Science and social theory

Theme for Fall 1994: "Changing Life in the Old & New World Dis/orders"

Peter Taylor

S&TS 662

Initial narrative for the course
Ideas of life and interventions in its processes have been shaped by changes in social problems (regarding gender, class, ethnicity, individuality, personality, etc.), economic connections, political alignments, and access to resources. In this seminar we first review the relationships between, on one hand, changes in the ways society has been naturalized and nature socialized and, on the other, the wider social transformations this century. These changes are partial and uneven, and their relationships sometimes contradictory: Organismic metaphors in social and biological thought gave way after World War 2 to both cybernetic and individualistic metaphors. In the life sciences, ecology has come to co-exist with both the environmental movement and the industry of environmental management. In social thought more generally the organic community under threat during the Great Depression was eclipsed by post-WWII optimism about preventing "violent oscillations" through efficient systems of feedback, communication and command/ control. This optimism is now tempered, yet life continues to be reconstructed, ever more intimately and extensively. In the second half of the seminar we examine current interpretations of life¹s reconstruction -- from planetary management to genomic sequencing, cyborgs to artificial life, changes at the center of global connections and at their margins, on the fast track and the longue durée, changes in fantasies and actuality. In what ways is the new world dis/order affecting the metaphors, narratives, models, and practices of life sciences and technologies?

Course goals
Given the theme for fall Œ94 the seminar will not be social "Theory" with a big T, but a look at the history of twentieth century life sciences from the perspective of the relations between social thought and ideas of nature and biology.
This course aims to work at three levels. We will:
i) attempt to reconstruct this history as five interwoven strands of change in: human interventions in living processes; popular ideas about nature; popular ideas about society; scientific ideas about living processes; social scientific ideas about society. We will be assisted in this by the accounts written over the last decade or so in the history and social studies of science;
ii) examine, classify, and attempt to interpret the methods and frameworks of analysis and interpretation advanced in those social-historical accounts; and
iii) explore avenues for helping each other develop and deepen our thinking and expression (written and spoken) of our thinking, that is, we will be learning to work as co-operative learner/teachers.
The seminar is also experimental, exploratory, and partial. We will formulate and rework our interlocking narratives as we go; pay particular attention to the methods used and methods that might be developed to make sense of the interconnections; invent, compile and revise interpretive heuristics from/for the course material (both the primary subject matter and the interpretations); and identify places where the choice of topics and readings discounts the complexity and contradictions among ideas and practices (on both levels i & ii). Formulating a research project for the term paper (and beyond) should serve as an important way for you to work on these issues. We will also consider whether or not a coherent syllabus can be formed under this theme, and collectively produce an extended course bibliography organized into thematic and temporal packages like the weeks below.
To help illuminate the first two levels and different strands, and as part of co-operative learning (level iii), contributions from students of diverse disciplinary backgrounds are especially welcome.

Required text: Cronon, William 1991 Nature's metropolis: Chicago and the Great West New York: Norton
Other readings (except where indicated) will be available from Gnomon copy for around $40 total (including copyright permissions). The extra readings will also be on reserve as books or in xerox form in the Biology & Society reading (aka "advising") room (Clark Hall 278; open from 8.30-4.30 M-F only).

