University of Wisconsin Milwaukee
Sabin Hall 281
Nature, Knowledge and Technoscience
In Anthropological Perspective
Sabin Hall 310
The anthropology of science and technology engages methodological and epistemological challenges to our
discipline that have emerged in the context of both post-modern critiques and globalization. Ethnographic
studies generated in this subfield complicate conventional ideas about "nature" as well as concepts of
“anthropological location”. They also promise to be of critical importance in understanding the social,
cultural and economic impacts and research ethics associated with burgeoning national and global
investments in biotechnology, artificial intelligence, the world wide web, environmental research, and other
forms of applied science. This course develops anthropological approaches to the reading of public debates
on space exploration, energy alternatives, nuclear weapons testing, genetic research, new reproductive
technologies, and other issues. We will explore “cyborg anthropology” to reconceptualize science as a
domain within which culture, power and identity are negotiated. No science background is required.
Emphasis on the development of writing skills and critical analysis. Students from all disciplines welcome.
Requires junior standing. See p. 7 for graduate and undergraduate assessment requirements.
Week 1: Cultures of Technoscience (January 28th)
An introduction to the anthropology of science and technology. Please explore online
resources on the D2L site. Workshop: Trekkies—technology and the cultural
Week 2: Methodologies and epistemologies (February 4th)
Is ‘the truth’ out there? This week we consider what we mean when we talk about
‘science’, and how we tend to conceptualize it in relation to ‘cultural knowledge’. Is
global science in crisis? Can ethnographers study science as a cultural phenomenon?
Before class, please complete these readings on electronic reserve:
1. Read Third World Network (1993) “Modern Science in Crisis” pp.484-518 in
Sandra Harding, ed. The racial economy of science: Toward a democratic
future. Indiana University Press.
2. Read Laura Nader (1996) “Anthropological Inquiry into Boundaries, Power,
and Knowledge” pp.1-24 in Laura Nader, ed., Naked Science, London:
3. Read Sarah Franklin (2002), “The anthropology of science” pp.351-358 in
Exotic No More, Jeremy MacClancy, ed. U. Chicago Press.
Week 3: Culture, power and identity in nuclear debates (February 11th)
Penetrating questions about ‘hard science’, the ‘cold war’ and the culture of
technoscience in America. Notes on the ‘atomic age’. Film: Atomic Journeys
1. Read Introduction + Parts I & II (pp. 1-81) from course text, People of the
Bomb (Gusterson 2004)
2. Consult the Russell-Einstein Manifesto (1955) online.
Week 4: Sex, science and cyborgs (February 18th)
Does gender matter? Feminist perspectives on the ‘nature’ of science.
1. Read Evelyn Fox Keller (1985) “Introduction” pp.3-14 in Reflections on
Gender and Science, Yale U. Press.
2. Read Evelyn Fox Keller (1999) “The Gender/Science System: or, is sex to
gender as nature is to science?” Pp.234-242 in Mario Biagioli, ed., The
Science Studies Reader. New York and London: Routledge.
3. Read Donna Haraway (1988), “Situated Knowledges: The science question in
feminism and the privilege of partial perspective” pp 183-202 in Simians,
Cyborgs and Women: The reinvention of nature. Routledge.
4. (grad students) Read Sandra Harding (1998), ‘A role for postcolonial
histories of science?’ ch. 1, pp.1-22 in Is Science Multicultural, IUP.
Week 5: Embodied disciplines (February 25th)
Michel Foucault suggested that the sciences are forms of knowledge which are used
to discipline the social body, and the body politic. This week we consider how
science mediates the relationship between the bodies of citizens and states in the
aftermath of nuclear devastation.
1. Read Part IV, ‘Nuclear testing’ (chs. 8-9) from course text People of the
Bomb (Gusterson 2004)
2. Read Krista Harper (2001) “Chernobyl stories and anthropological shock in
Hungary” Anthropological Quarterly 74(3): 114-123.
3. (grad students) Read Adriana Petryna (2002), ch. 1, ‘Life politics after
Chernobyl’ (pp.1-33) from Life Exposed: Biological citizens after Chernobyl.
4. (grad students) Make an appointment to consult on individual projects this
Week 6: Science in society (March 4th)
How are discussions about the legal ethics of science and technology rooted in
social contexts? How is science itself shaped by both culture and politics? Does
new research in turn reshape our assumptions about both nature and human ways of
life? Whether we see new research and technological change as a solution to world
development or a danger to "society" and "nature", “the cultures of technoscience”
play a vital role in the ways we imagine the future.
