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Anthropology 6391: Social Study of Science and Technology

Hortense Amsterdam 202

Tuesdays 6:10-8:00

Prof. Hugh Gusterson

Office: Hortense Amsterdam 101 Phone: 4-6832

Office Hours: Tue 2-3

Wed 3-4

This class introduces and surveys the literature on the sociology and cultural study of
science and technology. The syllabus emphasizes the reading of a broad range of
intellectual and disciplinary perspectives, with a focus on the latest literature. The course is
structured around small, in-depth class discussions of selected works throughout the
semester. Because this is a discussion seminar, doing the reading and showing up each
week (on time) is essential. Students are graded on class participation and on the following
writing assignments:

1) Write 1 book review. It should be 3-4 double-spaced pages. You can choose any of
the books on the syllabus. The review should be handed in at the beginning of the
class in which the book is discussed. Book reviews turned in after class discussion
will not be accepted.

2) Write one paper at least 15 pages long on any technological artifact or scientific
controversy of your choice. Why was the artifact in question taken up in the form it
was? What personal relationships do people have with the artifact? How is it
represented in the media (if it is)? If writing about a scientific controversy: who
were the main parties? How did they seek to construct their authority? How was
evidence shaped and deployed in the controversy?

Learning Goals
By the end of this class, students will be able to:
 Show familiarity with the main figures and schools of thought in the social study
of science
 Think knowledgeably and critically about the literature in this field
 Have improved research and writing skills
 Read social science accounts with an eye to how they were constructed

This course will also contribute to student’s development of:

 Critical thinking skills, where critical thinking is defined as analyzing and
engaging with the concepts that underlie an argument
 The ability to demonstrate critical thinking through oral and written
communication skills, which will be evaluated in the short and long paper, and in
‘class participation.’

First written assignment: 15%
Final paper 50%
Participation 35%

Class Policies
Attendance: attending all classes is a key to success in this course. The participation
component of the final grade registers both attendance at class and participation in class
Extensions: No extensions will be given for assignments without a valid excuse such as a
documented personal medical or family emergency.
Religious Holidays: please contact me two weeks in advance if you are going to miss
class due to religious holidays not recognized by GWU’s academic calendar.

Time requirement

The provost now requires that faculty tell students how much of their time a class will
take. This class meets for 110 minutes a week, and each week students are responsible
for reading 6 articles or a book. The amount of time this takes may vary by student.

Good advice for managing your professor

Academic Integrity
All students must practice academic integrity. This means doing your own work, and
when you use the words and ideas of others in any written work, you must: 1) identify
direct quotations with quotation marks; and 2) indicate the source of ideas that are not
your own by using social sciences notation form. If you have any questions at all about
what this means, you should speak to your TAs or the instructor. Plagiarism, and all
breaches of academic integrity (for example, the sale of lecture-notes from this class, or
the use of content from the internet as though it was your own), will be severely dealt
with in accordance with the University’s policies and procedures. For more information
on The George Washington University’s policies on academic integrity, consult:
Any student who may need an accommodation based on the potential impact of a
disability should contact the Disability Support Services office at 202-994-8250 in the
Marvin Center, Suite 242, to establish eligibility and to coordinate reasonable
accommodations. For additional information please refer to:
The University Counseling Center (UCC) offers 24/7 assistance and referral to
address students' personal, social, career, and study skills problems. Services for students
- crisis and emergency mental health consultations
- confidential assessment, counseling services (individual and small group), and


Articles on the syllabus not marked with a URL will be available through Blackboard.

Students are responsible for acquiring, one way or another, the following books:

Sarah Lochlann Jain, Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us. (University of California
Press, 2013).

Adriana Petryna, When Experiments Travel: Clinical Trials and the Global Search for
Human Subjects (Princeton University Press, 2009)

Gabriella Coleman, Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of

Anonymous (Verso, 2014)

Gabrielle Hecht, Being Nuclear: Africans and the Global Uranium Trade (MIT Press,

Natasha Dow Schull, Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas (Princeton
University Press, 2012).

