Course Descriptions

*Please note that a limited number of these courses will be offered each term, normally only in Fall and Winter.  For current course offerings in 2021-2022, please visit Current Curriculum*


GS/STS 5000 3.0 and 6.0 Directed Readings for MA Students

Permission of Program Director required

GS/STS 5001/6001 3.0 Introduction to Science and Technology Studies

These required courses will introduce incoming MA (5001) and doctoral (6001) students to the major texts and theoretical strands of Science and Technology Studies, in their historical context. Such strands include the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge (SSK), Actor Network Theory (ANT), Laboratory Studies, Social Construction of Technological Systems (SCOT), as well as feminist, post–colonial and cultural studies of science and technology. Students will read and discuss such foundational texts as Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Ludwig Fleck’s Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact, Shapin and Schaffer’s Leviathan and the Air Pump and Latour and Woolgar’s Laboratory Life. While engaging with these and other key texts, students will build a common vocabulary and theoretical framework for examining specific sites of knowledge production and practice in science and technology. Through a combination of empirical case studies and theoretical reflections, students will grapple with those themes – such as epistemology, objectivity, expertise, relativism, materiality – about which the field of STS makes important scholarly and practical contributions.

GS/STS 5002 0.0 MA Major Research Paper

The Major Research Paper may be related to the work students have done in one or more of their courses, but it must demonstrate independent research.

GS/STS 6000 3.0 and 6.0 Directed Readings for PhD Students

Permission of Program Director required.

NEW GS/STS 6005 3.0 STS Research Clusters (Sections A, B, & C)

Research Clusters foster theoretical and methodological innovation on a specific topic in Science and Technology Studies (STS). They involve biweekly meetings of faculty and graduate students who engage in a range of activities: e.g. presentations by faculty and students; external speakers; sessions on methodologies and new literature; professional development; and non-traditional practices such as public science, activism, and internships. They embed broader program requirements in an experimental, flexible, adaptable, and interdisciplinary intellectual space.

NEW GS/STS 6004 0.0 STS Colloquium

The Colloquium provides students with a regular forum to engage with Program members as an intellectual community, generating an important cohort effect for new and continuing graduate students. It involves a range of activities designed to stimulate a broad disciplinary engagement with science and technology studies, including research talks by invited external speakers, Program faculty and graduate students, and professional development workshops (e.g. how to get published, academic and alt-academic job markets, etc.). It runs every two weeks over two terms.

GS/STS 7000 0.0 PhD Dissertation Research

The major output from the PhD program produced by a student.


GS/STS 6002 3.0 Science & Technology as Material Culture

This course examines the diverse engagement of Science & Technology Studies with the study of material culture. Approaches to be considered include the history of scientific instruments and experimental practices, anthropology and museum studies, embodied epistemologies, and the analysis of space and architecture.

NEW GS/STS 6006 3.0 Digital Technoscience

The course examines the social, political, economic, and cultural shaping of digital technoscience – ranging from digital platforms through smart cities to self-driving cars – paying particular attention to how different visions of and expectations about the future are enrolled in the deployment of digital technoscience in the present. Rather than assume that the promises of diverse digital technoscience are reshaping our societies, however, this course starts from the premise that digital technoscience reflects prevailing social institutions, structures, and imaginaries. As a result, students critically interrogate claims of inevitability, solutionism, and acceleration in the promotion of digital technoscience. For example, it unpacks how digital technoscience is entangled with financial rhetoric and logics, how digital technoscience reinforces existing prejudices and discrimination, and how digital technoscience cements rather than challenge political power.

GS/STS 6100 3.0 Biomedicine and the twentieth century

Contemporary, industrialized medical practice traces its roots back to a series of transformations that unfolded over the course of the last century. While epidemics of infectious diseases waned, medical research and health care delivery emerged as a focal point of domestic policy. Biomedical practice and investigation fractured into specialties (immunology, radiology, sleep medicine, allergy), even as the accepted distinctions between the normal or the pathological seemed to dissolve. Disease as self-identity became a matter of course. Ethics became the province of experts. This course will examine these and other trends in an effort to the ascendancy of health as a scientific object over the past one hundred years.

