2011-12 Colloquium Series
The Science Studies Colloquium Series takes place every Monday of the quarter from 4:00p-5:30p in Room 3027, Humanities & Social Sciences Building, Muir College campus, unless noted otherwise.
A reception for the colloquium speaker takes place before the talk from 3:30p-4:00p in Room 3005, Humanities & Social Sciences Building.
September 26, 2011
Science Studies Program Meeting
SSP faculty and students only
October 3, 2011
Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, UC Davis
This talk addresses technoscientific state formation in California. Specifically, it examines how science and governance increasingly became networked through the “boundary object” of water. I reject the populist idea that “the history of California is all about water,” and instead historicize water, showing how it emerged as a boundary object between science and governance over a period of sixty years. Government initially confronted discrete problems that involved water, and these gradually came to be seen as elements of a single “water problem.” Until around 1915, state government was mostly focused on the Sacramento Valley, and on reclamation through drainage and flood control. System building technoscientists were critical to the process through which water became a boundary object, as they mobilized graphs, meters, and other technologies to argue that the valley was a natural hydrological system that could only be reclaimed by a valley-wide artificial system. Only state government, the argument went, could understand the complexity of the natural system and build the artificial appropriately. I draw on actor-network theory to argue that the resulting ontology of the technoscientifc state is not that of an actor with interests, but rather a “thing” in the sense of a gathering and assemblage of humans and non-humans. Nonetheless, and paradoxically, the very process of gathering humans and non-humans into a complex, heterogeneous, and distributed actor-network, fuels the punctualization of “the state” as a singular actor in the image of a self-interested human being.
October 10, 2011
Professor, Department of Philosophy, UC Davis
The status of population genetics, a mathematical version of evolutionary theory, has become hotly debated among biologists and philosophers. Many seem to view population genetics as unchanged since the Modern Synthesis (i.e., since the 1940s), and have argued that subjects such as development were left out of the Synthesis. Some have called for an extended evolutionary synthesis or for recognizing the insignificance of population genetics. Yet others such as Michael Lynch have defended population genetics, declaring that "nothing in evolution makes sense except in the light of population genetics" (a twist on Dobzhansky's famous slogan that "nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution"). Missing from this discussion is the use of population genetics to shed light on ecology and vice versa, beginning in the 1940s and continuing until the present day. I will highlight some of that history through an overview of traditions such as ecological genetics and population biology, followed by a slightly more in-depth look at a contemporary study of the endangered California Tiger Salamander. I will argue that population genetics is a powerful and useful tool that continues to be used and modified, even if it isn't required for all evolutionary explanations or doesn't incorporate all the causal factors of evolution.
October 17, 2011
Associate Professor, Department of History, Ohio State University
Over the past couple of decades, various theoretical approaches have been developed to analyze large-scale, materially heterogeneous systems: actor-network theory, assemblage theory, complexity theory and so forth. This paper uses some of the insights from these theories to explore the history of expanding food chains over the last couple of centuries. Its empirical material is taken from research into meat and milk in Britain. It addresses three fundamental ways in which food chains have developed. First, distance and durability. Food chains have, simply put, become longer and foods themselves more durable, through the use of technologies designed to arrest decay: refrigeration, cold storage, preservatives, canning, and wrapping, for example. Second, scale. Modern food systems have often involved the agglomeration of previously dispersed activities like dairying and slaughtering. This “scaling up” of production facilitated greater levels of efficiency and standardization. It also enabled the mass harvesting of small or perishable byproducts like blood, serum and glands, and facilitated the plugging-in of abattoirs into chemical and pharmaceutical complexes. This organic dimension to the second industrial revolution if often overlooked. Third, emergence. Complex systems are often characterized by their capacity to generate novel entities. Food systems are no exception. Three aspects of emergence will be examined here: the emergence of new forms of animal as the basic units of production, the emergence of new foodborne pathogens (parasites, prions), and the emergence of new dietary disorders.
October 24, 2011
Associate Professor,Department of History, UC San Diego
How do you write a history of causation? In my talk I will follow the intertwined history of the causal doctrines of epidemiology and toxic tort litigation, and examine how they became pivotal in the late-modern America, where true causes are hard to find, no single explanatory factor is enough, and neither the partisan expert nor the lay juror can be trusted to decide the evidence alone.
