This writing-intensive seminar course for the Department of Anthropology at Washington University explores questions of theory, method, and ethics in the anthropology of science and technology. How is biomedicine changing what it is to be human? How can technologies and scientific practices be studied ethnographically? How are the politics of difference linked to the production of scientific knowledge? Through close reading of ethnographic texts and engagement in fieldwork experience both on- and off-line, we will investigate how scientific practice and technological innovation reorganize various aspects of human life on both global and local scales. Topics include the social construction of scientific knowledge, the reproduction of racial categories in genomics, the globalization of clinical trials, online mobilization and the politics of social media, and the ways in which various technoscientific projects reshape natural and political orders in diverse locales.
The course also offers an opportunity to examine the craft of ethnographic research and writing in a critical fashion. We will develop techniques of comparison and abstraction in order to highlight important differences in research questions, theoretical frameworks, and methodological approaches. Each student will gain first-hand experience doing ethnographic research over the course of the semester.