GS/STS 6101 3.0 Rendering 'Life Itself'

Scientific knowledge hinges on practices of representation. The dual meaning of representation, that is, representation as a portrait or account (visual, textual, etc.), and representation as proxy are both key to the work of science. Science produces representations of “nature” at the same time as scientists act as representatives for this sphere of life. Social studies of science have examined methods of scientific representation, including the institutional, technical and rhetorical forms through which visualizations of nature are produced and propagated. Other studies have been concerned with the sites in which science and scientists are enlisted to speak for nature, particularly in legal or corporate forums, and in the process of nation building. This course examines sociological, historical and philosophical accounts of scientific representation. In this course we read a range of methodological and theoretical approaches to mapping the representational work of science in order to account for how science makes nature tangible, visible, and legible. This course thus aims to investigate the techniques and practices by which both scientists and their interlocutors produce representations of scientific knowledge.

GS/STS 6102 3.0 Organisms as Instruments

This course will examine the various ways in which organisms have acted as instruments of investigation in science. We will look at historical examples of how particular organisms have been used as models for the study of central organic phenomena (such as the chick for development, the frog for muscular motion, the fly for inheritance), and consider the implications for generalizing the results of these studies to other organisms. We will also consider how animals as well as humans have been utilized as instruments for detecting and measuring electrical and chemical phenomena, and acted as models for constructing physical apparatus. Finally, we will consider how unusual organisms (such as monstrosities, polyps, termite colonies) have acted as instruments to investigate and challenge extant conceptions of what constitutes an organism.

GS/STS 6109 3.0 Gender and Technoscience

A seminar devoted to exploring gender, sexuality, and sex in the development and application of technoscience. It addresses how scientists have both conceptualised and deployed (or ignored) sex and gender as explanatory concepts throughout the course of their disciplinary practices. Key questions to be addressed include: What role have women played in the development of science and technology, and how has technological change affected the roles of women and ideas of gender?  How does technology offer possibilities for new social relations and how should we evaluate these possibilities?  Can technoscience be gender-neutral?

GS/STS 6200 3.0 Bodies in Technology

Genetics, ultrasounds, wearable computing and MRIs are all examples of technologies that place the body at the interface between biology and technology. As these technologies become part of contemporary society, they shape us and our identities. This course explores the ways in which technological representations of the body are contributing to a re-shaping of the boundaries between technical and biological, and thus giving rise to “new” conceptualizations of the human body. Some questions we will critically address are: What kinds of persons and bodies are being imagined and emerging within these initiatives? What does it mean to be human and how is this category constructed? How should we think about our interactions with technology? How can technology change the way in which we perceive and are perceived by those around us? Readings will be drawn from the scientific as well as the popular press.

NEW GS/STS 6203 3.0 Critical Technology Studies

This course provides students with an advanced and critical introduction to in the social study of technology and technological innovation. The course explores how technologies are shaped by and come to shape social, cultural, political, and economic institutions, structures, and processes. The course is organized around a series of theoretical debates and empirical case studies of contemporary technological developments (e.g. Big Data, biotechnology, nanotechnology, cleantech, etc.).

GS/STS 6300 3.0 Science and Narrative in the Nineteenth Century

In this course we will examine the rhetoric and representation of causality, speculation, objectivity, and chance in narratives by scientists in the nineteenth century, a period which witnessed both the professionalization of scientific disciplines and the widespread popularization of scientific knowledge. Our focus will be on popular scientific narratives as well as fictional works by scientists such as Lewis Carroll, H.G. Wells, and Arthur Conan Doyle. Attending to common themes and modes of thinking, we will consider how the logic of scientific narrative, broadly defined, developed and changed over the course of the century. Our selection of nineteenth–century texts will be supplemented by recent works of literary criticism and cultural history.