October 31, 2011
Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The Worlds of Steel, Paprika, and Fungi: The Politics of Materiality in State Socialism and Postsocialism
What would it mean for our understanding of state socialism and of postsocialism if we understood them not as purely social, economic, and political formations but as socio-material assemblages, as particular networks of human and nonhuman agents? I will ask and offer some answers to such questions as: What difference did it make for the political and economic structure and logic of state socialism as it existed that it based its own modernization project on coal, iron, and steel? How does the remaining socialist infrastructure limit the neoliberal project and with what political consequences? How are non-human agents (such as fungi or geese) enrolled in constructing a new Europe? I will call for replacing the current trend of materializing politics with the politicization of materiality. Case studies demonstrating the relevance of non-human agents include metallurgy and chemical wastes under socialism; central heating in postsocialism; the Hungarian paprika scandal of 2004; and the western boycott of Hungarian foie gras of 2008.
November 7, 2011
Assistant Professor, Departments of English, Media Studies and Linguistics, University of Virginia
Meillassoux's Categorical Failures: 'Speculative Realism' as Symptom
November 14, 2011
Associate Professor, Department of Information Studies, UCLA
The Fog of Freedom
Why are new information technologies so frequently associated with freedom? Which cultural and philosophical concepts of freedom are central to technology design, use and critique? Why freedom instead of justice, equality or well-being? How was the link forged and why? This presentation will explore the fog of freedom in episodes from the last 40 years of the development of information technology: the development or UNIX, the rise of free software, the appearance of “social media”, cloud computing, and crowdsourcing, and the eternal return of the monopoly tech company.
November 21, 2011
Associate Professor, Department of History, UCSB
Did California Invent Nanotechnology?
Despite its seeming newness, nanotechnology already has many different historical narratives. From seminal speeches at the start of the Space Age to futuristic imaginings in the 1980s to industrial commercialization in the 1990s, the emergence of nanotechnology as an idea and a research program connects to California in a variety of ways. In this talk, I explore how the West Coast version of nanotechnology resonated among researchers, policy makers, the media, and the public within and beyond the Golden State. Seen more broadly, this California-infused perspective gives insights into the nature of technological ecosystems, historical analogies, and the challenges posed by competing historical narratives.
November 28, 2011
Assistant Professor, Department of Ethnic Studies, UC San Diego
Commercial Gestational Surrogacy: Potential, Risk and Return in the Indian ART Clinic
January 9, 2012
Science Studies Program Meeting
SSP faculty and students only
January 23, 2012
Hanna Rose Shell
Leo Marx Career Development Assistant Professor, MIT Program in STS
Hide and Seek: Camouflage, Photography and Media of Reconnaissance
Camouflage is an adaptive logic of escape from representation. This talk traces the evolution of camouflage as it developed in counterpoint to technological advances in photography, innovations in warfare, and as-yet-unsolved mysteries of natural history. Today camouflage is commonly thought of as a textile pattern of interlocking greens and browns. But it is in fact much more--a set of institutional structures, mixed-media art practices, and permutations of subjectivity, that emerged over the course of the twentieth century in natural and military environments increasingly mediated by photographic and cinematic intervention.
January 30, 2012
Soraya de Chadarevian
Professor, Department of History, UCLA
Putting Human Genetics on a Solid Basis: Human Chromosome Research, 1950s-1970s
After World War II, widespread efforts to establish the effects of radiation in humans as well as a continuing interest in the role of chromosomes in the etiology of cancer provided new incentives to develop methods to study human chromosomes. By the late 1950s human cytogenetics had developed into an active field of research at the intersection of diverse political, medical and scientific concerns. Although some of the uses of the new technology became controversial and some promises were not fulfilled, karyotyping techniques were largely regarded as putting human genetics on a solid scientific basis and giving it broad visibility. In my paper I will investigate the excitement around the new genetic technology and its widespread use in such diverse fields as cancer research, pediatrics, gender testing, toxicology, criminology, worldwide population studies and the policy arena. The study will provide insights into a broad range of discussions around human heredity and the cultural concerns in which they were embedded.