Course Requirements & Mechanics

-1. Auditors (limited to 25% of the class) will be allowed, but they will be expected to do the reading and participate in class, including to take their turn at leading discussions and to submit reflection/ discussion provocations (see 2-4 below).
0. Subscribe to the class email bulletin board ( and arrange to read your messages regularly. Subscribe by sending to the message:
sub STS662-L yourfirstname yourlastname.
1. This course requires you to read (sometimes a lot), attend, participate in the discussion, and co-operate in working with each other.
2. Lead (probably with 1 or 2 others) the discussion for 2 seminars. Leaders must prepare the extra readings (others are encouraged, but not required to), and interpret their message for the class in a paragraph or two (see item 4).
3. The day before class each week email to STS662-L one or two questions for the discussion
4. Each week the first part of the seminar will be reading the 1 page reflection/discussion provocations that students bring to class (at least 6 times in the semester.) Bring enough copies for everyone in the seminar.
5. Take a turn at producing a narrative of the course material to date (see "initial narrative" and "course goals" above).
6. The last part of the seminar each week will consist of 1 or 2 students giving short progress reports on their term paper research (see 7.), conforming to an ideal schedule of progress toward the final term paper.
7. The term paper should incorporate student¹s own exploratory work on the issues of narrative, method, and contradictory developments (see course goals) in the context of some specific topic or episode, preferably something not covered directly or sufficiently in the syllabus. It could take the form of a research proposal. A sheet of suggestions and initial readings will be provided in week 3. 15-20 pages, properly referenced.
Topic & bibliography 9/20
Outline 10/18
Draft 11/15 (Note the early date!)
Final version (revised following comments) 12/5 (Note the early date!)
Class presentation 11/15, 11/22, 11/29
8. Extensions are given only if they are negotiated well in advance, and if you get more than 2 weeks behind the schedule above, you must propose an acceptable revised schedule. I do not want any prolonged incompletes from this course!
9. Submission of bibliographic packages, consisting of suggested additions or substitutions to the readings, with a brief note explaining the recommendations and/or the theme of the package, where they fit in chronologically and conceptually. Due: 12/2 -- or earlier if you want us to read them this semester.

60% Class participation, Discussion leading, Submission of reflection/discussion provocations, Progress report(s) on term paper, Narrative, Bibliographic suggestions
40% Term paper


Week 1 Exploring images of society and nature
(including introduction to "interpretive heuristics")
Reading after class:
Williams, R. (1980). "Ideas of Nature," in Problems of Materialism and Culture. London, Verso, 67-85.
Berger, J. (1980). "Why Look at Animals?," in About Looking. New York, Pantheon Books 1-26.
Love, R. (1989). "The laws of life," in The Total Devotion Machine and Other Stories. London, The Women's Press, 39-45.

Week 2 Nature as a social and historical construct
Cronon, W. (1983). "That Wilderness Should Turn A Mart," chap. 8 of Changes in the Land. New York, Hill & Wang, 160-170.
Williams, R. (1973). "Country and the City," in Country and the City. New York, Oxford University Press, 272-306.
Cronon, W. (1991) Nature's metropolis: Chicago and the Great West New York: Norton, Chapters 3-5, 97-259.
Rowling, N. (1987). "Introduction," in Commodities: How the world was taken to market. London, Free Assoc Books, 7-21.

Week 3 The organic community under threat -- Patriarchy and purification
Roosevelt, T. (1905). "National duties," in The strenuous life. New York, The Century Co., 279-297.
Osburn, H. F. (1923). "Foreword," to C. Akeley, In Brightest Africa. New York, Garden City Publishing Co., ix-xii.
Haraway, D. (1989). "Teddy bear patriarchy: Taxidermy in the garden of Eden, New York City, 1908-1936," in Primate visions: Gender, race, and nature in the world of modern sciences. New York, Routledge, 26-58.
Akeley, C. (1923). "Is the Gorilla Almost a Man?," in In Brightest Africa. New York, Garden City Publishing Co., 236-267.
Beinart, W. (1990). "Empire, Hunting, and Ecological Change in Southern and Central Africa," Past and Present 128: 162-186.

Week 4 Disorder and crisis in the social body -- The Great Depression and the build up to war.
Henderson, L. J. (1970). "Sociology 23 Lectures, 1941-42," in On the social system. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 57-87.
Cannon, W. B. (1933). "Biocracy: Does the human body contain the secret of economic stabilization," The Technology Review 35(6): 203,204,206,227.
Scott, H. (1933). "Science vs. Chaos!," in Introduction to technocracy. New York, Technocracy Inc., 7-22.
Cross, S. J. and W. R. Albury (1987). "Walter B. Cannon, L.J. Henderson, and the Organic Analogy," Osiris, 2nd series 3: 165-192.
Mitman, G. (1988). "From population to society: The cooperative metaphors of W. C. Allee and A. E. Emerson," Journal of the History of Biology 21: 173-194.
Herrick, C. J. (1938) "A biologist looks at the profit motive," Social Forces 16: 320-327.

