- Course Number: ENGL 236
- Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 236
- Quarter: Fall 2016
The last 20 years have seen a rise in the use of “ecology/ecological” as an adjective for describing a variety of work in the humanities and social sciences. In these accounts, “ecology” sometimes reorients research agendas to include non-human species. Other times, ecology seems to stand in for a general assumption of relationality or interconnectedness (as in “media ecology”). In effect, ecology stands as an umbrella concept that can harbor a plurality of views and even disagreements about reproduction, evolution, genetics and environment, and sustainability. To say one does work in the “ecological humanities” has become an important part of making oneself legible as a scholar, and even to name one’s ethical commitments, but sometimes this takes for granted the epistemological complexity of the science itself. Before we import the science of ecology wholesale into the humanities, what might we learn from conversations in the field of science and technology studies (STS) about the making of scientific knowledge?
This course will introduce readings in STS that trace the contingency of scientific knowledge on matters of language and shared conceptual frameworks, arguing against theories of positivism/falsification that believe in the discovery of a singular scientific ?truth? that we can progress toward. Instead, our readings will examine the practices by which scientists produce knowledge, especially the moments before the discovery/reification of things like genes, microbes, etc, suggesting that these practices ?work? by pushing back against a mutually responsive material world. Although the majority of this early work in STS focuses on physics and biology, we will consider what implications these reconceptualizations of scientific knowledge have for the science of ecology. Specific topics will include social constructivism, situated knowledge and forms of objectivity, paradigms and theories of scientific revolution, technical mediation and transduction, matters of gender and reproduction, animality and non-human life, and kinship. By the end of the course, students should be prepared to design their own undergraduate course that incorporates STS themes.
**Course counts towards the Interdepartmental PhD Emphasis on Environment & Society (IEES)