GS/STS 6303 3.0 The Sciences in the Enlightenment

Natural philosophy, natural history, the human sciences, and technology were crucial in the making of the Enlightenment, which is often treated as the age which applied, disseminated and absorbed the achievements of the 17th century, especially those of Newton. Yet the Enlightenment did much more than "apply" science, it framed many of the ways we have come to see humans and nature, society and politics; belief and skepticism. There was never one Enlightenment project, but many, and most of them were inextricably tied to new ways of understanding the natural and the human world.

GS/STS 6304 3.0 Anticipating the Alien

This course explores SETI, or the scientific Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, from an anthropological perspective. Embedded within the technical world of astronomy (particularly radioastronomy), adjoining the emerging science of astrobiology, and animated by enduring human questions about our place in the cosmos, SETI also captures the public imagination, and poses fascinating dilemmas in global governance (e.g. what should be done if a signal is detected? "Who speaks for Earth?") Course participants will explore topics such as: the cross-cultural history of speculation about intelligent life in the cosmos; the relationship of that speculation to the development of technology available for searching; the public image of SETI; how scientists imagine these radical Others; the material culture of SETI, including the Voyager Record and the Pioneer Plaque; debates about the Drake Equation and the 'Fermi Paradox'; and the ongoing search for life (of any sort) in our solar system, and planets in our galaxy. This course will not address popular beliefs about aliens being here already, alien abductions, flying saucers etc.

GS/STS 6308 3.0 Collecting Science: Lives of Objects

This course addresses the collection, classification, display, and reception of objects representing aspects of scientific knowledge within the Western tradition, in both the private and public spheres, through a variety of themes and case studies from the Early Modern period to the present. Themes may include the social, political, and religious origins of scientific collecting; scientific collecting and the rise of the Early Modern university; exploration, colonization, trade, tourism, and scientific collecting; canonical and other taxonomies, from private inventories to museum accessioning and archiving systems; the aesthetics of scientific objects, their recording through image and text, and display; nature and artifice in scientific collections; the body as a collectable; scientific collectors, their audiences, and class structure; and scientific “truth” in the museum. Taking a cue from Arjun Appadurai’s concept of the “social life” of things, the course will attempt to uncover the contextual value of such objects in terms of ethics and aesthetics.

NEW GS/STS 6309 3.0 Science Policy: Politics, Evidence & Objectivity

This course explores the role of scientific evidence and expertise in policymaking. Students analyse governance and decision-making mechanisms to improve the social inclusivity, responsibility, and accountability of science, technology, and innovation. Students consider a range of case studies, including environmental management, health policy, and science advice during crises.

GS/STS 6312 3.0 The Political Economy of Technoscience

The course covers three key theoretical strands of STS research: science, technology and innovation policy studies; the ‘economic turn’ in STS; and the political economy of science and technology. It draws on a number of substantive topics, including intellectual property rights; research policy; neoliberal science and climate change; biofuels and bioeconomies; and sustainability transitions.

GS/STS 6313 3.0 Pedagogies of Technoscience

This seminar course offers opportunities for students and course instructors to collaboratively explore a range of diverse literatures and selected field experiences framed by questions of pedagogy and technoscience. Our focus of attention will be placed on theories of pedagogy as a central philosophic and analytical category of analysis. In broad terms, we ask, where and how is technoscience pedagogical? Through literature and analysis of selected case studies set in higher education, schools, science centres and the wider public sphere (including citizen science, new social movements and public engagement with science), we explore what kinds of practices constitute pedagogy in and with technoscience. We will then reflect on how efficacious (or not) these practices might be for those involved.

GS/STS 6314 3.0 Indigenous and Postcolonial Science Studies

This Graduate seminar introduces students to indigenous and postcolonial perspectives in the study of science, technology, nature and medicine. Interdisciplinary perspectives are explored as we consider the intersections of the political, scholarly, and creative through STS and postcolonial/subaltern studies. The seminar considers how STS might be improved through an engagement with postcolonial and indigenous perspectives, and scholars from the south. Drawing on Cultural Anthropology, Science and Technology Studies, Native Studies, and Cultural Studies, this interdisciplinary seminar considers decolonizing, anti-colonial and indigenous perspectives and considers the unique ways in which science, medicine, and technology are taken up, created, contested, and circulated in Global south and postcolonial settings. The course considers: indigenous mobilizations, environment/ecology, materialities, pedagogy, technopolitics and property rights in settler and postcolonial contexts.