1. Short essays due today at the beginning of class.
2. Read Part V, ‘Life around the barbed wire fence’ (chs. 10-11) and Postscript
from course text People of the Bomb (Gusterson 2004)
3. Read Tracey Heatherington (2001) “Aesthetics in the Cyborg Gallery”
Source: Ireland’s Photographic Review 26:35-39
4. (grad students) Peer-exchange exercises online.
Week 7: The social life of genes (March 11th)
New frontiers of knowledge and the cultural imagination of technoscience from
Brave New World to Gattaca. Concept of ‘biosociality’.
1. Read Ricardo Ventura-Santos (2003) ‘Indigenous peoples, changing social and
political landscapes and human genetics in Amazonia’ pp. 23-40 in Genetic
Nature/Culture: Anthropology and science beyond the two-culture divide.
Goodman, Heath and Lindee, eds.
2. Read Karen-Sue Taussig, Rayna Rapp and Deborah Heath (2003) ‘Flexible
Eugenics: Technologies of the Self in the Age of Genetics’ pp.58-76 in
Genetic Nature/Culture: Anthropology and science beyond the two-culture
divide. Goodman, Heath and Lindee, eds.
3. Read Gislì Paalson and Paul Rabinow (2005) ‘ The Iceland Controversy’ pp. in
Global Assemblages: Technology, politics and ethics as anthropological
problems. Ong and Collier, eds. Blackwell
Week 8: Border-crossing—breeding, cloning and the new genetics (March 18th)
How does our understanding of ‘nature’ change with the progress of science? Many
contemporary Western debates about the ethical implications of new forms of
science and technology hinge upon the ways that these innovations influence our
cultural perspectives on life itself. Consultation on individual projects.
1. Individual consultations for class projects.
2. Read Gillian M. Goslinga-Roy (2000) ‘Body Boundaries, Fiction of the Female
Self: An ethnographic perspective on power, feminism, and the reproductive
technologies’ pp.121-146 in Brodwin, ed., Biotechnology and Culture. IUP.
3. Read Sarah Franklin (2005) ‘Stem Cells R Us: Emergent Forms of Life and
the Global Biological’ pp.59-78 in Global Assemblages: Technology, politics
and ethics as anthropological problems. Ong and Collier, eds. Blackwell
4. (grad students) Read Sarah Franklin and Margaret Lock (2000) ‘Animation
and Cessation: The Re-making of Life and Death’ pp.3-22 in Franklin and
Lock, eds., Remaking Life & Death. SAR Press.
March 25th Spring Break
Week 9: Race and representation (April 1st)
Science has historically been implicated in the cultural construction of racial
distinctions. How do cultural perspectives contribute to the public representations
of scientific knowledge? Discussion of science museums.
1. Read Nelia Dias (1998), ch. 3 ‘The Visibility of Difference’ pp. 53-76 The
Politics of Display: Museums, science, culture. Sharon Macdonald, ed.
2. Read Donna Haraway (1997), ch. 6 ‘Race: Universal Donors in a Vampire
Culture’ pp. 213-266 in
3. Consult D2L resources on race and gender in science.
4. (graduate) Individual project fieldwork.
Week 10: Inside the matrix—Cyborg anthropology (April 8th)
Human-machine metaphors and the role of high technology communications in the
re-imagination of communities. Cyberspace scavenger hunt.
1. Read Arturo Escobar, (1994), “Welcome to cyberia”, Current Anthropology,
35 ( 3): 211-231.
2. Read Gary Lee Downey, Joseph Dumit, and Sarah Williams (1995), “Cyborg
anthropology” Cultural Anthropology, 10 (2): 264-269.
3. Read Eriberto Lozada (2003) ‘Computers, scientism and cyborg subjectivity
in postsocialist China’ Asian Anthropology 2: 111-137.
4. (grad students) Read Diane Nelson (1996) ‘Maya Hackers and the Cyber-
spatialized Nation-state: Modernity, Ethnostalgia and a Lizard Queen in
Guatemala’ Cultural Anthropology 11(3): 287-308.
Week 11: Creation Stories and Artificial Life (April 15th)
Further discussion of AI, IT, and cyberculture. Innovations in ethnographic
1. (undergraduate) Informal presentation of individual projects
2. Read Stefan Helmreich (1998). Ch.3, “Inside and Outside the Looking-Glass
Worlds of Artificial Life” from Silicon Second Nature.
3. (grad students) Individual project fieldwork.
4. (grad students) Peer-exchange exercises online.
Week 12: Science and development (April 22nd)
Nations in the postcolonial world as well as the emerging European Union have
invested in space programs and astronomy as a means of crafting narratives about
national modernity and progress. Global visions of technology and the future. Film
workshop: The Dish.