February 6, 2012
Canada Research Chair in Community Culture and Health, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Simon Fraser University
The Price of Knowledge: Establishing the “Evidence Base” for Treatment-As-Prevention Approach to Global AIDS
The International AIDS Conference held in Vienna, Austria in 2010 heralded a “new approach” to stemming the global course of the HIV pandemic. But “Treatment 2.0” is really only a retooling of existing HIV medications in two forms. First, a simplified and cheaper (because “old line” and thus soon to be generic) regimen eases the “pill burden” of persons with HIV and the unit costs for countries that cannot currently comply with international standards for when to treat persons with AIDS. But this bright future has dark shadow: as little piece of side information in studies of different formularies was interpreted to show that when treatment was widely available, new infections declined. Suddenly, in 2009/2010, the goal of universal access as a global human right was transformed into the actuarial backbone of an approach that focuses on use of medications with the goal of decreasing “population viral load,” rather than supporting persons living with HIV. There are two parts of this approach: aggressive mass testing campaigns, which required lowering confidentiality and consent standards (usually to opt-out) and increased tracking of those who test positive, and what is called “Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis,” or “PrEP.” Here, countries would use the use of the same modified regimen that would potentially achieve universal access to care as a prophylaxis for HIV negative people deemed “risky.” As the randomized controlled trial of PrEP were reported from 2010-present, they began to be used as “proof” that the treatment as prevention approach as a whole would success, despite the fact that the drugs: 1) only decrease new infections from about 5% to about 2.5% and 2) have moderate and irreversible side effects. With no plan for how to produce more HIV medications and distribute PrEP if people want it, offering PrEP in essence takes drugs from those who are already HIV+ and gives them to those who are not. This paper explains how the idea of PrEP emerged in the late 1980s and then accelerated in the context of the “treatment as prevention” surge in the mid-2000s. In particular, I will focus on the PrEP studies themselves, exploring what was actually learned, and weighing the moral price paid—in terms of lost civil rights and in terms of the ethical conduct of the trials themselves—for the little bit of knowledge now claimed as unequivocal “evidence” for the new approach to HIV.
February 13, 2012
February 27, 2012
Professor, Department of English, University of British Columbia
Thinking Confusion: on the Compositional Aspect of Affect
This talk brings Gertrude Stein’s writing together with aspects of Silvan Tomkins’s affect theory and Melanie Klein’s object relations theory to propose that confusion is a necessary and inevitable consequence of the role that affects play in perception. Stein’s writing is both exemplary of the variety of confusions I am interested in theorizing, and itself theorizes confusion. Her notion of composition, poetics of mistake, and analysis of (what she calls) the “liveliness” of writing all emerge from her early training in physiological psychology; reading these concepts together with Tomkins’s and Klein’s work, this talk offers a way to think about the vitality of affects and their role in the constitution of objects.
March 5, 2012
Professor, Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences, UC Irvine
March 12, 2012
Associate Professor, Department of History, Wesleyan University
Facing Facts: The Tichborne Cause Celebre and the Rise of Modern Visual Evidence
“Facing Facts: The Tichborne Cause Célèbre and the Rise of Modern Visual Evidence” is the first book-length account of the role of visual display in the celebrated 19th-century trials of Arthur Orton, a butcher from Australia who claimed to be Sir Roger Tichborne, the missing heir to an aristocratic estate. Familiar to British historians as a cause that attracted working class support and led to the dissolution of the Court of Chancery in 1875, the Tichborne trials (1871-1874) were also a landmark in the history of modern visual evidence. Utilizing previously untapped archival sources, the project yields insights into how images functioned in British society at a time when visual culture, science, and the law underwent historic changes. The case provides historical perspective on a contemporary question: how are visual technologies transforming the practice and public perceptions of the law as legal practice becomes more dependent on images and digital visual displays?
