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 are 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 Dissertation Research Fellowships.
For undergraduate students, we offer courses cross-listed in departments and schools across the University, as well as unique courses taught by the Stevanovich Institute's Postdoctoral Scholars. To browse courses, search by department, quarter, academic year, or type in a keyword that interests you. In addition, the Stevanovich Institute launched the Experimental Capstone (XCAP) in 2018-19, team-taught courses for fourth-year undergraduate students interested in building upon their UChicago educational experience by adding practice, impact, and influence as important dimensions of their undergraduate work.
KNOW 36054: SIFK MAPSS Core: Ways of Knowing
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.
KNOW 36065: Classification as World-Making
“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 challenged the 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.
KNOW 24341: Topics in Medical Anthropology: Decolonizing Global Health
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.
KNOW 29522: Europe’s Intellectual Transformations, Renaissance through Enlightenment
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
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
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 36070: Explorations of Mars
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
KNOW 36059: Media, Environment, and Risk
This seminar reads the debates on risk in environmental studies alongside the emergence of risk criticism in media theory to interrogate the probabilistic thinking inherent to the mass communication of ecological hazard. A common characteristic of recent environmental catastrophes ranging from Bhopal, Fukushima Daiichi, Deepwater Horizon, Exxon Valdez, Hurricane Katrina, and the varied crises of global climate change, is that knowledge about unfolding ecological disaster involves the communication of environmental risk—whether imperceptible or probable—by media. This seminar offers graduate students methodological training to discern how risk is geographically and historically organized in parallel with the knowledge politics of distributing risk information through journalism, documentary, and digital media. Illustrated by readings and nonfiction media objects that record historical case studies of ecological crises, this seminar analyzes key epistemological concepts drawn from environmental studies and media theory, including uncertainty, ignorance, resilience, environmental racism, prediction, and prevention. This course is interdisciplinary and welcomes students with interests in environmental studies, film and media studies, environmental history, environmental sociology and SSK, STS, and the environmental humanities.
KNOW 22012: Technologies of Race Making
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
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
Watch a trailer of the class here.