NEW GS/STS 6401 3.0 Big Tech

This course examines the impacts and implications of dominant technoscientific sectors (e.g. Big Tech, Big Pharma) on our societies, politics, cultures, and economies, emphasizing the role of techno-economic practices, processes, and knowledges in the rise of Big Tech. It draws on examples from the digital technology, pharmaceutical, agricultural, and financial sectors, and addresses issues like monopoly, market power, regulatory capture, and innovation governance.

GS/STS 6402 3.0 Understanding Oceans

This courses uses the history of the study of oceans to explore representative issues in the history of science and science and technology studies. Although it will consider earlier geo–historical theories about the nature and origins of water and land, it concentrates on the modern period (especially the nineteenth and twentieth centuries) when the many faces of modern oceanography emerged. Examining the history of scientific study of the oceans involves us in debate about several critical developments and characteristics of modern science. One is the unity and scale of science, conceptually and as a social practice. Are the oceans one or many? How did global styles of investigation of nature emerge? When did oceanography become a discipline, and what do oceanographers do? What is the relationship of older traditions of natural history to modern quantitative ways of understanding nature? Another set of issues that we can explore using oceans is the political and economic context of science. From the European voyages of exploration in the Pacific in the 18th century to the cold war era, the study of the oceans has been deeply connected to strategic and commercial and ideological missions. Through our study of these connections, we can analyse scholarly debates over the social construction of knowledge. We will also use the history of oceanography to consider the relationship of science and technology, since — just like the exploration of space, another fundamentally hostile environment for humans — technological change, real or imagined, has often seemed to drive developments in the study of the oceans.

GS/STS 6403 3.0 Mapping Nature: Systems and Visions

(Anderson and Hamm)
The translation of dynamic natural phenomena, like storms, magnetism, or botanical diversity, into the form of the global map, was one of the critical conceptual developments of modern science, and maps remain one of our most influential ways of seeing the natural world. The course draws on a rich and varied recent literature on mapping to analyse its history and its contemporary significance from the perspective of science and technology studies. It seeks to avoid a simple story of maps–as–domination in order to develop a more complicated account of the intellectual, aesthetic and political appeal of maps as knowledge. Historians of geography have shown, for instance, that mapping is especially important for the history of imperial and colonial context of western science, and can illuminate the authority of scientific knowledge and its connections with political power. In the social sciences, maps shaped and reflected theories about social organization or citizenship. But maps have also been studied as key exemplars of visual representation in science, objects which present fascinating questions about the objectivity, evidence, translation and mobility of natural facts. And, in still another tradition, that of fabulous geographies, we can use ancient and modern examples to consider the nature and significance of imaginary accounts of nature.


(If not offered by STS, these courses might be mounted by another graduate program)

GS/STS 6003 3.0 Technoscientific Cultures: Foundations in the Anthropology of Science and Technology

In this course we read foundational texts in anthropology of science, exploring a range of sites, methods, and theories to equip students for ethnographic research within technoscientific cultures. Central themes include science as practice and culture; biopolitics; and technoscientific imagineries.
(x–listed with ANTH 5220 3.0)

GS/STS 6103 3.0 Epidemics

An examination of the various ways in which epidemics are defined, deployed, promoted, or criticized as objects of scientific knowledge. The core of our examples will be drawn from the ranks of biomedical history (such as cholera in the 19th century or AIDS/HIV in the late 20th century), but more contemporary cases (such as SARS or West Nile Virus) as well as less clearly biomedical examples (juvenile delinquency, bullying) will provide some useful counterpoint. In all instances, the epidemic (whatever it may be) will be studied for its ability to mediate between perceived oppositions (for example, between lay and professional knowledge, the technical and the scientific, the individual and society, or the normal and the pathological).
(x–listed with HIST 5880 3.00)

