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2020-2021 Colloquium Series

The Science Studies Colloquium Series takes place on Mondays from 12:15pm-1:45pm by Zoom virtual meetings. A meeting ID will be sent out prior to the start time.

Fall Quarter 2020

October 5, 2020

Science Studies Program Meeting
SSP faculty and students only 

October 12, 2020

Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga
Associate Professor of Science, Technology, and Society (STS)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Challenge of Systemic Racism in Science and Technology (Studies)

What role has race played, consciously or unconsciously, in the cosmologies, meanings, design, access to, and conversations about science and technology? How has that carried over or not, into STS (science, technology, and society or science and technology studies) to frame the central reference, or sci-tech normativity? Is it true or not to say that science and technology, as practice, cosmology, and episteme, in serious need of decolonization, which is itself a deracialization? In this talk, I will start with STEM in broad context, then narrow down to academic STS, its organizations, and its campus practices, as seen through the eyes of a black/African scholar. I position the talk as an invitation to a discussion that must happen if this ‘field’ of enquiry is to grow beyond the Western and White.

October 26, 2020

Naomi Zack
Department of Philosophy
Lehman College, City University of New York

Evidence-Based Government without Identities: Problems and Commitments

There was a need for identity politics as a focus on victims of oppression after the post-World War II diagnoses of oppressors that neglected the nature and needs of those oppressed. But there are political limits to identity groups, because opposition to any identity group with governmental power leads to strife, in place of government fulfilling its obligations. Evidence-based government faces the obstacle of public preference for emotional motivation, not to mention the preference of intellectuals for ideology. But government should have an enduring goal of minimizing misery. Toward that goal, the imperfections of evidence, matched by the imperfections of democracy, need to be accepted in commitments to piece-meal pubic policies that benefit and include oppressors, as well as the oppressed. This strategy of problem-solving government preserves the social-compact idea that government exists for the benefit of all those governed. And within progressive government thus conceived, stakeholders are anonymous to preserve inclusivity and avoid identity-based backlash leading to government dysfunction.

November 9, 2020

James Doucet-Battle
Assistant Professor
Department of Sociology
UC Santa Cruz

Sweetness in the Blood: Race, Risk, and Type 2 Diabetes Research

In this presentation, I take up the important task of weaving together many complex strands of theory, practice, and experience into a coherent narrative about a seemingly simple disease to understand, Type 2 diabetes. I embark on an unexpected journey through contested definitions and ambiguous assemblages of race, recruitment, and risk in an ethnographic recounting of three distinct, successive, and interrelated technological moments between 2008-2012, when causal explanations of Type 2 diabetes changed radically. During these three research moments – clinical drug trial, diabetes risk prediction technology, and genomic research, respectively, participatory inclusion of African-descent research subjects and researchers became diabetes that signaled a movement toward technologies of risk and away from technologies of diagnosis. Through interviews, participant observation, and archival research, I show how the increasing affordability of genomic research offered novel and increasingly gendered narratives of metabolic risk and biological race that marshaled new efforts to enlist African-descent research participation. I conclude by resituating this work contextually within the dual pandemic virologies of COVID-19 and lethal policing, and the infernal realities of climate change.

November 23, 2020

Jonathan M. Metzl
Frederick B. Rentschler II Professor of Sociology and Psychiatry 
Director of the Center for Medicine, Health, and Society
Vanderbilt University

Dying of Whiteness: The Pandemic, The 2020 Election, and the Politics of Racial Resentment

With the rise of the Tea Party and the election of Donald Trump, many middle- and lower-income white Americans threw their support behind conservative politicians who pledged to make life great again for people like them. But as Dying of Whiteness shows, the right-wing policies that resulted from this white backlash put these voters’ very health at risk—and in the end, threaten everyone’s well-being. 

Physician and sociologist Jonathan M. Metzl travels across America’s heartland seeking to better understand the politics of racial resentment and its impact on public health. Interviewing a range of Americans, he uncovers how racial anxieties led to the repeal of gun control laws in Missouri, stymied the Affordable Care Act in Tennessee, and fueled massive cuts to schools and social services in Kansas. Although such measures promised to restore greatness to white America, Metzl’s systematic analysis of health data dramatically reveals they did just the opposite: these policies made life sicker, harder, and shorter in the very populations they purported to aid.  Thus, white gun suicides soared, life expectancies fell, and school dropout rates rose. 