Sheila Jasanoff, Designs on Nature: Science and Democracy in Europe and the United
States (Princeton University Press, 2007)
Jan 17 Introduction

Jan 24 Social Constructionism: An Introduction

Bruno Latour, Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers

Through Society (Harvard UP, 1987), chapter 1 (“Literature”) and chapter
2 (“Laboratories”).

Harry Collins and Trevor Pinch, “ACTing UP: AIDS Cures and Lay
Expertise.” In Collins & Pinch, The Golem at Large: What You Should
Know About Technology. (Cambridge UP, 1998, pp.126-150).

Ruth Cowan, “How the Refrigerator Got Its hum” in Donald Mackenzie
and Judy Wajcman (eds.) The Social Shaping of Technology (Open
University Press, second edition 1999), p.202-18.

David Freedman, “Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science,” The Atlantic
November 2010,

Peter Dreier, “Academic Drivel Report,” American Prospect, February 22,


George Will, “The hilarious hoax that should have taught the academy a
lesson,” Washington Post, January 12, 2017

Jan 31 Cultures of Objectivity

Ted Porter, “U.S. Army engineers and the rise of cost-benefit analysis” and
“objectivity and the politics of disciplines,” pp.148-216 of Ted Porter,
Trust in Numbers (Princeton University Press, 1996).
Geoffrey Bowker and Leigh Star, “What a Difference a Name Makes – the
Classification of Nursing Work,” pp.229-54 of Bowker and Star, Sorting
Things Out (MIT Press, 1999).

Sheldon Krimsky, “Do Financial Conflicts of Interest Bias Research? An

Inquiry into the ‘Funding Effect’ hypothesis.” Science, Technology and
Human Values, 2013, 38(4):566-87

Samuel Randalls, “Weather Profits: Weather Derivatives and the

Commercialization of Metereology,” Social Studies of Science, 2010,

Rayna Rapp, “The communication of risk,” pp.53-78 of Rapp’s Testing

Women, Testing the Fetus.

Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, “Introduction,” “Doubt is our

Product,” and “epilogue,” pp.1-35 and 266-74 of their Merchants of Doubt
(Bloomsbury 2010).

Feb 7 Science and Race

Donna Haraway, “Race; Universal Donors in a Vampire Culture” in

Haraway, Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium.
FemaleMan_Meets_Oncomouse (Routledge, 1997), pp.213-266

Geoffrey Bowker and Leigh Star, “The Case of Race Classification and
Reclassification Under Apartheid,” pp.195-226 of Star and Bowker,
Sorting Things Out (MIT Press, 1999).

Jonathan Kahn, “Exploiting Race in Drug Development: BiDil's Interim

Model of Pharmacogenomics.” Social Studies of Science 2008 38: 737-

Alondra Nelson, “Bio Science: Genetic Genealogy Testing and the Pursuit
of African Ancestry.” Social Studies of Science 2008 38: 759-783

Charis Thompson, “Skin tone and the persistence of biological race in egg
donation for assisted reproduction,” in Evelyn Nakano Glenn, Shades of
Difference (Stanford University Press, 2009), pp.131-147.

Troy Duster, “Selective arrests, an ever-expanding DNA forensic database,

and the specter of an early twenty-first century equivalent of phrenology”
in D. Lazer (ed.) The Technology of Jutsice: DNA and the Criminal
Justice System (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press), 2004.
Feb 14 DNA, Medicine and Culture

Emily Martin, “Medical Metaphors of Women’s Bodies: Birth,” pp.54-69

of Martin’s The Woman in the Body

Paul Rabinow, “Artificiality and Enlightenment: From Sociobiology to

Biosociality,” in Jonathan Crary & Samford Kwintner (eds.)
Incorporations, 1992.

Shobita Parthasarathy, “Architectures of genetic medicine: comparing

genetic testing for breast cancer in the USA and the UK,” Social Studies of
Science 35(1) 2005, pp.5-40

Nicole Nelson, “Modeling mouse, human, and discipline: epistemic

scaffolds in animal behavior genetics.” Social Studies of Science 43(1):3-
29 (2012).

