Generative Justice

"The point is not just to read the webs of knowledge production; the point is to reconfigure what counts as knowledge in the interests of reconstituting the generative forces of embodiment." -- Donna Haraway

STSS-6960 Ron Eglash, Sp 2014, Fridays 10:00-12:50PM, SAGE 5711

Learning objectives:
Students will be able to demonstrate understanding of the contrast between alienated and unalienated value; the contrast between bottom-up circulation of value and top-down extraction of value, and the various ways that the conceptual tools of STS—performativity, naturecultures, materialisms, queer STS, etc.—can be used to critique, illuminate and facilitate systems for generative justice.

To contact instructor:
Office Hours: Tuesday 1-3 and by appointment, 5502 Sage. Email:, phone: 276-2048.


The reading reflections (4-6 pages) are based strictly on the reading assignments for class; no original research is required. Your reflections can cover them broadly or focus on just a few. They would be a good candidate to be re-purposed as part of your portfolios, so make sure you adhere to scholarly grammar, analysis, language and format (e.g. MLA or U. Chicago citation practices). The research paper (minimum 10 pages) can be anything related to the class readings, and of course should also be formal academic writing. You are welcome to use your own empirical research as well as researching literature. .

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 (cf. 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. Plagiarism also occurs when a quotation is reworded in an attempt to avoid citation—always make sure the sources of your quotations are specifically cited. 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 penalties. Plagiarism will result in failing the course (a grade of “F”).

Special Needs
Please contact me if you have special needs such as disability or religious holidays.

Articles are in library reserve unless otherwise indicated; Books are as follows:

Course Schedule:

Part I: Introduction

1/29: Introduction
Eglash, “An Introduction to Generative Justice

presentation: GJ background on indigenous influences

2/5 Marx’s theory of alienation
Wendling, A. Karl Marx on technology and alienation. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009   

presentation: self-organization studies in STS: why so rare?

2/12 Naturecultures

2/19 DIY part 1: new modes of citizenship and activism
Chapter 1-15 in Ratto, M and Boler M.  DIY Citizenship: Critical Making and Social Media. MIT Press 2014
Please contribute to the analysis of each chapter in our compendium.

2/26 DIY part 2: designing technology and media
Chapter 16-28 in Ratto, M and Boler M.  DIY Citizenship: Critical Making and Social Media. MIT Press 2014
Please contribute to the analysis of each chapter in our compendium.

Part II: Refractions: looking through other lenses

First paper due (3/4)

3/4 Generative justice as seen through other disciplines

Lecture: Common Pool Resources

3/11 Queer Theory

One of the challenges working with a theory of unalienated value is the trap of authenticity or essentialism; for example organicism (value "as nature intended it"). Queer theory has developed a variety of strategies way to guard against that, showing how sexual orientation can be both unalienated and (at least in the eyes of some churches and states) "unnatural." For TallBear this means contesting the human/nonhuman duality; for Epstein it means contesting medical authority; for Anglin and Sbicca conceptualizations of nature; and for Kouri-Towe the circulation of non-essentialized solidarity.

Part III: Materialization and Labor

Second paper due (3/25)

3/25  Materialization  
The first two articles use examples from the “new materialism” perspective to make claims about the generative aspects of human/nonhuman interactions; in particular a “pagan vibrancy” of material objects (Bennett) and an “intra-active” perspective on labor in jute mills (Barad). The third (Washick and  Wingrove) takes a very critical look at those claims, followed by replies. Finally, we move to Pickering’s “material agency” critique of David Nobel’s Marxist analysis of digital machine tools.

4/1 Skeptics and counter-critique  

Part III: Extensions

Third paper due (4/8)
4/8 Towards a Generative Economics 

4/15 Generative Science

4/22 Systems and Modeling
video (in class):Steve Lansing at the Stockholm Resilience Centre

4/29 Generative STEM education 

 (4th paper due 5/6)

5/6 Class presentations (PPT -- Final research paper due may 11)