Autumn

KNOW 29522: Europe’s Intellectual Transformations, Renaissance through Enlightenment

  • Course Level: Graduate, Undergraduate
  • Department: French, History, Religious Studies, Signature Course
  • Year: 2020-21
  • Term: Autumn
  • Tue Thu : 02:40 PM-04:00 PM
  • KNOW 39522, FREN 29322, HIST 29522, RLST 22605, SIGN 26036

Ada Palmer

This course will consider the foundational transformations of Western thought from the end of the Middle Ages to the threshold of modernity. It will provide an overview of the three self-conscious and interlinked intellectual revolutions which reshaped early modern Europe: the Renaissance revival of antiquity, the "new philosophy" of the seventeenth century, and the light and dark faces of the Enlightenment. It will treat scholasticism, humanism, the scientific revolution, Bacon, Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, Voltaire, Diderot, and Sade.

KNOW 20702: Environmental Justice in Chicago

  • Course Level: Graduate, Undergraduate
  • Department: Environmental and Urban Studies, Public Policy Studies - Harris School, Religious Studies
  • Year: 2020-21
  • Term: Autumn
  • Tue Thu : 04:20 PM-05:40 PM
  • KNOW 30702, RLST 25704, PBPL 26255, ENST 25704

Sarah E. Fredericks

This course will examine the development of environmental justice theory and practice through social scientific and ethical literature about the subject. We will focus on environmental justice issues in Chicago including, but not limited to waste disposal, toxic air and water, the Chicago heat wave, and climate change. Particular attention will be paid to environmental racism and the often understudied role of religion in environmental justice theory and practice.

KNOW 31302: Goethe: Literature, Science, Philosophy

  • Course Level: Graduate
  • Department: Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science, Fundamentals: Issues and Texts, German, History, History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science and Medicine, Philosophy
  • Year: 2020-21
  • Term: Autumn
  • Tue Thu : 11:20 AM-12:40 PM
  • CHSS 31202, FNDL 25315, GRMN 25304, HIPS 26701, HIST 25304, PHIL 20610

Robert J. Richards

This lecture-discussion course will examine Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's intellectual development, from the time he wrote Sorrows of Young Werther through the final states of Faust. Along the way, we will read a selection of Goethe's plays, poetry, and travel literature. We will also examine his scientific work, especially his theory of color and his morphological theories. On the philosophical side, we will discuss Goethe's coming to terms with Kant (especially the latter's third Critique) and his adoption of Schelling's transcendental idealism. The theme uniting the exploration of the various works of Goethe will be unity of the artistic and scientific understanding of nature, especially as he exemplified that unity in "the eternal feminine."

KNOW 25320: Debate, Dissent, Deviate: Literary Modernities in South Asia

  • Course Level: Undergraduate
  • Department: Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, English, Gender and Sexuality Studies, South Asian Languages & Civilizations
  • Year: 2020-21
  • Term: Autumn
  • T/Th 9:30-10:50 am
  • KNOW 25320, SALC 25320, CRES 25320, ENGL 25320, GLST 25132, GNSE 25320
  • Supurna Dasgupta

This class introduces students to the modernist movement in 20th century South Asia. Modernism will be understood here as a radical experimental movement in literature, film, photography and other arts, primarily aimed at critiquing mainstream narratives of history and culture, especially with reference to identity categories such as race, gender, sexuality, class, and caste. The texts reveal the ways in which structures of knowledge and aesthetics circulated between the various parts of the globe, especially under the conditions of colonialism and decolonization. We will analyze a variety of texts over the ten-week duration of the class. These include novels, short stories, manifestos, essays, photographs, and films. The chronological span of the class is from the 1930s to the 1970s. Our aim will be to understand the diverse meanings of modernism as we go through our weekly readings. Was it a global phenomenon that was adopted blindly by postcolonial artists? Or were there specifically South Asian innovations that enable us to think about the local story as formative of a global consciousness? What bearings do such speculations have on genre, gender, and medium, as well as on politics? What effect does sexual politics have on aesthetic innovations? How do these non-mainstream aesthetic traditions contribute towards the formation of knowledge in modern South Asia?

I will help situate the readings of each week in their specific literary and political contexts. Students will be able to evaluate, experiment with, and analyze various forms of modernist literary expressions emerging out of South Asia. This class will provide them with critical tools to interpret, assess, compare, and contrast cultural histories of non-Western locations and peoples, with an eye for literary radicalism. No prior knowledge of any South Asian language or history is necessary.