Allee, W. C. (1938). Excerpts from The social life of animals. New York, Norton, ed., 15-49, 234-243.
Weidman, N. M. (1994). "Herrick and the development of liberal biology," Chap. 5 of Of rats and men: Karl Lashley and American psychology, 1912-1955. Ph.D. Thesis, Cornell University.
Kargon, R. and E. Hodes (1985). "Karl Compton, Isaiah Bowman, and the politics of science in the Great Depression," Isis 76: 301-318.

Week 5 Cybernetics and ecology in the atomic age
Heims, S. (1980) "A Mutual Interest," chap. 10. of John von Neumann and Norbert Weiner. Cambridge, MIT Press, 201-220.
Excerpts from the Conference on Teleological Mechanisms, Ann. New York Acad. Sci. 50 (1948):
Frank, L. K. (1948). "Foreword," Annals of the New York Academy of Science 50: 189-196.
Hutchinson, G. E. (1948). "Circular Causal Systems in Ecology," Annals of the New York Academy of Science 50: 221-223,236-246.
Taylor, P. J. (1988). "Technocratic Optimism, H.T. Odum, and the Partial Transformation of Ecological Metaphor after World War II," Journal of the History of Biology 21(2): 213-244.
Taylor, P.J. and A.S. Blum. "Ecosystems as circuits: Diagrams and the limits of physical analogies." Biology & Philosophy (1991): 275-294.
Bateson, G. (1946). "Physical thinking and social problems," Science 103: 717-718.

Week 6 Individuals atomized and optimizing
Haraway, D. J. (1981-82). "High Cost of Information in Post-World War II Evolutionary Biology: Ergonomics, Semiotics, and the Sociobiology of Communication Systems," Philosophical Forum XIII(2-3): 244-279.
Keller, E. F. (1988). "Demarcating public from private values," Journal of the History of Biology 21: 195-211.
Hardin, G. (1968). "The Tragedy of the Commons," Science 162: 1243-1248.
Roberts, A. (1979). "The 'tragedy' of the commons," in The Self-Managing Environment. London, Allison & Busby, 147-161.
Mitman, G. "Defining the organism in the welfare state: The politics of individuality in American culture, 1890-1950," Social Science Yearbook (in press)
Taylor, P. (1994ms.) "Three inversions"
Peters, P. (1987). "Embedded systems and rooted models: The grazing lands of Botswana and the commons debate," in B. J. McKay and J. M. Acheson (Eds.), The question of the commons: The culture and ecology of communal resources. Tucson, University of Arizona Press, 171-194.

Week 7 Planetary management: Promises and threats
Meadows, D. et al. (1972). The Limits to Growth. New York, Universe Books, chap. 5 & commentary -- on resserve in Clark 278.
Taylor, P. J. and F. Buttel (ms.). "How do we know we have global environmental problems: Science and the globalization of environmental discourse."
Ross, A. (1991). "Is global culture warming up?," Social Text 28: 3-30.
Peluso, N. (1993). "Coercing conservation: The politics of state resource control," Global environmental change (June): 199-217.
Haila, Y. & L. Heininen (1994ms.) "Ecology: A New Discipline for Disciplining"
Rees, J. (1992). "Markets - The panacea for environmental regulation?," Geoforum 23: 383-394.

