of science and technology as a justification for colonialism while pharmaceutical companies sought out African knowledge about healing plants. In addition to their practical applications, science and technology carry significant symbolic weight in discussions about Africa. In this class, we examine the politics of scientific and technical knowledge in Africa with a focus on colonialism and its aftermath. How have different people produced and used knowledge about the environment, medicine, and technology? What kinds of knowledge count as indigenous and who gets credit for innovation? How have independent African governments dealt with the imperial legacies of science? From the interpretation of archaeological ruins to the design of new medical technologies, this class will examine science and technology as political practice in Africa.

KNOW 21411 (CRES 21411, GNSE 21411, HIST XXXXX)
Sex, Race, and Empire
Margaret Carlyle
Tuesdays and Thursdays 11:00 – 12:20 PM in SIFK 104

This course surveys how science, race, and gender interacted in the early modern Atlantic world from 1500-1800. We will critically examine how new modes of scientific inquiry brought Africans, Americans, and Europeans into contact and conflict. Along the way, we will ask how, why, and with consequences imperial science created new knowledge claims about human inequality, especially racial and sexual difference. We will draw primarily on British, Iberian, and French imperial agendas in order to track the experiences of men and women from all corners of the Atlantic world, including indigenous peoples, enslaved black Africans, free people of color, and white Europeans. Through a variety of primary and secondary sources, we will uncover European aspirations to curate, control, and exploit the natural world and the agency of subjugated peoples in responding to and resisting these designs. Topics covered include natural history collecting and classification; the invention of racial theory; slavery and maroons; women, gender, and reproduction; consumption; and violence, resistance, and revolution.

KNOW 27006 (CMLT 28900, BPRO 28600, HMRT 28602)
Health Care and the Limits of State Action
Haun Saussy and Mindy Schwartz, MD

In a time of great human mobility and weakening state frontiers, epidemic disease is able to travel fast and far, mutate in response to treatment, and defy the institutions invented to keep it under control: quarantine, the cordon sanitaire, immunization, and the management of populations. Public health services in many countries find themselves at a loss in dealing with these outbreaks of disease, a deficiency to which NGOs emerge as a response (an imperfect one to be sure). Through a series of readings in anthropology, sociology, ethics, medicine, and political science, we will attempt to reach an understanding of this crisis of both epidemiological technique and state legitimacy, and to sketch out options.

KNOW 40201 (HIST 66606, CLAS 46616, CHSS 40201, DVPR 46616, PHIL 43011)
Reason and Religion
Shadi Bartsch-Zimmer; Robert Richards
Wednesdays 3:00 – 5:50 PM

The quarrel between reason and faith has a long history.  The birth of Christianity was in the crucible of rationality.  The ancient Greeks privileged this human capacity above all others, finding in reason the quality wherein man was closest to the gods, while the early Christians found this viewpoint antithetical to religious humility.  As religion and its place in society have evolved throughout history, so have the standing of, and philosophical justification for, non-belief on rational grounds.  This course will examine the intellectual and cultural history of arguments against religion in Western thought from antiquity to the present .  Along the way, of course, we will also examine the assumptions bound up in the binary terms “religion” and “reason.”

No prerequisites. Course requirements: 12-page research paper (40%), class report (30%), active participation (15%), book review (15%)

This course fulfills part of the KNOW Core Seminar requirement to be eligible to apply for the SIFK Dissertation Research Fellowship. No instructor consent is required, but registration is not final until after the 1st week in order to give Ph.D. students priority.

Spring 2018

KNOW 21405 / 31405 (HIST 22900, HIST 32900)
The Italian Renaissance
Ada Palmer

Florence, Rome, and the Italian city-states in the age of plagues and cathedrals, Dante and Machiavelli, Medici and Borgia (1250–1600), with a focus on literature and primary sources, the recovery of lost texts and technologies of the ancient world, and the role of the Church in Renaissance culture and politics. Humanism, patronage, translation, cultural immersion, dynastic and papal politics, corruption, assassination, art, music, magic, censorship, religion, education, science, heresy, and the roots of the Reformation. Assignments include creative writing, reproducing historical artifacts, and a live reenactment of a papal election. First-year students and non-history majors welcome.