1. Individual projects and graduate drafts due today at the beginning of class.
2. Read Itty Abraham (2000) “Postcolonial science, big science and landscape”
pp. 49-70 in Doing Science + Culture, Roddey Reid and Sharon Traweek, eds.,
3. Read Peter Redfield (2000), “A Gate to the Heavens”, ch. 5, pp. 113-148 in
Space in the Tropics, U. California Press.
5. (grad students) Read Stacia Zabusky (2002), “Ethnography In/Of
Transnational Processes: Following Gyres in the Worlds of Big Science and
European Integration” in Greenhouse et al, eds., Ethnography in Unstable
Places, Duke UP.
Week 13: Biodiversity and the global dreamtimes of technoscience (April 29th)
Global biodiversity as a domain of power-knowledge.
1. Read Donna Haraway (2003) ‘Cloning mutts, saving tigers’ pp. 293-327 in
Remaking Life & Death. Franklin and Lock, eds, SAR Press.
2. Read Stefan Helmreich (2003) ‘Life@Sea: Networking marine biodiversity
into biotech futures. Pp. 227-260 in Remaking Life & Death. Franklin and
Lock, eds, SAR Press.
3. (grad students) Read Geoffrey Bowker (2005) ‘Time, money and biodiversity’
in Global Assemblages: Technology, politics and ethics as anthropological
problems. Ong and Collier, eds. Blackwell Publishing.
Week 14: Recap (May 6th)
Undergraduates: Pick up take-home exam, due in one week.
Graduates: Presentation on final papers, due in one week.
You may wish to visit THE WRITING CENTRE, CURTIN HALL 382
All writers are welcome, freshmen through grad students. One on one writing assistance with experienced,
trained, collaborative peer tutors. Any subject, any level, any stage of the writing process. Students can
make their own appointments online any time at http://www.writingcenter.uwm.edu
--Or by calling 229-4339 or just walking in…
Mondays 10-6:00, Tuesdays and Thursdays 9-4:00,Wednesdays 10-4:00, Fridays 9-12
LEARNING OBJECTIVES FOR STUDENTS IN THE COURSE
• to survey how theory and methods from social and cultural anthropology have been applied to the
study of science and technology in the contemporary world, over the course of lectures and active
learning exercises such as student presentations, workshops and class discussions
• to develop knowledge of issues, problems and debates related to science in society from an
anthropological perspective, by covering a range of readings and films from socio-cultural
anthropology and its cognate disciplines
• to apply key concepts and critical thinking associated with anthropological approaches to these
issues, by developing an independent project
• to understand the emerging epistemological and methodological innovations associated with
ethnographic studies of technoscience, through active reading, small group work, and exam study
• to use internet research and communication tools critically and productively, through participation
in a student learning community online
• to learn the standards of academic analysis and debate through a linked series of writing projects
(for undergraduates: D2L exercises, individual projects, short essay midterm assignment, and short
essay final exams; for graduate students: short essay midterm assignment, individual projects,
peer-exchange exercises, and final essays developed from individual projects)
Description Due Undergraduate Graduate U grade G grade
Attendance, Ongoing See below See below; 20% 20%
presentations, Additional readings
class participation required
D2L postings Ongoing 6 themes ---- 5% optional
Midterm Week 6 Take-home 3-4pp Take-home 5-6pp 15% 10%
Individual projects Week 12 6-8pp; see below 10-12pp draft; 30% 10%
required; see below
Peer-exchange Weeks 6, 11 ---- Brief response papers ---- 10%
exercises via email
Exam Final TBA ------- 30% ----
Final essay Final ---- Revised papers ---- 50%
This course will combine lecture and seminar formats; you will be expected to complete all readings prior
to class so that you can engage actively in discussion and debate. Each week, the assigned readings will be
divided up for class presentation. A variety of workshops and in-class exercises will be used to measure
your preparation and participation.
The course text is available from Pantherbooks on Downer:
• People of the Bomb: Portraits of America's nuclear complex. Hugh Gusterson, 2004
A course pack is also required from the copy center. Selected articles have been placed on electonic
reserve. You can access and print these documents in the Campus Computer Labs, or use the library proxy
service to access these materials from off campus. To get e-reserve materials from off campus this
semester, you may enter the user name <eres> and the password <spring>. If you have any questions, call
e-reserves at 414-229-3698, email email@example.com or see the UWM library help sheets online at
A number of online resources—particularly web links—will be offered through the course web site on
D2L. You will need your UWM panther ID and password to access this site. Everyone will be required to
consult resources and check the site on a weekly basis for class announcements. Undergraduates are
required to post to online discussions biweekly; this is optional (ungraded) for graduate students. See
information attached. Note: grades will not be posted on the D2L site, and individual assignments and
projects must be submitted in hard copy.
short essay assignment
A short essay assignment of 3-4pp for undergraduates, 5-6pp for graduate students, discussing a choice of
topics covered in the first five weeks of term. The assignment will require you to explore some of the
readings closely, and relate them to critical debates discussed in class. Due at the beginning of class, wk 6.
