Generative Justice

"The point is not just to read the webs of knowledge production; the point is to reconfigure what counts as knowledge in the interests of reconstituting the generative forces of embodiment." -- Donna Haraway

STSS-6960 Ron Eglash, Sp 2018, Mondays 9:00-11:50PM, SAGE 5711

Learning objectives:
Students will be able to demonstrate understanding of the contrast between alienated and unalienated value; the contrast between bottom-up circulation of value and top-down extraction of value, and the various ways that the conceptual tools of STS—performativity, naturecultures, materialisms, queer STS, etc.—can be used to critique, illuminate and facilitate systems for generative justice.

To contact instructor:
Office Hours: Tuesday 1-3 and by appointment, 5502 Sage. Email:, phone: 276-2048.


The reading reflections (4-6 pages) are based strictly on the reading assignments for class; no original research is required. Your reflections can cover them broadly or focus on just a few. They would be a good candidate to be re-purposed as part of your portfolios, so make sure you adhere to scholarly grammar, analysis, language and format (e.g. MLA or U. Chicago citation practices). The research paper (minimum 10 pages) can be anything related to the class readings, and of course should also be formal academic writing. You are welcome to use your own empirical research as well as researching literature. .

Academic Honesty:

While ideas are available to everyone, credit for ideas, and the particular text used to express them, belongs to their originator. Plagiarism occurs when a student attempts to pass the ideas or words of someone else as their own (cf. It is surprisingly easy to do. For example, students who are not writing in their first language will sometimes try to use a sentence from another written text, simply because they are worried about their grammar. Plagiarism also occurs when a quotation is reworded in an attempt to avoid citation—always make sure the sources of your quotations are specifically cited. The internet makes plagiarism particularly tempting, since you can copy and paste from the web to your paper. Recycling your own paper from another course would not be plagiarism, but it would be academic dishonesty and thus subject to the same penalties. Plagiarism will result in failing the course (a grade of “F”).

Special Needs
Please contact me if you have special needs such as disability or religious holidays.

Articles are available via links below unless otherwise indicated; Books are as follows:

Course Schedule:

Part I: Introduction

1/22: Introduction

Here we examine the fundamental concept--replacing extraction systems with the circulation of unalienated value--and look at case studies in which the struggle to acheive those ends meet various kinds of resistance. How can STS provide conceptual tools and praxis for addressing these barriers?

Eglash, “An Introduction to Generative Justice
Araujo, "Consensus Decision-making as a Research Method for Generative Justice: empirical practices from a money-less economy in Chiapas, Mexico"
Dunbar-Hester,.  “Freedom from Jobs” or learning to love to labor? Diversity advocacy and working imaginaries in Open Technology Projects
Kuhn,  Fiber Arts and Generative Justice.
Dotson, T. and Wilcox, J. Generating Community, Generating Justice? The production and circulation of value in community energy initiatives

presentation: GJ background on indigenous influences

1/29 Marx’s theory of alienation

If we are going to understand how to prevent technologies of extraction, Marx is a great starting point. But Wendling points out that Marx's own theory formation was strongly influenced by the technoscience of his day. Could the alternative understanding of technoscience via STS provide a different framework, one less prone to authoritarian centralization?

Wendling, A. Karl Marx on technology and alienation. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009   


Lecture: Marx and STS

2/5 Naturecultures

Marx insisted that capitalism mistakenly gave the illusion that non-humans have agency. But the alienation of ecological value is just as critical as that of labor; shouldn't non-human agency have a role in our generative visions for justice?

Lecture: Nonhuman agency in anthropology

2/12 Sympoiesis

We are often told that the extractive disasters of capitalism are a matter of reductionism, and therefore a holistic "autopoiesis" is the cure. But the closed-loop purity of autopoiesis causes problems of its own. Sympoiesis provides a potent alternative.

Haraway, Staying with the Trouble

Lecture: A Cat's Cradle for Methodology

Lecture: sympoiesis, abolitionists and evolutionary theory

2/20 DIY: new modes of citizenship and activism

Now that we have some conceptual tools for a generative analysis, lets see how individual case studies can be examined.

Ratto, M and Boler M.  DIY Citizenship: Critical Making and Social Media. MIT Press 2014
Please contribute to the analysis of selecteded chapters in our compendium.

Lecture: DIY vs DIT: STS and Self-organization

Lecture: Self-organization in Science and Society: a history

Part II: Refractions: looking through other lenses

First paper due on 2/26

2/26 Generative justice as seen through other disciplines

Lecture: Tragdey of the Commons

Lecture: Common Pool Resources

3/5 Queer Theory

One of the challenges working with a theory of unalienated value is the trap of authenticity or essentialism; for example organicism (value "as nature intended it"). Queer theory has developed a variety of strategies way to guard against that, showing how sexual orientation can be both unalienated and (at least in the eyes of some churches and states) "unnatural." For TallBear this means contesting the human/nonhuman duality; for Epstein it means contesting medical authority; for Anglin and Sbicca conceptualizations of nature; and for Kouri-Towe the circulation of non-essentialized solidarity.

Lecture: Oppositional politics

Lecture: Animal Altruism as queer nature

Video: Friends Furever


3/12 -- spring break

Part III: Materialization and Labor

Second paper due (3/26)

3/19  Materialization  
The first two articles use examples from the “new materialism” perspective to make claims about the generative aspects of human/nonhuman interactions; in particular a “pagan vibrancy” of material objects (Bennett) and an “intra-active” perspective on labor in jute mills (Barad). The third (Washick and  Wingrove) takes a very critical look at those claims, followed by replies. Finally, we move to Pickering’s “material agency” critique of David Nobel’s Marxist analysis of digital machine tools.

lecture: New Materialisms and The Dance Toward Justice

3/26 Skeptics and counter-critique  

Critiques of Generative Justice

Part III: Extensions

Third paper due (4/8)
4/2 Towards a Generative Economics 

Lecture: Generative Economies

4/9 Generative Science

4/16 Systems and Modeling
video (in class):Steve Lansing at the Stockholm Resilience Centre

4/23 Generative Technologies -- 4th paper due

Digital Fabrication for Generative Networks

4/30 Class presentations 
(PPT -- Final research paper due may 2nd)