Anthropology of Science, Beyond the Laboratory

Graduate Seminar in Cultural Anthropology

Offered at the University of California, Riverside, Winter 2010

In recent decades, sociocultural anthropologists have taken the ethnographic methods they developed for studying exotic peoples in exotic locales and applied them to scientific communities and practice. Anthropology has become one of many disciplines contributing to and drawing from the interdisciplinary field of science and technology studies. One theme of the course is the ongoing and controversial legacy of French philosopher and anthropologist Bruno Latour. Latour's Laboratory Life (with Steve Woolgar) represented one of the first ethnographic studies of scientific practice, but Latour's more recent work has expanded into political philosophy, and a bold attempt to rethink fundamentally the categories and methods of social science. The second theme is the movement of approaches derived from ethnographic studies of science "beyond the laboratory," to more "field-based" scientific pursuits (e.g. oceanography and conservation biology) and topics outside the conventional purview of science studies (e.g. space and place, international development). Underlying this theme is an inquiry into the implications of social studies of science for the practices of anthropological fieldwork and ethnographic writing: what form should anthropology take if, according to Latour, "no social explanation is necessary"?

A few notes

With some serious misgivings, I have decided to host materials for this course on iLearn (UCR's Blackboard installation) rather than on a public site. Feel free to contact me with questions.