KNOW 21406 / 31406 (HIST 29516, HIST 39516) 
History of Skepticism
Ada Palmer

Before we ask what is true or false, we must ask how we can know what is true or false. This course examines the vital role doubt and philosophical skepticism have played in the Western intellectual tradition, from pre-Socratic Greece through the Enlightenment, with a focus on how Criteria of Truth—what kinds of arguments are considered legitimate sources of certainty—have changed over time. The course will examine dialog between skeptical and dogmatic thinkers, and how many of the most fertile systems in the history of philosophy have been hybrid systems which divided the world into things which can be known, and things which cannot. The course will touch on the history of atheism, heresy and free thought, on fideism and skeptical religion, and will examine how the Scientific Method is itself a form of philosophical skepticism. Primary source readings will include Plato, Sextus Empiricus, Lucretius, Ockham, Pierre Bayle, Montaigne, Descartes, Francis Bacon, Hobbes, Voltaire, Diderot, and others.

History of Extraterrestrial Life
Jennifer Pegg

In 2014, the Vatican Radio made a splash when it reported that the pontiff, Pope Francis, condoned the baptism of extraterrestrials—if they so desired it. "Who are we to close doors?" he asked rhetorically. It was both a metaphor for spiritual inclusion and an accurate representation of the modern Vatican's position on the possibilities of modern astrobiology and the search for extrasolar planets, fields whose rapid growth over the past two decades make serious consideration of extraterrestrial life seem like a uniquely modern phenomena. Its history, however, is in fact many centuries old. In this course we will examine the development of beliefs concerning life in the universe from the sixteenth century to the present. How did historical actors understand the nature, abilities, and location of extraterrestrial life, and its relationship to man and god? We will analyze connections between these beliefs and contemporary political, social, scientific, and religious developments. These include the role of the plurality of worlds in the debates over heliocentrism, its impact and application in the context of deism and social and political freethought, its literary and artistic depictions and use as a tool of satire and social commentary, its influence on natural philosophy, its decline and the subsequent rise of alien conspiracists and their critics, and how and why conceptions of the extraplanetary other took a dark and sinister turn toward the early-to-mid twentieth century. We conclude by bringing our historical perspective and analytic skills to bear on shifting contemporary ideas concerning life in the universe, from developments in astrobiology to conflicting concepts of the alien in film and fiction.

KNOW 21412 (GNSE 21412)
Your Body is a Construct: Medicine, Religion, Law
Margaret Carlyle
Monday and Wednesdays 2:30-3:50 PM in SIFK 104

This course studies how the interplay of medicine, religion, and the law in early modern Europe from 1600-1800 gave rise to new ideas and ideals about the human body. We will critically examine how medical professionals, religious leaders, and legal experts crafted and disseminated knowledge about the body while serving as sources of authority in arbitrating the right way to live. This course is as much about how sources of medical, religious, and judicial authority created and curated discourses of power around the body as about how Europeans reacted to them. Through a variety of primary and secondary source readings, we will cover such topics as superstition and witchcraft, prisons and hospitals, sex and sexuality, the rise of automata, crime and punishment, and rituals of power. We will critically engage with primary and secondary readings focusing on developments in France and Britain, as well as Italy and Germany. We will track change over time, including how the rise of insane asylums domesticated and stigmatized mental illness in early modern Europe. Along the way, we will engage with the moral horizons of peoples past, as we uncover anxieties surrounding sexual deviance, hermaphroditism, and torture. 

KNOW 23002 (HIST 26128, CLCV 22917, LACS 26128)
How to Build a Global Empire
Stuart M. McManus

Empire is arguably the oldest, most durable and most diffused form of governance in human history that reached its zenith with the global empires of Spain, Portugal and Britain.  But how do you build a global empire?  What political, social, economic and cultural factors contribute to their formation and longevity?  What effects do they have on the colonizer and the colonized?  What is the difference between a state, an empire and a “global” empire?  We will consider these questions and more in case studies that will treat the global empires of Rome, Portugal and Britain, concluding with a discussion of the modern resonances of this first “Age of Empires.”