KNOW 22012: Technologies of Race Making

  • Course Level: Graduate; undergraduate with permission
  • Department: Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, Sociology
  • Year: 2020-21
  • Term: Autumn
  • Tue 1:00-4:00 PM Thu 2:00-4:00 PM
  • CRES 32012, SOCI 30325
  • Iris Clever
  • SIFK 104 (Tue) / Online Discussion (Thu)

This course considers the intersections between technology, science, and race. It explores how technologies have been developed and used to assign racial meaning to people's identities and bodies and how this has impacted economic, political, and social power structures. We will read studies relating to historical and present-day technologies and discuss topics such as racial science, phrenology, biometry, surveillance and policing, artificial intelligence and automation, and data production and reuse. A major theme that runs through the course is the practice of race-making, how biological race is enacted and made relevant in specific technological practices. Which assumptions and expectations about human variation are built into the technologies? What are the effects of its use in practice? How does race making configure into more durable forms, such as standards, databanks, and protocols? This class will be bi-modal, with in class and online options.

This course fulfills the elective requirement for a new MAPSS concentration on the Formation of Knowledge https://sifk.uchicago.edu/mapss/

KNOW 22011: Data: History and Literature

  • Course Level: Graduate; undergraduate with permission
  • Department: Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science, Digital Studies of Language, Culture, and History, English, History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science and Medicine, Public Policy Studies - Harris School, Social Thought, Sociology
  • Year: 2020-21
  • Term: Autumn
  • Tue Thu 4:20-5:40 PM
  • DIGS 30016, SOCI 20518, SOCI 30518, PPHA 32011, ENGL 32011, SCTH 32011, HIPS 22011, CHSS 32011
  • Alexander Campolo, Anastasia Klimchynskaya
  • SIFK 104 (Tue) / Remote (Thu)

Data is a notion that seems to characterize our contemporary world. Digital revolutions, artificial intelligence, and new forms of management and governance all claim to be data-driven. This course traces the origins of these trends to the nineteenth century, when new statistical knowledges and literary traditions emerged. Moving across disciplinary boundaries, we will analyze the ways in which practices of observation and calculation produced data on populations, crime, and economies. Likewise, the literature of this period reflected the ways that data shaped subjective experience and cultural life: the rise of the detective novel transformed the world into a set of signs and data points to interpret, while Balzac's Human Comedy classified individuals into types. Drawing on these historical and humanistic perspectives, students will have the opportunity to measure and analyze their own lives in terms of data-as well as think critically about the effects of these knowledge practices.

This course fulfills the elective requirement for a new MAPSS concentration on the Formation of Knowledge https://sifk.uchicago.edu/mapss/

Watch a trailer of the class here.

Winter

KNOW 24341: Topics in Medical Anthropology: Decolonizing Global Health

  • Course Level: Graduate, Undergraduate
  • Department: Anthropology, Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science, Comparative Human Development, Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science and Medicine
  • Year: 2020-21
  • Term: Winter
  • KNOW 24341/40310, ANTH 24341/40310, HIPS 24341, CHSS 40310, CHDV 24341/40301, HTTH 24341, CRES 24341

P. Sean Brotherton

Over the past two decades, the field of “global health” has become the dominant narrative and organizing logic for interventions into health and well-being worldwide. This seminar will review theoretical positions and debates in medical anthropology, focusing on the decolonizing global health movement. Divergent historical legacies of colonialism and racism, institutionalized forms of structural violence, and modern-day extractive capitalism have resulted in stark global inequities, which currently stand at shockingly unprecedented levels. This seminar offers a critical lens to rethink contemporary global health’s logic and practice by considering other histories and political formations, experiences, and knowledge production systems. This seminar opens up a space for generative dialogue on the future directions of what constitutes health, equity, and aid, and whether social justice is or should be the new imperative for action.  

Media, Environment, and Risk

  • Course Level: Graduate; undergraduate with permission
  • Department:
  • Year: 2020-21
  • Term: Winter
  • Thomas Pringle