Ross, A. (1991). Strange weather : culture, science, and technology in the age of limits. London, Verso.
Taylor, P. J. and R. García-Barrios (1995). "The social analysis of ecological change," Social Science Information (in press)

Week 8 Commodification of life
Rowling, N. (1987). "Introduction," in Commodities: How the world was taken to market. London, Free Assoc Books, 7-21.
Lewontin, R. (1982). "Agricultural Research & the Penetration of Capital," Science for the People (January/February): 12-17.
Paul, D. B. and B. A. Kimmelman (1988). Excerpt from "Mendel In America: Theory & Practice, 1900-1919," in R. Rainger, K. Benson and J. Maienschein (Eds.), The American Development of Biology. Philadelphia, PA, University of Pennsylvania Press, 296-302,308-310.
Yoxen, E. (1981). "Life as a productive force: Capitalising the science and technology of molecular biology," in L. Levidow and R. Young (Ed.), Science, Technology and the Labour Process, Marxist Studies Vol. 1. London, CSE Books, 66-122.
Bugos, G. (1992). "Intellectual property protection in the American chicken-breeding industry," Business History review 66: 127-168.
Cole, S. (ms.) "Do androids pulverize tiger bones to use as aphrodisiacs?"

Davis, M. (1987). "Chinatown, Part Two? The Internationalization of downtown Los Angeles," New Left Review 164(July/August): 65-86.
Yurick, Sol. Behold metatron, the recording angel. New York: Semiotext(e), 1985
Fortun, M. (1993ms). "Designed for speed: Accelerating genomics"
Schroeder, R. A. (1995). "Contradictions along the commodity road to environmental stabilization: Foresting Gambian gardens," Antipode : (in press).

Week 9 Cyborgs: human-machine cohabitations

Haraway, D. (1985). "Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s," Socialist Review 80: 65-107.
Penley, C. and A. Ross (1990). "Cyborgs at large: Interview with Donna Haraway," Social Text (25/26): 8-23.
Haraway, D. J. (1995). "Mice into wormholes: A technoscience fugue in two parts," in G. Downey, J. Dumit and S. Traweek (Eds.), Cyborgs and Citadels: Anthropological Interventions on the Borderlands of Technoscience. Seattle, University of Washington Press.
Paul Edwards (1994ms.) "Cyborgs in the new world order: Notes toward a new analysis"

Week 10 Contested sexual, reproductive and hereditary interventions
Rapp, R. (1988). "Moral Pioneers: Women, Men & Fetuses," Women and Health 13(1/2): 101-116.
Shore, C. (1992). "Virgin births and sterile debates," Current Anthropology 33(3): 295-314.
DeNora, T. (1993ms). "A vagina of signs: Reconfiguring gender and power in alternative contraception, 1960-1993."
Clarke, A. (1995). "Modernity, postmodernity and reproductive processes, c1890-1990," in Cyborg Handbook.
Ginsburg, F. (1987). "Procreation stories: Reproduction, nurturance, and procreation in life narratives of abortion activists," American Ethnologist 14(4): 623-636.
Aggleton, P., K. O'Reilly, et al. (1994). "Risking everything? Risk behavior, behavior change, and AIDS," Science 265(15 July): 341-345.
García-Barrios, R. and P. J. Taylor (1995). "The dynamics of socio-environmental change and the limits of neo-Malthusian environmentalism," in T. Mount, H. Shue and M. Dore (Eds.), The limits to markets: Equity and the global environment. Oxford, Blackwell, in press.

Week 11 Discourses of difference

Stone, S. (1994ms.) "The anthropologist Lestat at the Olympics: Sex and sports medicine meet the vampire gaze"
Haraway, D. (1991). "'Gender' for a Marxist dictionary: The sexual politics of a word," in Simians, cyborgs, and women: The reinvention of nature. New York, Routledge, 127-148.
Martin, E. (1991). "The egg and the sperm: How science has constructed a romance based on stereotypical male-female roles," Signs 16(3): 485-501.
Carney, J. and M. Watts (1990). "Manufacturing Dissent: Work, Gender and the Politics of Meaning in a Peasant Society," Africa 60(2): 207-241.
Schroeder, R. (1993). "Shady practice: Gender and the political ecology of resource stabilization in Gambian garden/ orchards," Economic Geography 69: 349-365.
Haraway, D. (1989). "The biopolitics of postmodern bodies: Determinations of self in immune system discourse," Differences 1(1): 3-43.
Gilbert, S. (1994ms.) "Bodies of knowledge: Biology and the intercultural university"

Weeks 12 -13 Student presentations, text or video collages, and discussion on themes raised by students