Science and Social Theory


Sp 2003, Dr. Ron Eglash STSS 6200




To contact instructor:

Office Hours: Tues 10-12, 5502 Sage. Email:, phone: 276-2048. Course webpage:



There are two requirements: the weekly class discussions (which include a couple of assignments), and three short (6-8 pages double spaced) “reading reaction” papers, and a final oral presentation. The syllabus is divided into four sections, and the short reading papers are due at the end of each section (due dates are 2/12, 3/25, 4/8, and 4/26). The week before a class, each of you will volunteer (or be assigned) one of the chapters or essays of the next week’s reading. The following week you will give the class your understanding of that reading.


Evaluation will be based on the weekly discussions (40%) and the short papers (60%). You are required to bring the reading to class. If you have any special learning needs (eg physical disability), please let me know.


Academic Honesty

While ideas are available to everyone, credit for ideas, and the particular text used to express them, belongs to their originator. Plagiarism occurs when a student attempts to pass the ideas or words of someone else as their own. It is surprisingly easy to do. For example, students who are not writing in their first language will sometimes try to use a sentence from another written text, simply because they are worried about their grammar. Other examples of plagiarism occur when the source of a quotation is not specifically cited, or when a quotation is reworded in an attempt to avoid citation. The internet makes plagiarism particularly tempting, since you can copy and paste from the web to your paper. Recycling your own paper from another course would not be plagiarism, but it would be academic dishonesty and thus subject to the same penalty, which includes failing the course (a grade of “F”) and possibly other penalties.


Required Texts:


Articles (it is the students’ responsibility to create copies; originals will be kept on file in the STS grad lounge or available online).


Butler, Octavia E. Dawn. New York: Popular Library 1988.

Hacking, Ian. The Social Construction of What? Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press 1999.

Latour, Bruno, and Woolgar, Steve. Laboratory Life: the construction of scientific facts. Beverly Hills: Sage, 1979.

Turnbull, David. Masons, Tricksters and Cartographers: Comparative Studies in the Sociology of Scientific and Indigenous Knowledge. New York: Routledge 2000.



 Course Schedule:

1/15: Introduction:


Part I: Classic approaches


1/22 Modernist philosophy

Richard Boyd, “Confirmation, Semantics, and the Interpretation of Scientific Theories.”  In Richard Boyd, The Philosophy of Science (Cambridge, Ma.: MIT Press, 1991).  Pp.  3-14.

Thomas Kuhn, “Ch. 12: The Resolution of Revolutions.” In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: U. Chicago Press, 1996; orig. 1962).  Pp. 144-159.

Popper, Karl. Selection (TBA),

Imre Lakatos, Pp. 116-138, 154-159.  Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970).  Skim 139-153 if you are unable to read it.


1/29 History and Origin Stories

Carolyn Merchant, “Ch. 7: Dominion Over Nature.” In The Death of Nature (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1990).  Pp. 164-190.

Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer, “Ch. 1: Understanding Experiment” and “Ch. 8: The Polity of Science: Conclusions.”  In Leviathan and the Air Pump.  (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985).  Pp. 3-21 332-334).

Donna Haraway, “Ch. 1: Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium.” In Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium (New York: Routledge, 1997).  Pp. 23-39.

Ann Hibner Koblitz A convergence of lives: Sofia Kovalevskaia: scientist, writer, revolutionary. Selection (TBA).


2/5 Norms, rewards, careers (David Hess to sub for Ron Eglash)

Robert Merton, “Ch. 13: The Normative Structure of Science” “Prefatory Note,” “Ch. 14: Priorities in Scientific Discovery” (up to p. 305), “Ch. 20: The Matthew Effect in Science.”  In The Sociology of Science (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973: orig. ch. 13: 1942; ch. 14 1957; ch. 20 1968). Pp. 267-305, 439-459.

Michael Mulkay, “Norms and Ideology in Science.” Social Science Information 15.4/5(1976): 637-656.

Stephen Cole, “Ch. 7: Is Science Universalistic?” and “Ch. 8: Conceptualizing and Studying Particularism in Science.”  In Making Science (Cambridge, Ma.: Harvard University Press, 1992).  Pp. 157-205.

J. Scott Long and Mary Frank Fox, “Scientific Careers: Universalism and Particularism.” Annual Review of Sociology 21(1995): 45-71.


Part II: Constructivism



2/12 Interests (Edinburgh school and others)

Barry Barnes and Donald MacKenzie, “On the Role of Interests in Scientific Change.” In Roy Wallis (ed.), On the Margins of Science (University of Keele, Staffordshire, 1979).  Pp. 49-65.

Steve Woolgar, “Interests and Explanation in the Social Study of Science.” Social Studies of Science 11(1981): 365-394.

Scott Gilbert, “Cellular Politics: Ernest Everett Just, Richard B. Goldschmidt, and the Attempt to Reconcile Embryology and Genetics.” In Ronald Rainger, Keith Benson, and Jane Maienschein (eds.), The American Development of Biology (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1988).  Pp. 311-346.

Spanier, Bonnie, “Sex and the Single Cell.” Ch 4 in Im/Partial Science: Gender Ideology in Molecular Biology. Bloomington: Indiana University Press 1995.


2/19 The Sociology of Scientific Knowledge (SSK—Bath school and others)

Ludwik Fleck.  “Introduction to Thought Collectives.”  In Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979; orig. 1935).  Pp. 38-51.

David Bloor, “The Strong Programme in the Sociology of Knowledge.” In Knowledge and Social Imagery (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1991, 2nd. Ed.; orig. 1976).  Pp. 3-23.