Barbara Prainsack and Martin Kitzberger

DNA Behind Bars: Other Ways of Knowing Forensic DNA Technologies
Social Studies of Science 2009 39: 51-79

Charis Thompson, “Stem Cells, women, and the new gender and science,”
in Londa Schiebinger (ed.) Gendered Innovations in Science and
Engineering (Stanford University Press, 2008).

Feb 21 Technologized Medicine

Sarah Lochlann Jain, Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us. (University

of California Press, 2013).

Feb 28 Technology and Capital

Tarleton Gillespie, “the copyright balance and the weight of DRM”

chapter 2 of Wired Shut: Copyright and the Shape of Digital Culture
(MIT Press, 2007)
Kaushik Sunder Rajan, “Vision and hype: the conjuration of promissory
biocapitalist futures,” chapter 3 of Sunder Rajan, Biocapital: The
Constitution of Postgenomic Life (Duke University Press, 2004).

Emily Martin, “Introduction” to Flexible Bodies: The Role of Immunity in

American Culture from the Days of Polio to the Age of AIDS (Becon Press,

Nancy Scheper-Hughes, “Commodity fetishism and organs trafficking”

Body and Society 2001.

Donald Mackenzie, “Mechanizing the Merc: The Chicago Mercantile

Exchange and the rise of high-frequency trading,” Technology and Culture
56(3) 2015, pp.646-75

John Abraham and Rachel Ballinger, “The neoliberal regulatory state,

industry interests and the ideological penetration of scientific knowledge:
deconstructing the redefinition of carcinogens in pharmaceuticals,”
Science, Technology and Human Values 37(5):443-477 (2012)

March 7 Science, Medicine and Neoliberalism

Adriana Petryna, When Experiments Travel: Clinical Trials and the Global
Search for Human Subjects (Princeton University Press, 2009)


March 21 Hacking the Information Society

Gabriella Coleman, Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces

of Anonymous (Verso, 2014)

March 28 Technopolitical Regimes and Postcolonialism

Gabrielle Hecht, Being Nuclear: Africans and the Global Uranium Trade
(MIT Press, 2012)

April 4 Risk

Ulrich Beck, “On the Logic of Wealth Distribution and Risk Distribution,”
The Risk Society (Sage, 1992), 19-50.

Adriana Petryna, “Biological Citizenship,” chapter 5 of Petryna, Life

Exposed: Biological Citizens After Chernobyl (Princeton University Press,

Hugh Gusterson, “Nuclear weapons and the other in the Western

Imagination,” Cultural Anthropology 14(1): 111-43, 1999

Barbara Allen, “Debating Economics: Corporate Myths and Local

Realities,” and “Constructing Health in Cancer Alley,” chapters 3 and 5 of
Allen, Uneasy Alchemy: Citizens and Activists in Louisiana’s Chemical
Corridor Disputes (MIT Press, 2003).

Stephen Hilgartner, “Overflow and Containment in the Aftermath of

Disaster.” Social Studies of Science 2007 37: 153-158.Andrew Lakoff, “A
fragile assemblage: mutant bird flu and the limits of risk assessment,”
Social Studies of Science 2016, pp.1-22

April 11 Design and Control

Natasha Dow Schull, Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las

Vegas (Princeton University Press, 2012).

Aril 18 Climate Change

Donna Haraway, “Anthropocene, Capitalocene, plantationocene,

chthulocene: Making Kin,” Environmental Humanities vol.6 (2015)

Paul Edwards, A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the
Politics of Global Warming (MIT Press, 2010) selected chapters

Candis Callison, How Climate Change Comes to Matter: The Communal

Life of Facts (Duke University Press, 2014), selections
Steve Yearly, “Sociology and climate change after Kyoto,” Current
Sociology 57(3):389-405, 2009

April 25 Science, the state and Democracy

Langdon Winner, “Do Artefacts have Politics?” Daedalus 109(1), 1980,


Sheila Jasanoff, Designs on Nature: Science and Democracy in Europe

and the United States (Princeton University Press, 2007)

Related Interests