KNOW 23003 (SOCI 20267)
Politics and the Sacred: Divinities and Essences in the Making of Political Order
Andreas Glaeser

Politics is replete with references to phenomena that are themselves imagined to lie beyond political inference. Four such phenomena that are imagined as absolutes stand out in the making of the Europeanoid world: 1. the idea of a single all-knowing, all-powerful creator god; 2. the idea that the world as it appears to us is grounded in unchanging essences; 3.  the idea that there can be a sovereign power that has the final and undisputable say in all matters political; and 4. the idea that like the material world human affairs are governed by unchanging laws which can be systematically exploited for creating a better social order. This course looks at the historical context in which these ideas have both emerged (or re-emerged) and found lastingly impactful formulations in the Hebrew Bible, Plato’s Philosophy, the works of Bodin and Hobbes, as well as in the works of Comte and Marx. It also explores the reasons and theorizes why references to absolutes appear to be so appealing to politicians.

Secrecy and Science
Eduardo A. Escobar

This course traces the relationship between openness, secrecy, and the construction of scientific knowledge. Our sources span several millennia of intellectual history, from cuneiform tablets containing glassmaking recipes and the “secrets of the gods,” to Medieval alchemical recipes, and to the first museums of natural history. We will investigate how and why science shifted from a subject intended for the elite few, to a more democratic ideal that embraced public demonstration. The role of patronage in the development of scientific knowledge, and the complex interaction between science and religion will be central to our discussions. Writing assignments will respond to thematic questions based on the readings.

KNOW 31407 (SOCI 31407)
Hermeneutic Sociology
Andreas Glaeser

The core ideas of a social hermeneutics expanding traditional textual hermeneutics into social life, were developed in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. They can be summarized in a few intertwining propositions: First, discursive, emotive and sensory modalities of sense making, conscious and unconscious, characterize and differentiate social life forms. Second, sense making is acting, thus entangled in institutions. Third, sense making proceeds in diverse media whose structures and habits of use shape its process rendering form and style important. Fourth, sense making is structured by the relationships within which they take place. Fifth, sense making is crucial for the reproduction of all aspects of life forms. Sixths, sense making, life forms, and media are dialectically (co-constitutively) intertwined with each other. Seventh, social hermeneutics is itself sense-making. The course will explore these ideas by reading classical statements that highlight the core analytical concepts that social hermeneuticists employ such as symbolization, interpretation, mediation, rhetoric, performance, performativity, interpretive community, institutionalization. Every session will combine a discussion of the readings with an analytical practicum using these concepts. Authors typically include Vico, Herder, Dilthey, Aristotle, Burke, Austin, Ricoeur, Schütz, Bourdieu, Peirce, Panofsky, Ranciere, Lakoff, Mackenzie, Latour.

Knowledge on a Platter: Comparative Perspectives on Knowledge Texts in the Ancient World
Lorraine Daston and Wendy Doniger
NOTE: This 5-week seminar meets from March 26 – April 30, 2018
MW 9:30 – 12:20 PM in Foster 305

In various Ancient cultures, sages created the new ways of systematizing what was known in fields as diverse as medicine, politics, sex, dreams, and mathematics. These texts did more than present what was known; they exemplified what it means to know – and also why reflective, systematic knowledge should be valued more highly than the knowledge gained from common sense or experience. Drawing on texts from ancient India, Greece, Rome, and the Near East, this course will explore these early templates for the highest form of knowledge and compare their ways of creating fields of inquiry: the first disciplines. Texts include the Arthashastra, the Hippocratic corpus, Deuteronomy, the Kama Sutra, and Aristotle’s Parva naturalia.

KNOW 40302 (AASR 40302, ISLM 40302, ANTH 42520)
Islam and Modern Science
Alireza Doostdar

Since the nineteenth century, the rise of the modern empirical sciences has provided both challenges and opportunities for Muslim-majority societies. In this seminar, we examine the epistemological, institutional, and biopolitical transformations that have come about in these societies through encounters with a range of natural and social scientific disciplines (astronomy, medicine, psychology, psychical research, psychoanalysis, eugenics, economics, sociology, anthropology, and others). Readings are from anthropology, history, and science studies.

This course fulfills part of the KNOW Core Seminar requirement to be eligible to apply for the SIFK Dissertation Research Fellowship. No instructor consent is required, but registration is not final until after the 1st week in order to give Ph.D. students priority.