* No Colloquium on January 16 or February 20 (University Holidays)
April 2, 2012
Research Fellow, Climate and Migrations, IDDRI at Sciences Po
Re-Enacting Climate Change Talks: Insights from a Simulation Experiment for the Study of International Negotiations
Simulations are a well-known tool in the field of the theory of negotiations, but they are mainly used with a pedagogic purpose. Recent difficulties faced in international environmental negotiations, and particularly the negotiations on climate change, point to the necessity to question how different scientific perspectives conceptualise the representation of public problems at the global scale, and the capacity of negotiation processes to mobilise these representations or to transform them in order to lead to a negotiated agreement. At the nexus between international negotiation theories, the sociology of science and communication sciences, a large scale re-enactment of climate negotiations is taking place at Sciences Po-Paris in June 2011, with the objective to illustrate how and if alternative representations of the problem at stake might emerge, and potentially lead to new configurations and new types of solutions. This round table will g ather specialists of different disciplinary perspectives (sociology of sciences, environmental history, negotiation theory, public management, environmental and scientific communication, ) in order to take stock of possible perspectives for research emerging from the debriefing of their contribution to or their analysis of this exceptional simulation experiment.
April 9, 2012
Science Studies Program Meeting
SSP faculty and students only
April 16, 2012
Professor, Departments of Communications, Criticism and Interpretive Theory, Medicine, and Gender and Women's Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
When Pirates Feast: The Pirate Figure in Trojan Brand Condom Advertisements, 1926-1939
The history of condoms in the U.S. is both visible and invisible. I use a series of flamboyant advertisements for Trojan condoms in the 1920s to introduce several issues associated with the visibility (or not) of condoms, including (1) the reputation of condoms as sleazy aids to illicit sex; (2) the controversial military anti-VD and condom distribution campaign during World War I; (3) the postwar glut in the condom market, with no quality control, regulation, or reliable branding; (4) the crusade by the maker of Trojans to clean up the market by making the condom a more respectable product, in part by instituting a policy of distributing condoms only through drugstores; (5) the condom’s unique dual function, serving to prevent both STDs and pregnancy, and the impact of sweeping anti-obscenity legislation making birth control illegal; (6) the 1970s, when all restrictions on the display and advertising of sex-related products were lifted and condoms began to be advertised in such national magazines as the Ladies Home Journal, Ms, Penthouse, Modern Friend, and Playboy; (7) 1981 and the era of AIDS in which the condom goes from unmentionable object to conversational topic for the family dinner table and from low-concept product to global superstar, but in which astonishing debates over access, display, effectiveness, advertising language and images, and visibility still rage.
April 23, 2012
Associate Professor, Department of English, UC Davis
The Play's the Thing: Games, Theatre, and the Insular Imagination of Nanotechnology
This talk examines the fashioning of the nanotechnology laboratory as a kind of island, an insular space wherein dreams become reality. Voyaging between various nano labs both real and fictional (and a few somewhere in between), we will follow the tropics of discourse to see how the metaphorical shaping of laboratory space transforms the content of scientific research. The talk will address the proliferation of islands inside the nano lab—for example, the research fields of “nano-island lithography” and “nano-island dynamics”—investigating how the long cultural history of scientific islands situates technical experimentation as a form of play.
April 30, 2012
PhD Candidate, Philosophy and Science Studies, UC San Diego
Animal Mindreading: Can Experiments Solve the Logical Problem? Should They?
Most contemporary comparative psychologists agree that chimpanzees are capable of visual perspective taking—the ability to infer what objects another agent can or cannot see, given that agent’s point of view. Several philosophers and psychologists have recently criticized this consensus. They argue that visual-perspective-taking experiments are designed in such a way that there is an alternative behavioral explanation for why subjects behave as they do. This design problem has been dubbed the “logical problem” and has led the critics to insist that comparative psychologists must adopt an alternative experimental approach for testing visual perspective taking in apes. In this talk, I present the logical problem and show that the alternative experimental paradigm endorsed by the critics fails to provide a solution to this problem. I then argue that the logical problem is a version of the “theoretician’s dilemma” and cannot be resolved empirically; thus, it is not a problem that ape psychologists must solve before making claims about visual perspective taking in apes.
