Amazon logo When you click the Amazon logo to the left of any citation and purchase the book (or other media) from, MIT OpenCourseWare will receive up to 10% of this purchase and any other purchases you make during that visit. This will not increase the cost of your purchase. Links provided are to the US Amazon site, but you can also support OCW through Amazon sites in other regions. Learn more.

Course Description

The social study of science and technology is an interdisciplinary field dedicated to understanding science as social practice. Braiding together insights from history and philosophy of science, sociology of scientific institutions and knowledge, anthropology, feminism, critical race theory, post-colonial studies, and queer theory, science studies views sciences and technologies as crucially enmeshed in human culture and politics. This course surveys canonical and recent theories and methods in science studies. We will organize our discussions around the concept of "reproduction," referring variously to:

  1. Scientific reproduction (how results are replicated in lab, field, disciplinary contexts)
  2. Social reproduction (how social knowledge and relations are regenerated over time)
  3. Biological reproduction (how organic substance is managed in the genetic age)
  4. Electronic reproduction (how information is reassembled in techniques of transcription, simulation, computation). Examining intersections and disruptions of these genres of reproduction, we seek to map relations among our social, biological, and electronic lives.


This is a seminar. Students are required to give at least one seminar presentation, offering a critical evaluation of positions represented in the readings for their chosen day. There are two writing assignments: a short paper (5 pages) on course readings up through lecture 6 (due lecture 7), and a 15-20 page research paper using course materials to discuss a case study of science in society (a prospectus for this paper will be due on lecture 8 and the final paper will be due on lecture 14, in time for our class conference). 30% of the grade will be based on in-class participation, 20% on short paper, and 50% on research paper.

Required Books

Amazon logo Latour, Bruno, and Steve Woolgar. Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986 (First Edition, London: Sage, 1979). ISBN: 9780691028323.

Amazon logo Knorr-Cetina, Karin. Epistemic Cultures: How the Sciences Make Knowledge. Harvard, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999. ISBN: 9780674258945.

Amazon logo Lock, Margaret. Twice Dead: Organ Transplants and the Reinvention of Death. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2001. ISBN: 9780520228146.

Amazon logo Hayden, Cori. When Nature Goes Public: The Making and Unmaking of Bioprospecting in Mexico. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003. ISBN: 9780691095578.