Harry Collins, “An Empirical Relativist Programme in the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge.”  In Karin Knorr-Cetina and Michael Mulkay (eds.), Science Observed  (Beverly Hills, Ca.: Sage, 1983).  Pp. 85-113.

Harry Collins, “Ch. 4: Detecting Gravitational Radiation: The Experimenters’ Regress.” In Changing Order (Beverly Hills, Ca.: Sage, 1985).  Pp. 79-111.

Star, Susan Leigh, and James R. Griesemer.  “Institutional Ecology, ‘Translations,’ and Boundary Objects.”  Social Studies of Science 19(1989): 387-420.



2/26: Actor-Network Theory: Semiotics from inscription to conscription

Latour, Bruno, and Woolgar, Steve. Laboratory Life: the construction of scientific facts. Beverly Hills: Sage, 1979. Read entire book.


3/4 Actant-Network Theory: Non-human actors and material-semiotic hybrids


Callon, Michel (1986) Some elements of a sociology of translation: domestication of the scallops and the fishermen of St Brieuc Bay. In: J.Law (ed.) Power, Action and Belief. A New Sociology of Knowledge?, pp. 196-233. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. 3.11


Collins, Harry and Yearly, Steven . “Epistemological Chicken” in A. Pickering (ed) Science as Practice and Culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1992.


Callon, Michel/Latour, Bruno (1992): Don’t Throw the Baby Out with the Bath School! Pp. 343-368 in: Andrew Pickering (Ed.), Science as Practice and Culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Pickering, Andrew. Pp. 1-27, 37-67 in The mangle of practice : time, agency, and science. Chicago : University of Chicago Press, c1995


3/11 No class (spring break)


3/18 Just how much of a constructivist are you?

Hacking, Ian. The Social Construction of What? Chapters 1-3, 7.


Assignment: Hacking Pg 99 provides a test to score ourselves on three features of  constructivism (contingency, nominalism, external explanations). Score yourself, and be prepared to explain your scores to the class.


Part III: Interpretations and Interpenetrations


3/25 Social Movements and the Public Understanding of Science. (David Hess to sub for Ron Eglash)

Phil Brown, Steve Zavestoski, Sabrina McCormick, Brian Mayer, Rachel Morello-Frosch, and Rebecca Gasior.  "Embodied Health Movements: Uncharted Territory In Social Movement Research." Sociology of Health and Illness 2004 26:1-31

Clarke, Adele E.  1998 Disciplining Reproduction: Modernity, American Life Sciences , and the Problems of Sex . U Cal Press.  Chs. 6, 7

Epstein, Steve. Impure Science. U. of California Press, 1996. [Introduction and conclusion]

Scott, Pam, Evelleen Richards, and Brian Martin. 1990 "Captives of Controversy: The Myth of the Neutral Social Researcher in Contemporary Scientific Controversies." Science, Technology, and Human Values 15(4): 474-494.

Wynne, Brian.  Ch. 1. "Misunderstood Misunderstandings." Irwin, Alan and Brian Wynne 1996 Misunderstanding Science? The Public Reconstruction of Science and Technology. Cambridge.

Wynne, Brian.  May the Sheep Safely Graze?  In Scott Lash, Bronislaw Szerszynski, and Brian Wynne (eds.), Risk, Environment, and Modernity.  Thousand Oaks, Ca: Sage.


4/1 Postmodernism and Cultural Studies

Butler, Octavia. Dawn. (entire book).

Haraway, Donna, "The Biopolitics of Postmodern Bodies: Determinations of Self and Other in Immune System Discourse," Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge, 1991, pp.203-230. 


 Part IIII: Science, Culture, and Gender


4/8 Feminist and Queer Theory


Keller, Evelyn Fox. Ch 12 in A Feeling for the Organism. New York: W. H. Freeman and Company, 1983.

Stengers, Isabelle. “Is There a Women’s Science?” pp. 123-130 in Power and Invention: Situating Science. Univ of Minnesota Press 1997

Harding, Susan. 105-137, “What is Feminist Epistemology” in Whose Science? Whose Knowledge? : thinking from women's lives. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1991.

Haraway, Donna. “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective," Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge, 1991

Terry, Jennifer. Eplogue.” 378-399 in An American Obsession: science, medicine and homosexuality in modern society. Chicago University Press 1999.


4/15 Cross-cultural Comparison

Turnbull, David. Masons, Tricksters and Cartographers: Comparative Studies in the Sociology of Scientific and Indigenous Knowledge. New York: Routledge 2000. Entire book except ch 6.


4/22 Culture and Gender in Science Education Research


Barad, Karen. "Reconceiving Scientific Literacy as Agential Literacy". In R. Reid and S. Traweek, ed. Culture + Science. Routledge.

Jegede, Olugbemiro J. and Aikenhead, Glen S. Transcending Cultural Borders: Implications for Science Teaching.

Rosser, Sue. Re-Engineering Female Friendly Science. Pp. 1-18. New York: Teachers College Press 1997.

Tedre, Matti and Eglash, Ron. Ethnocomputing: a synthesis of local  knowledge and information technology design. Unpublished MS.


Assignment: produce a design using one of the tools at For auditory examples, save as instructed on line. For visual examples, press the “print screen” (often abbreviated “PrtSc”) button on your keyboard. Then use “paste” in the edit menu in Microsoft word. That should allow you to save the image of your design. Write a brief (one paragraph) statement about it (either the learning experience or an STS analysis) in the same MS-word document, and email to We will show all the designs in class.