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.
KNOW 21410: Politics of Technoscience in Africa
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 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.
KNOW 21407: The Vocation of a Scientist
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 23003: Politics and the Sacred: Divinities and Essences in the Making of Political Order
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.
KNOW 31407: Hermeneutic Sociology
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.
KNOW 23002: How to Build a Global Empire
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.”