KNOW courses are offered by the faculty of the Stevanovich Institute on the Formation of Knowledge at both the graduate and the advanced undergraduate levels. For graduate students, we offer a number of cross-listed seminars as well as an annual core sequence in topics in the formation of knowledge (KNOW 401, 402, 403). These seminars will be team-taught by faculty from different departments or schools and are open to all graduate students regardless of field of study. Graduate students who enroll in two quarters of this sequence are eligible to apply for the SIFK Dissertation Research Fellowships.
Greece and Rome: Texts, Traditions, Transformations II
The Winter Quarter focuses on how tragedy and history confront familial, social, and external conflict in different genres. Readings cover Aeschylus, "Oresteia," selections from the histories of Herodotus, Livy, and Tacitus, tragedies by Seneca, and several of Shakespeare’s history plays.
Language & The Human -II
The Winter Quarter is generally devoted to examining how language mediates between the individual and society, its origin, spread, evolution, and development, and its role in power, identity, culture, nationalism, thought, and persuasion, as well as its use in naming, politeness, irony, and metaphor. Further examined are the nature of translation, writing systems, language and artificial intelligence, invented languages, and to what extent language shapes or influences perception of the world and cognition. Readings typically from Whorf, Orwell, Grice, and others.
KNOW 21411: Sex, Race, and Empire
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 29626: Modernities & Microscopes: Sociopolitical Change & Scientific Knowledge
Historians of science Steve Shapin and Simon Schaffer argued in their now-canonical history of experimental philosophy, Leviathan and the Air-Pump, that “the problem of knowledge is the problem of social order.” Put another way, issues related to what knowledge is and how it is produced are intimately related to how knowledge-making practices are organized, where they are spatially located, and the kinds of persons that are considered legitimate practitioners. In short, scientific knowledge and sociopolitical context are deeply intertwined, and it is rarely possible to fully understand one without understanding the other.
This is especially true of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Europe, where the progressive interpenetration of technoscience and everyday life made the facts of thermodynamics and cybernetics, for example, increasingly implicated in sociopolitical developments, and vice versa. The aim of this course is to explore these entanglements in more detail. More specifically, this course will proceed chronologically through major developments in European (and, briefly, North American) history from 1815 to 1955, beginning with the role of the post-Napoleonic “Vienna System” in the consolidation of the statistical style of reasoning in week two, and ending with the relationship between cybernetics, “Big Science,” and cold war politics in week nine. The course will conclude by examining the viability and utility of the concepts “science”
and “society” in general, exploring Actor-Network Theory as an alternative framework for understanding the relationship between scientific knowledge and context.
KNOW 21410: Politics of Technoscience in Africa
What does it mean for Wakanda, the fictional African country in Marvel’s Black Panther, to be the most “technologically advanced” country on Earth? What gets to count as science, technology, or innovation? What makes knowledge indigenous? What forms of knowledge have facilitated environmental management and medical care, and who gets to profit from that knowledge? How have independent African governments dealt with the imperial legacies of science? From the interpretation of archaeological ruins to the depiction of African technoscience in fiction, this will examine science and technology as political practice in Africa with a focus on colonialism and its aftermath.
KNOW 40102: The Commons & the Public: Figuring Collaborative Knowledge Production
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.
NOTE: This is a 5-week intensive seminar taking place between October 16, 2017 through November 17, 2017 in SIFK 104.
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.
KNOW 27005: Secrecy and Science
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 21409: History of Extraterrestrial Life
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 21408: History of Medicine
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.
KNOW 27004: Babylon and the Origins of Knowledge
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.