Dr. Ron Eglash

Comparative Studies 597 (call#04456-8)

Winter 1999

Class meetings: 86 University Hall, M-W 1:30-3:18. Office Hours: Mon 11:30-1:30, and by appointment, 485 Mendenhall Labs. Contact:, for phone message call 292-2559 (my office phone is 292-5365, but I am rarely there except for office hours).

 Course Description:

This course brings the critical traditions of humanities and social studies to bear on the theory, practice and impact of contemporary science and technology. This does not mean that we are debunking science; our goal is to find out how culture and science interact. What, for example, is the role of science in producing or contesting Western categories of race, class, and gender? What traditional practices of the non-west could be incorporated into a scientific framework? How will the spread of new information technologies affect personal identity, local community, and national culture in the first and third worlds?


Evaluation will be based on the midterm exam (45%), the final exam (45%), and class participation (10%). You are required to bring the reading to class so that we can discuss the texts in detail.


Reader from Cop-ez, 060 Bricker Hall (292-2219), books from SBX.

 Steven J. Gould, The Mismeasure of Man (W.W. Norton 1981).

 David Hess, Science and Technology in a Multicultural World (Columbia Univ. Press 1994).

 Douglas Schuler, New Community Networks (Addison-Wesley).

 Reader (Cop-ez, 060 Bricker Hall) -- indicated by * in course schedule.

 Course Schedule:

I. Introduction

 1/4 -- Lecture: intro to social studies of science theory (Popper v.s. Kuhn).

 1/6 --D. Hess ch 1 ("Introduction"), ch2 pp 27-28 only ("Ernest Everett Just"), ch 3 pp. 54-58 only ("The Legacy of Ancient Science").

 II. The myth of biological determinism

1/11 -- S. Gould ch 1 ("Introduction") & ch 2 ("American polygeny and craniometry before Darwin")

 1/13 -- S. Gould ch 3 ("Measuring heads") & ch 4 ("Measuring Bodies")

 1/18 -- MLK day -- no class

 1/20 -- S. Gould ch 5 ("The Hereditarian Theory of IQ")

 1/25 -- S. Gould ch 6 ("Factor analysis and the reification of intelligence") & 7 ("A positive conclusion: the relevance of biology for human nature").

 1/27 -- *Marshall Sahlins "The Use and Abuse of Biology" pp. 17-27. *Douglas Hofstadter: "The Prisonerís Dilemma." Lecture: cooperation in natural, social, and computational systems (see handouts in reader).

 2/1 -- Midterm exam

 III. Indigenous cultures and modern science

 2/3 -- Hess ch 7 ("Ethnoknowledges and non-western medicine"). Video: "Multicultural Math and Science"

 2/8 -- *R. Eglash, "Fractals in African architecture." African math lecture 1, Software demo.

 2/10 -- *R. Eglash "Bamana Sand Divination." Hess ch 3 ("Origins of western science"), African math lecture 2. Video clips on divination.

 2/15 -- *Sean Swezey and Daniel Faber: "Disarticulated Accumulation, Agroexport, and the Ecological Crisis in Nicaragua: the case of cotton." video: "An Ecology Of The Mind." Lecture: material v.s. semiotic analysis of the Environment.

 2/17 -- *Amartya Sen: "Population Control: Delusion and Reality." video: "hungry for profit."

 2/22 -- *Aiwah Ong pp. "Global Industries and Malay Peasants in Peninsular Malaysia," Hess ch 8 ("Cosmopolitan technologies, native peoples, and resistance struggles"). video: Kayapo: Out Of The Forest.

 IV. Technical communities and public culture

 2/24 -- Hess ch 6 pp. 161-173 only ("Scientists in non-academic organizations;" "Scientists in public controversies"). *Gary Downey, "The cultural identities of scientists: negotiating nuclear wastes in New Mexico." Lecture: the politics of energy production.

 3/1 -- Hess ch 6 pp. 173 -184 only ("Consumer perspectives and user acceptance;" "New managerial technologies and worker perspectives"). *Leonard Fiorilli & Richard Sclove: Participatory Design. The Loka Institute, 1997. *Bodker, Gronbaek, and Kyng: "Cooperative Design."

 V. Cyberculture

 3/3 -- Schuler ch 1,2,9: intro to computer mediated communications. Lecture: history of cybernetics. Graduating Senior exam (take home).

3/8 -- Schuler ch 4,5,6: cyber-democracy. Lecture: Wiring the inner city. Graduating Senior exam due.

3/10 -- Schuler ch 8,11: virtual communities. Lecture: Sex and race in cyberspace.


Final exam: Wed Mar 17 11:30am