December 7, 2020

Gil Eyal
Department of Sociology
Columbia University

Trust and Mistrust of Experts During the Pandemic

If anybody thought that the role of experts in democratic politics is a sideshow to the more important distributional or ideological politics, the Coronavirus pandemic should have disabused them of this notion. There is hardly a variable currently more predictive of the distinctive fortunes of countries (and thus, of the life chances of millions of people) then the way in which the relations between experts, decision-makers and the public are configured. Where these relations seem to be in deep crisis, further exacerbated by the pandemic, as in the US and UK, the body bags are still piling up. Where there was no such crisis to begin with, as in China, Thailand, South Korea or Taiwan the response has been decisive and the recovery swifter. In this talk, I’d like to place the pandemic in the context of a much broader and longer-term crisis of expertise in liberal-democratic societies: while experts have never been more in demand, they are also less credible now than ever before. The two relations – dependence and distrust – feed off and amplify one another. There are multiple processes and factors contributing to this dynamic, of which I will focus only on five: 1) the contradictions of regulatory science; 2) the interplay between competing strategies for making the future present; 3) the temporal dynamics of trust; 4) the intensification of jurisdictional struggles, inclusive of the emergence of lay experts; and 5) the collapse of the academic and media gatekeepers.

December 14, 2020

No Colloquium
Finals Week

Winter 2021

January 4, 2021

Science Studies Program Meeting
SSP faculty and students only 

January 11, 2021

Sara Goering
Associate Professor
Department of Philosophy
University of Washington 

Neurotechnologies and Agency: Ethical Issues in Engineering the Brain

Implantable neural technologies offer significant promise for enhancing the agency of people with motor, communication, or psychiatric disorders, but they also create new confusions about agency and responsibility, and open a door for potential manipulation of users. In this talk, I report on my experiences working as a philosopher within a neurotechnology center, and bring insights from feminist bioethics and disability studies to bear on how we think about relational- or co-agency (between persons, and between persons and AI-informed neural devices).

January 18, 2021

No Colloquium
Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday 

January 25, 2021

Keith Wailoo
Henry Putnam University Professor of History and Public Affairs
Department of History
Princeton University 

Pushing Cool: Race, Health, and the Science of Making Menthol Cigarette Markets

This talk provides a preview of my forthcoming book, Pushing Cool: Big Tobacco, Racial Marketing, and the Untold Story of the Menthol Cigarette (University of Chicago Press, 2021). The talk focuses on one through line of the book: the role of social sciences (health psychology, racial psychology, focus group studies, urban sociology, etc) in the shaping of menthol cigarette markets from 1920s to the present, and in cultivating specifically Black urban menthol markets since the 1960s.


February 1, 2021

Science Studies Roundtable

This Monday, February 1, a group of Science Studies faculty have volunteered to discuss their research, teaching, and advising practices with graduate students (including Lisa Cartwright, Nydia Pineda de Ávila, Kerry McKenzie, Saiba Varma, Juan Pablo Pardo-Guerra, and Dan Navon). This virtual roundtable has been organized in response to the urgent request on the part of graduate students for more transparency in the program. We hope it will be the first of many events in which faculty and graduate students have an opportunity to share their academic interests and teaching philosophies.

February 8, 2021

Sarah Sharma
Associate Professor of Media Theory, ICCIT
Director, McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology
University of Toronto

How to MsUnderstand Media: A Message from the Broken Machine

Sarah is currently at work on two projects that take up McLuhan's media theory for feminist ends. The first is a monograph tentatively titled Broken Machine Feminism which explores the relationship between technology and the patriarchal penchant towards exit and escape. This project argues that a feminist techno-determinist stance is necessary in order to address contemporary gendered power dynamics as they intersect with the technological. The second is an edited book collection, MsUnderstanding Media: A Feminist Medium is the Message (with Rianka Singh), which offers a feminist retrieval of McLuhan's famous adage that the medium is the message.

This talk will outline Sarah's work on a feminist approach to McLuhan and her argument for the new possibilities of a feminist techno-determinism.

February 15, 2021

No Colloquium
Presidents' Day Holiday 

March 8, 2021

Maria John
Assistant Professor of History, College of Liberal Arts
Director, Native American and Indigenous Studies Program
University of Massachusetts Boston

The Urgency of Native American Health Activism: Histories of Structural Racism, Systemic Inequality, and Survival in the Indian Health Service  

In the wake of the US federal government’s record-breaking shutdown in January 2019 and the onslaught of COVID-19 just a year later, the severity of Native American health disparities and the precarious reality of funding within the Indian Health Service (IHS) for both reservation and urban communities alike has been thrust into the national spotlight. This paper will historicize these very recent catastrophes in a long-running record of medical neglect, chronic underfunding, and structural barriers to access within the IHS. By highlighting the history and the necessity of Native American health activism across the 20th and 21st centuries, this paper argues that the US federal government’s woefully inadequate and underfunded system of healthcare for Native peoples is one of the nation’s gravest examples of structural inequality and racialized disparity created by the government in the realm of health.  