May 7, 2012
Pardee Professor of Art History, History of Art Department, UC Berkeley
Neurovisuality: Why Vision Science Needs World Art History
In recent years, such emergent interdisciplines as "neuroaesthetics" and such developments in art history and archaeology as "neuroarthistory" and "neuroarchaeology" have urged that certain historical phenomena of aesthetic experience, art history, and visual culture might be contextualized--even explained--in light of findings about visual processing at the neural level (e.g., the discovery of cell complexes that are "selective for" certain wavelengths of light or for certain patterns of movement). Indeed, one well-known text, Semir Zeki's "Inner Vision" (1999), offers an ambitious program for neurophysiological explanation of aesthetic responses to painting and pictorial representation in a variety of historical traditions; as Zeki puts it, these responses occur in the way that they do largely because of "rules and programs" of the visual brain, which are now increasingly open to neurophysiological identification in clinical and experimental research. While intriguing (though sometimes not especially novel), these claims do not yet fully mesh with an important complementary development in the analytic theorization of visual culture--namely, the development of a robust concept of "visuality," or the acculturation of vision in the process of adapting to a world of man-made things made to be seen. This concept builds on long-standing art-historical theories (such as the early 20th-century formalist doctrine of "ways of seeing" or Vorstellungsbilder), anthropological and sociological research (such as the program of Melville J. Herskovits and his collaborators in the 1960s), and recent visual cultural studies. The talk discusses the feedback loops between vision and visuality and suggests that both clinical-experimental and historical-anthropological research are needed--and must join forces--in order fully to understand the complex recursions in question, which might be called "neurovisuality." In addition to setting out an overview of the general issue, the talk discusses an important but difficult example--the relation between the "two-and-half-dimensional sketch" identified as an integrative stage in visual-perceptual processing of information in reflected light (vision psychologist David Marr) and the historical consolidation of the "virtual coordinate plane" as an invisible dimensionalization of visual space (art historians David Summers, Ian Jenkins, and others).
May 14, 2012
Associate Professor, Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, University of Toronto
Psychoanalysts against Biological Reductionism: Anna Freud, Max Schur, and René Spitz reject John Bowlby’s Synthesis of Ethology and Psychoanalysis
In his now classic paper of 1958, “The Nature of the Child’s Tie to His Mother,” British psychoanalyst and psychiatrist John Bowlby presented a synthesis of ideas from psychoanalysis and from ethological studies of animal behavior to explain an infant’s attachment to her mother. Bowlby argued that infants have an innate biological need for maternal love and, consequently, its absence has catastrophic consequences for a child’s development. But could psychoanalytic drives be reformulated as ethological instincts, as Bowlby proposed? What did psychoanalysts think of Bowlby’s attempt to unify psychoanalysis and ethology? In this talk I focus on psychoanalysts Anna Freud, Max Schur, and René Spitz who, according to historians of attachment theory, launched a surprise attack on Bowlby in order to uphold Freudian orthodoxy. Other scholars, however, see Bowlby’s work as compatible with psychoanalysis. I show that the dispute was about fundamental questions: Can the human mind be completely explained by biological processes? What are the tools that allow us access to the complex world of the human mind? I argue that the gulf between Anna Freud, Schur, Spitz and Bowlby was unbridgeable, both in terms of what they thought counted as facts and their theoretical interpretations.
May 21, 2012
Assistant Professor, Graduate Program in International Affairs, New School for Public Engagement
Treatment as Prevention: The Politics of Rights, Drugs and Health in South Africa's AIDS Epidemic
Recent clinical trials have shown that antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV-infected people might also dramatically cut transmission rates. These results have been heralded as “the beginning of the end of AIDS” and have triggered much talk about “treatment as prevention.” The latter idea has gained enormous traction in South Africa which has the world’s largest AIDS epidemic and the world’s largest national antiretroviral treatment program. Government officials, activists, political leaders and patients in the country are enthusiastically embracing the “treatment as prevention” rubric and are deploying it to justify a range of public health policies. But what does it actually mean to think of treatment as prevention? How does such a formulation shift extant conceptualizations of public health? In this talk, I will address the above questions by providing a history of the category of ‘prevention’ and how it has changed over the course of South Africa’s AIDS epidemic. The different understandings of prevention have been accompanied by not only emerging results of clinical trials but also changing terrains of rights and citizenship within South Africa’s post-apartheid public sphere. What is at stake here, I argue, are not only antiretroviral drugs and HIV, but the very definition of public health and the relationship of the state to its citizenry.
* No Colloquium on May 28, 2012