In 1991, Ulrich Beck wrote that “society is made into a laboratory.” Following the Chernobyl disaster, Beck articulated how modern technology and its potential side-effects—such as radiation or chemical poisoning—had created the novel epistemological category of environmental risk defined by threats that escape human perception and transcend borders. Institutions monitoring ecological conditions gained responsibility for communicating public health. Political conflicts emerged between formations of expert and lay environmental knowledge. The technological application of modern science, and its associated environmental risks, pushed research beyond the laboratory and into the governmental fabric of social order: nuclear reactors had to be constructed and chemicals distributed to populations before their properties and safety could be understood. This seminar reads the debates on risk in environmental sociology alongside the emergence of risk criticism in media studies to interrogate the probabilistic thinking inherent to the communication of ecological threat. Two common traits characteristic of recent environmental catastrophes ranging from Bhopal, Fukushima Daiishi, Deepwater Horizon, Exxon Valdez, Hurricane Katrina, and the varied crises of global climate change, are that each disaster involves the failure or side-effect of an implemented technological project and that the corresponding risks—whether imperceptible or probable—are necessarily communicated to publics by media. If society is a laboratory, what role does media play in the large-scale experiments of technologically instigated environmental risk? Illustrated by readings on historical case studies, this seminar analyzes key epistemological concepts drawn from environmental sociology and media studies, including uncertainty, ignorance, resilience, environmental racism, prediction, prevention, as well as existential, insurance, and inductive risk. This course is interdisciplinary and particularly welcomes students with interests in environmental studies, environmental history, environmental sociology and SSK, film and media studies, STS, and the environmental humanities. 

This course fulfills the elective requirement for a new MAPSS concentration on the Formation of Knowledge https://sifk.uchicago.edu/mapss/

SIFK MAPSS Core: Ways of Knowing

  • Course Level: Graduate; undergraduate with permission
  • Department:
  • Year: 2020-21
  • Term: Winter
  • Yan Slobodkin, Anastasia Klimchynskaya

This seminar introduces students to the practices and principles that guide the nascent field of inquiry into the formation of knowledge. “Ways of Knowing” examines how claims to knowledge are shaped by disciplinary, social, historical, and political contexts, as well as local cultural factors both explicit and unspoken. How do we know what we know? How have cultures and scholars contested, reconfigured, and defamiliarized accepted claims to knowledge? Building on social science perspectives and methods, this course will explore the formation of knowledge through key historical, sociological, and anthropological case studies. Furthermore, the course will take a expansive approach to knowledge formation by considering the interface of theory, practice, and social action.

"Ways of Knowing" is a required seminar for all students wishing to undertake the Formation of Knowledge MAPSS track.

Spring

Classification as World-Making

  • Course Level: Undergraduate
  • Department:
  • Year: 2020-21
  • Term: Spring
  • Alexander Campolo

“To classify,” write Geoffrey Bowker and Susan Star, “is human.” There can be no doubt that classification sits at the heart of almost any form of knowledge production—arguably even thought itself. But what diversity hides under such atruism? This course will explore a set of exemplary fields in order to track genealogies and discontinuities in classificatory. We will begin with two philosophers, Aristotle and Kant, who stand as respective avatars of ancient and modern categorical thought. We will then proceed to sites where classification has flourished: the biological sciences which sought to capture the diversity of the living world; the social sciences—notably anthropology—which challengedthe universality of Western cultural categories; and statistics or data science, which seek to understand numerical aggregates as categories. We will conclude by reflecting on the present explosion of digital techniques of classification, from social media algorithms to artificial intelligence, which structure more and more of our lives, often without human oversight. In this sense, classification is perhaps nonhuman as well. Moving between history, epistemology, and practice, this course will furnish students with a rich set of classificatory ideas that they can bring to their own research and disciplinary communities. Above all, it will ask students to account for both the construction and effects of categories, which are too often taken to be a neutral substrate of knowledge or conversely a means of imposing discipline on the wild diversity of the world. 

Explorations of Mars

  • Course Level: Graduate; undergraduate with permission
  • Department:
  • Year: 2020-21
  • Term: Spring

Jordan Bimm

Mars is more than a physical object located millions of miles from Earth. Through centuries of knowledge-making we have made the “Red Planet” into a place that looms large in cultural and scientific imagination. Mars is now the primary target for human exploration and colonization in the Solar System. How did this happen? What does this mean? What do we know about Mars, and what’s at stake when we make knowledge about it? Combining perspectives from history, anthropology, and sociology, this course investigates how knowledge about Mars is created and communicated in science and technology fields. A major focus will be learning how Mars has been embedded within wider social and political projects including theological debates, Manifest Destiny, The Cold War, and the commercialization of spaceflight. Through reading-inspired group discussions and instructor-led experiential projects, the course will move from the earliest visual observations of Mars to recent robotic missions on the planet’s surface. In doing so, this dynamic research group will critically grapple with problems posed by the potential discovery of extraterrestrial life, the organization of future Mars colonies, and evolving human efforts to make Mars usable.  

This course fulfills the elective requirement for a new MAPSS concentration on the Formation of Knowledge https://sifk.uchicago.edu/mapss/