GS/STS 6105 3.0 Mesmerism, Phrenology and their Influences on Twentieth Century Psychology and Psychotherapy

Mesmerism and phrenology are often dismissed in textbooks on the history of psychology as being mere pseudosciences that had to be "overcome" before "scientific" approaches to psychology could take root. Modern historical research, however, has shown that both were deeply intertwined in 19th–century social and political developments, playing important roles not only in progressive reform movements but also in Victorian scientific efforts to reconstruct the distinction between "natural" and the "supernatural." More specifically, they helped to set the stage for modern conceptions of neuopsychology and psychotherapy: although many of their most spectacular claims were discredited by later research, several of their underlying assumptions about the relation between the brain and the mind carried on into the 20th century in various guises. This seminar will be devoted to reading and critically analyzing key primary and secondary documents on the rise, development, and eventual fall of mesmerism and phrenology, as well as their connections to early 20th-century neuropsychology and psychotherapy.
(x–listed with PSYC 6060B 3.0)

GS/STS 6106 3.0 Bodies and Biotechnologies in Anthropology

The disciplinary focus of anthropology, and more specifically the anthropology of the body, offers students a critical theoretical perspective and point of departure for the study of the contingency of, and relationship between, bodies and biotechnologies.
(x–listed with ANTH 5280 3.0 & SOCI 6805 3.0)

GS/STS 6107 3.0 Advanced History and Theory of Psychology: Darwinian Influences on Psychology

This course will begin at about the time of the first public announcement of Darwin's (and Alfred Russel Wallace's) theory in 1858, and trace the impact that the idea of natural selection had on the development of psychology, particularly in the English–speaking world, over the next several decades. We will examine particularly closely the development, in the late 19th century, of the "school" of psychology that came to be called Functionalism, and its replacement by (or was it a transformation into?) Behaviorism in the early 20th century.
(x–listed with PSYC 6060D 3.0)

GS/STS 6108 3.0 Health & Illness

Pharmaceutical treatments are a central feature of contemporary health care. They are important objects of health and “life–style” consumption produced through complex global networks of research, marketing and distribution. Pharmaceutical drugs shed light on key contours of contemporary global biopolitics, including, for example, matters of global health governance, access to biotechnological innovation, the formation of patient–citizen identities, and projects of mass “therapeutic mobilization.”
(x–listed with SOCI 6831 3.0)

GS/STS 6204 3.0 Trusting Machines

This course explores how our trust in machines ­ its sources, forms and meanings ­ has helped define the modern. It provides students with an advanced introduction in the cultural study of modern technology,Guiding them through the conceptual challenges involved in thinking about, and writing about, the engagements between machines and humans.
(x–listed with HUMA 6317)

GS/STS 6205 3.0 Critical Technical Practise: Computer Accessibility and Assistive Technology

This course examines issues of technological design in computer accessibility and computational forms of assistive technology (hardware and/or software). Students learn to critically reflect on the hidden assumptions, ideologies and values underlying the design of these technologies, and to analyse and to design them.
(x–listed with EECS 6330)

GS/STS 6301 3.0 Science and Print Culture

This course examines how western scientific ideas have been disseminated in print from the seventeenth century to the present. The emphasis will be on the modern period. Scientists have circulated their ideas in print form both to fellow scientists and the public. They have developed different narrative and publishing strategies for communicating with each group. In the course we will cover such topics as the impact of new printing technologies, the relationship between publishers and scientists, the changing nature of scientific readers, and the role of scientific periodicals.
(x–listed with HUMA 6318 3.0)

