Results for: 2017-18 spring
KNOW 21414: What is Technology?
In the nineteenth century, the word “technology” referred to the science of the useful and industrial arts. While the term is today synonymous with machinery and other material tools, this contemporary usage dates only to the 1930s. A word once used to describe a specialist mode of writing about applied knowledge has come to refer to tools and their use.
This seminar class offers a history of twentieth century scholarship on technology, examining differing meanings and interpretations of technology across the disciplines of history, sociology, anthropology, and literary studies. We will examine the etymology of the term and its social history, as well as the history of ideas regarding the sociocultural contexts and effects of technology. Readings will include works by Veblen, Heidegger, Ellul, Mumford, Leo Marx, Latour, Haraway, Oldenziel, Edgerton, and others.
KNOW 17403: Science, Culture, & Society: Early Modern Science: Revolutions in Astronomy and Anatomy
This course explores scientific developments in Western Europe from the sixteenth-century Scientific Revolution to the eighteenth-century Enlightenment. Through the works of Copernicus, Galileo, Vesalius, Harvey, Newton, Emilie du Châtelet, and more, we will explore revolutionary change in the fields of both astronomy and anatomy.
KNOW 31415: Knowledge As a Platter: Comparative Perspectives on Knowledge Texts in the Ancient World
NOTE: This 5-week seminar meets from March 26 – April 30, 2018
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 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 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.
This course fulfills part of the KNOW Core Seminar requirement to be eligible to apply for the SIFK Dissertation Research Fellowship. Ph.D. students must register with the KNOW 31407 course number in order for this course to meet the requirement.
(This course was previously offered during spring 2010, spring 2011, winter 2012, spring 2014, and winter 2016.)
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.”
KNOW 40302: Islam and Modern Science
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.
KNOW 21405 / 31405: The Italian Renaissance
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.