There will be a cumulative take-home final exam for undergraduates at the end of term. The exam will
require you to demonstrate your comprehension and familiarity with a range of materials presented in
lectures, discussions, readings and workshops, as well as the ability to synthesize themes and critical
debates. Short essay format similar to first assignment, due within one week.
your individual projects
Undergraduates are encouraged to come and consult with me during office hours at any time during the
semester, and especially in defining your individual projects. Graduate students must consult with me and
receive approval for their individual projects by week 5. Please make an effort to come during office hours
if you can. I usually respond to email firstname.lastname@example.org within a week, Monday-Friday. You should
define a topic prior to spring break. You will be asked to present to the class
Undergraduate project options
Select any of the themes below. You may develop a website with narratives in lieu of a traditional essay if
you desire, but you are responsible for getting access to both software and webspace if you choose this
option. You may also choose to write a paper in the form of a short story; this must, however, be
accompanied by an annotated bibliography and commentary indicating how anthropological sources and
perspectives were used. Undergraduate project essays should be hardcopy 6-7pp. long (+bibliography), and
reflect good research as well as insight into anthropological perspectives.
These projects are required to incorporate a component of original fieldwork. Select any of the themes
below in consultation with me. Paper drafts due in week 12 should be hardcopy 10-12pp. (+bibliography).
Final essays are 15-18pp. (+bibliography). Graduate projects should reflect excellent research in addition to
a rich understanding of relevant anthropological debates, and rigorous attention to scholarly format.
Theme 1: Explore a debate about new scientific research and its role in the future of American society.
How are media discourses, public policy or legal decisions framed by visions of national identity and
reality? Make sure to focus closely on a particular debate or topic.
Theme 2: Discuss the issue of appropriate
technology from an anthropological
perspective. What kinds of technology are
appropriate for the “development” of “third
world” countries, or indigenous peoples in
marginalized areas of “developed” nations?
What have been the historical or emerging
socio-economic impacts of new technology
in such contexts? Investigate a particular
case, such as the green revolution,
agriculture and biotechnology, computer
technologies in the third world, etc. You
may wish to critically explore the engagement between science and local knowledge.
Theme 3: Write a critical review of one of the following ethnographies, embedded in a discussion of
themes raised in class. You should make sure to have your chosen text in hand early on in the semester.
You should explore how ideas about ethnography have been reformulated in the context of the
anthropology of technoscience. Graduate students should develop a new research project proposal
based on the book and your fieldwork exercise.
• Embodying Progress by Sarah Franklin;
• Making PCR or French DNA by Paul Rabinow;
• Testing Women, Testing the Fetus by Rayna Rapp.
• Silicon Second Nature by Stefan Helmreich
• Local Women, Global Science by Karen Booth
• Space in the Tropics by Peter Redfield
• Cultures@siliconvalley by J.A. English-Lueck
• Behind the Scenes at the Science Museum by Sharon Macdonald
• The Machine in Me by Gary Lee Downey
• The Internet: An ethnographic approach by Daniel Miller & Don Slater
• Primate Visions by Donna Haraway
• Studying Those Who Study Us: An anthropologist in the world of artificial intelligence by
• Pathologies of Power by Paul Farmer
• Writing at the Margin: Discourse between anthropology and medicine by Arthur Kleinman
Theme 4: A theme of your own choosing approved by Dr. Heatherington. Examples:
• the social life of genes
• science, culture and environment
• cyborg anthropology
• is anthropology a science?
• gender and science
• practices in knowledge construction
• science museums and the representation of knowledge
• the mutual embeddedness of science and society
Electronic databases (see links from course website):
• Anthropological Literature online (searchable database of articles and book chapters from
anthropology sources assembled by the Tozzer library at Harvard University).
