Welcome to the website for STS 0010, the Reading Lab on Living Systems and Those Who Study Them, for Fall 2017.
Professors Ricky Crano, PhD
Course meetings Mondays 10:30-11:20am, Paige Hall, Room 007
This reading lab will survey a wide range of scientific, philosophical, historical, sociological, and anthropological research on LIVING systems and those who study them. We’ll be thinking about LIFE at all levels, from the bacterial to the human to the planetary (and beyond!), and from many different angles, as we’ll consider the various economic, political, ethical, aesthetic, and even existential implications of conceptualizing, talking about, experimenting with, and fabricating LIFE in this way or that. As a reading lab, there are no formal assignments for this course, other than to come prepared to discuss each week’s reading(s). I’ll supply some questions for discussion, but most of our weekly meetings can and should revolve around what you each find most interesting, strange, revealing, confusing and/or problematic in each of the readings. We’ll start with the most basic (but also impossible) question of “what is LIFE?” We’ll glance briefly back at Aristotle and then ask how and why recent developments (mainly since World War II) in microbiology, sociobiology, climatology, information theory, demography, and telecommunications have forced us to rethink some of our most ancient definitions and demarcations of LIFE and THE LIVING. Over the past few centuries, the past few decades, even the past few years, our ideas about what constitutes, conditions, and animates those things we think of as being ALIVE have drastically changed. What does it mean to say something is capable of being ALIVE anyway? Is that the same as saying it’s capable of having A LIFE? Who gains and who loses when a culture sorts out the LIVING from the non-LIVING in a given way? In addition to some of the most fundamental metaphysical and moral questions regarding the proposition of LIFE, we’ll also interrogate such topics as the racial politics of genetic testing, the pursuit of profit in biomedicine, the use of metaphor to inscribe and legitimate certain concepts and methods in the LIFE sciences, the turn in political economy by which human LIFE at the level of the population became something to be governed, and the dream of eternal LIFE made possible through the nascent pseudo-science of cryonics.