GS/STS 6305 6.0 Contexts of Victorian Science

This course focuses on nineteenth century British science and its social, political, cultural and intellectual contexts. Adopting the "contextualist" approach to the history of science allows us to raise a series of provocative questions: in waht way did all of these different contexts shape the "nature" of nineteenth century scientific thought? How were scientific "facts" socially constructed? What was it about the nineteenth century context that led many intellectuals to reject Christianity and embrace science as providing a new, privileged form of knowledge? Included among the topics to be covered are the discourse of natural theology, radical working class evolutionism during the 1830's, the plurality of worlds debate, science and gender, the professionalization of science, the literary structure of Darwin's Origin of Species, Darwinian theory and its ideological uses, science and imperialism, the popularization of science, the practice of science, and late nineteenth century physics and pyschics.
(x–listed with HIST 5830 3.0, SPTH 6100A 3.0, & HUMA 6310 6.0)

GS/STS 6306 3.0 Historical Perspectives on Women and Nature

This course explores associations between “women” and “nature” that have informed intellectual and cultural traditions. It unpacks implications of these associations for the practices and experiences of women and men in relation to science and knowledge in earlier times and now, and offers opportunities for gender studies of nature and science. The course is organized around these themes the following themes: representing nature; embodying difference; doing science; and women writing nature. Historical Perspectives on Women and Nature highlights a range of humanistic approaches that open up this inquiry, notably cultural history, feminist science studies, textual interpretation, and visual studies. As a seminar cross-listed among a number of different graduate programs, it welcomes the disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives that students will bring to course readings and discussions.
(x–listed with WMST 6303 3.0, & HUMA 6305 3.0)

GS/STS 6310 3.0 Knowing Dreaming

Dreaming is one of the most personal and idiosyncratic forms of experience. Yet we frequently take for granted that dreaming is also, in some sense, universal. How have these two sides of dreaming been reconciled in western culture? How has dreaming been construed as an object of inquiry? How can there be expert knowledge concerning such a resolutely private experience? This course examines a variety of epistemological configurations that have generated knowledge about dreaming since Antiquity. In every instance, we will suspend our judgment about whether or not dreams “really are” as our sources claim. Rather, we will attempt to use dreaming as a window—small though it may be—through which we can watch cultures create and destroy knowledge about the nature of reason, the mind, the imagination, the divine, political unrest, health, the brain, and many other things besides. Readings will be drawn from many historical periods, and will include visual materials, as well as scientific, philosophical, medical, literary, and religious sources. But a substantial portion of our sessions will be devoted to the modern period, with a corresponding emphasis on the evolution of dreaming and sleep as objects of scientific research. No background in the neurosciences or their history is required or assumed, although an interest in the same will of course be invaluable.”
(x–listed with HUMA 6311 3.0 & HIST 5720 3.0)

GS/STS 6311 3.0 Research Methods in Information Technology

This course provides a foundation in scientific inquiry applied to both practical and theoretical IT–related problems. Students formulate research questions, select appropiate research design to collect an analyze data, prepare reports, and evaluate research proposals and projects.
(x–listed with ITEC 6310 3.00)

GS/STS 6400 3.0 Earth, Time and History

This course examines the development of an historical understanding of the earth, of our natural environment, in relation to changing ways of understanding human history. The emerging sciences of geology, paleontology, for example, were conceived of in relation to archaeology, human history and antiquarianism.
(x–listed with HIST 5870 3.0)

GS/STS 6404 3.0 Encounterting Natural Worlds

This course examines the human encounter with the natural world through a combination of natural history writings, environmental history, travel writings and film. Our context for these sources will be the history of science, ecology and the environment. The close description of the nature, known as natural history, was one of the dominant methods of natural philosophy in the west and it provides one way to chart the development of the modern scientific disciplines. At the same time, these accounts of nature provided a powerful vehicle for the expression of political, social and aesthetic ideals. We will analyze four critical themes — natural order, technique and sensibility of observation, the idea of the exotic, and transformation or development — in order to explore how understandings of nature developed in the modern world. We consider as well how the place of humans in nature was negotiated, as observers, as agents of transformation, or as subjects/victims of a particular environment. Our chronological framework moves from the European expansion and imperialism of the mid-18th century to the flourishing genre of nineteenth and early twentieth century natural history writing to the environmental dystopia of our contemporary world.
(x–listed with HUMA 6316 3.0)