• JSTOR (database of full-text articles in social sciences and humanities)
General internet resources: Please be wary of google search results, which generally have a low quality
yield in scholarly terms. You may in some instances use specific internet sites as data for your own
ethnographic analysis, but you should recognize the limits of the exercise, since it does not produce
material equivalent to participant observation or firsthand engagement with informants. Be especially
critical of articles published on the internet, which do not necessarily represent adequate research, or peer-
reviewed scholarship. Always ask, “what perspective does this author bring?”, and “is there a hidden
agenda?”. Be aware whom it is you’re citing. There are now some very useful websites out there, but never
depend on general internet resources alone. Valid academic sources should be the foundation of your paper.
Use the library! Ask a librarian at the information desk for suggestions—they’re great. And if you find a
useful source, read the bibliography for more references on the topic.
submission guidelines for all written work (essays, individual projects, exams)
All essays should be double-spaced, typed or printed in letter-quality using Times 12pt font, with 1”
margins, and correct spelling and grammar. You must use in-text citations in anthropological format
(author, date: page number) to acknowledge all sources of quotes, key concepts or ideas, primary data and
components of analysis that are not originally your own. You must also include a list of references showing
full citations corresponding to all sources referred to in the text. Please use the journal American
Anthropologist as a model. Number all pages and include the following information on a cover sheet:
Name, student number, program, theme number and essay title, date submitted. In 50 words or less, please
also summarize your main argument. Essays that fail to meet these guidelines must be resubmitted with late
penalties. You may be required to provide an electronic version of your paper for plagiarism checking
You should keep both paper and electronic copies of work handed in for
evaluation, and assure that all work is delivered and received on time.
Late assignments receive a penalty of 2 marks per day (including
weekends) but will not be accepted more than two weeks after the due
date without formal academic accommodation. Essays will be accepted
Monday-Friday. Extensions for health and compassionate reasons are
granted according to UWM policy but require appropriate
documentation (for example, a doctor’s certificate). Difficulties with
computers or printers do not constitute a basis for special extensions, so
back up your working drafts to disk, get extra printer supplies and plan
ahead in case something happens!
What’s on our course website?
• Links to websites and current news of interest to the class
• Course content and online discussions
• Communications tools, including announcements, open forums and email
• Links to library reserves and research resources
• Information on current assignments
You may use a standard Web browser to access course materials on our Desire2Learn (D2L) course
website. If you have a PC-compatible computer, it is preferable to use Internet Explorer 6 as your browser
for D2L. If you have a Mac, it is preferable to use Mac OS X and Netscape 7.1. You should also make sure
that your browser has “Java-scripts” enabled for Java version 1.3 or higher. (If you have any questions
about these preferences, contact Help as described at the bottom of the page.)
In order to find and browse the course Web site:
1. Call up your Web browser and go to the UWM home page: http://www.uwm.edu
2. From the UWM home page, click on the “E-learning and D2L” link near the top right of the screen.
3. On the next screen, click on the Desire2Learn logo.
4. This will bring up the Desire2Learn welcome screen. You will see a location to enter your Username
5. Your Username is your ePanther username (the same username as your ePanther campus email),
without the “@uwm.edu” part. Do not hit Enter after you have typed in your username! Either hit the
Tab key on your keyboard, or use the mouse to click in the box next to Password.
6. Your Password is your ePanther password. After you have typed in your ePanther password, then
please hit Login.
7. You should then see a My Home screen. You will see on the screen a list of My Milwaukee Courses.
There is a + next to the phrase Spring_05; click on the + sign. You will then see a + next to the
name of any department in which you are enrolled in a course that uses D2L, for example, + BUS-
Business Management or + L&S-Biological Sciences. Click on that + too. Finally, you will see a
course title underlined in blue. That is a hot link: click on it and you will enter your course Home Page.
8. Once you are on the My Home screen, you will see links on the left side of your screen that allow you
to change your ePanther password or forward your ePanther email to your preferred private email
9. If you have any difficulty getting on the course Web site, please close down your Web browser
completely and open it up again, then try logging on again using the instructions above. If you do not
know your ePanther username or password, please get help as indicated below.
10. When you are finished looking around the course Web site, always click on Logout if you are in a
computer lab, or at least shut down your Web browser. Otherwise, the next person who uses the
machine will be using your course account!
What to do if you have problems with Desire2Learn (D2L)
If you have problems with your login (e.g., you forgot your password, or if you just can’t get on) or if you
run into any other typical Desire2Learn difficulties, help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You
may do one of the following:
• Send an email to email@example.com
• Pick up a phone and call 414.229.4040 if you are in Metro Milwaukee (or just 4040 on a UWM
• Go to Bolton 225 (this lab is not open all day or on weekends – check for specific hours)
• Go to EMS E173A (this is a 24/7 lab)
• If you are calling from off campus but within Wisconsin or within the USA, call 1.877.381.3459.