March 15, 2021

No Colloquium
Finals Week

Spring 2021

March 29, 2021

Science Studies Program Meeting
SSP faculty and students only 

April 8 & 9, 2021

Student Choice Speaker - Michelle Murphy

Keynote Lecture: "Rethinking Toxicity Towards Building more Environmentally Just Worlds"
Speaker: Dr. Michelle Murphy, University of Toronto
When: Pre-Recorded (link will be circulated the day before)
Live Q&A: Thursday, April 8th, 2021

Workshop: "Built World and Matters of Governing"
Commenter: Dr. Michelle Murphy, University of Toronto
When: Friday, April 9th, 2021

"Michelle Murphy is a technoscience studies scholar and historian of the recent past whose research concerns decolonial approaches to environmental justice; reproductive justice; Indigenous science and technology studies; infrastructures and data studies; race and science; and finance and economic practices."

April 19, 2021

Taylor Moore
President’s Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of History
UC Santa Barbara

An (Un)Natural History: Tracing the Magical Rhinoceros Horn in Egypt

Can emancipatory, decolonial histories be extracted from objects collected from—or made visible to history by—the archives of colonialism? My talk explores this question through the case study of the rhinoceros horn amulet (qarn elkhartit), an ethnographic object collected by British anthropologist Winifred Blackman during her fieldwork in Egypt in the 1920s. Decentering the traditional colonial history of how the rhinoceros horn was collected and displayed as an object in European museums, I follow the trail of the rhinoceros horn back to the site of its collection in Egypt to reveal a strikingly different story: one of magic/medicine, gender, race, and enslavement—set against the backdrop of Egypt’s imperial pursuits in East Africa. As such, I demonstrate how to “read” the rhinoceros horn as an object-archive that illuminates the networks, actors, and economies whose bodies and labor are generally rendered invisible in Eurocentric histories of global science and medicine.

May 3, 2021

Rayvon Fouché
Professor, School of Interdisciplinary Studies
Purdue University

From Black Inventors to Afro Futureneering

In 1969, Ishmael Reed uttered the provocative statement, "The new technology is black." This intriguing phrase is the basis for my talk examining the ways black intellectuals theorized a black technoscientific future and how afrofutureneering can be a basis for a new understanding of the history of African American relationships with science, technology, and material infrastructure.

May 17, 2021

Germán Vergara
Assistant Professor, School of History and Sociology
Georgia Tech

Fueling Mexico: Energy and Environment, 1850-1950

My talk is based on my book Fueling Mexico: Energy and Environment, 1850-1950 (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2021). The book examines how and why modern Mexico transitioned from an agrarian society powered by animal muscle, water, and wood to a fossil-fueled industrial society. Within a century, Mexico went from an energy regime based on dispersed solar energy accumulated in plants and human and animal muscle to one based on the concentrated ancient sunlight trapped in fossil fuels. The study traces the ways in which industrialists, state officials, engineers, and ecology shaped this process and suggests that fossil fuels were adopted in response to the limits of wood-and-water based industrialization, the predominant manufacturing model of the late nineteenth century. Such limits took the form of large-scale deforestation, insufficient energy supplies, and increased social conflict over forests and water. For Mexican elites, fossil fuels seemed like the best—if not the only—option the country had for industrializing, prospering, and securing its national sovereignty over the long term. The book argues that the shift to a carbon-based society has been the main agent of environmental, economic, and social change in Mexico for over a century. The decision to power the country’s economy with fossil fuels locked Mexico in a cycle of endless, fossil-fueled growth—the environmental and social consequences of which were nothing less than dramatic. Fueling Mexico is the first study to look at the historical roots of today's global fossil-fuel energy regime from a Latin American perspective. 

May 24, 2021

Colin Burke
PhD Candidate, Sociology and Science Studies 
UC San Diego

“Digital Sousveillance: Re-situating Technologies of Control and Surveillance for Organizational Transparency and Accountability”

This talk introduces a critical methodological approach that I call digital sousveillance— the co-optation of digital data and computational techniques to resituate technologies of control and surveillance that typically target individuals to instead observe the organizational observer. To illustrate the potential of this approach, I use open sources of digital data and computational methods to trace the vast network of public and private organizations involved in mass surveillance operations in the United States—what I term the “US surveillant assemblage”—from the 1970s to the 2000s. The results of these analyses suggest that the US surveillant assemblage is becoming increasingly privatized and that the line between “public” and “private” is becoming blurred as private organizations are, at an increasing rate, partnering with the US government to engage in mass surveillance. This recent growth of the private sector’s involvement in surveillance practices not only poses significant implications for privacy and other civil liberties but also illustrates the dire need for critical research approaches, such as digital sousveillance, that can bring about greater transparency and accountability to powerful organizational actors

June 7, 2021

No Colloquium
Finals Week