Science & Feminism Syllabus

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Course Description

At first glance, “science” and “feminism” do not seem to go together. “Science” connotes objectivity and a lack of politics, while “feminism” describes a way of understanding the world that is based on a particular perspective and often seen as political. Yet recent research on the cultures of science have revealed that gender has often been a hidden variable in scientific research, that women and feminists have played important roles in the greatest discoveries of modern science, and that science and feminism can be used side by side to mutually beneficial aims.

This course offers an introduction to STS scholarship on the role of gender, women, and feminism in the sciences of the past, present, and future. We will learn about the role of women in science through readings and multimedia features by and about women engineers and scientists; how gender has been studied in science over time; and how feminism can improve the practice of science. We will also read key feminist texts that can help us understand the role of gender in science and the relationships between science and gender, race, class, and nationality. Readings and class discussions will be supplemented by guest lectures from scientific and feminist practitioners and field trips to relevant places in New York City. Students will be assessed via a research paper developed throughout the course.

This course met Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, 9 am – 12 noon for six weeks in Summer 2019.

This is a writing-intensive class. Most of the students’ grades will be based on presentations, a final paper, and interim paper milestones. Final papers will be developed following the Implosion Project method outlined by Joseph Dumit in the paper Writing the Implosion: Teaching the World One Thing at a Time.

Course Objectives

By taking this class, you will develop the ability to:

  • Become familiar with key concepts and case studies in feminist STS.
  • Analyze how power, identity, and politics shapes the development of scientific knowledge.
  • Constructively evaluate and critique events in the history of biology, technology, and medicine.
  • Design and conduct an independent, social scientific research project.
  • Write documents used in the research process, like project proposals, bibliographies, outlines, and drafts.
  • Gain experience writing a focus, rigorously researched social science research paper.

Texts and Readings

We will read extensively from 3 books:

Course Schedule

Week 1: Introduction: Feminism, Science, and STS

Monday, May 27


Tuesday, May 28

  • Emily Martin – The Egg and the Sperm: How Science Has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-Female Roles []
  • Kimberle Crenshaw – Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color []
  • WATCH: Danika Kleiber – Counting the Invisible []

Wednesday, May 29

  • Donna Haraway – A Cyborg Manifesto [PDF]
  • Joseph Dumit – Writing the Implosion: Teaching the World One Thing at a Time []
  • IN CLASS: The Implosion Project

Week 2: Women Scientists (and Engineers)

Monday, June 3

  • Steven Shapin – The Invisible Technician []
  • Evelyn Fox Keller – A Feeling for the Organism, selections
  • Lady Science Podcast – The Wives, Sisters, and Helpers of Science []
  • GUEST LECTURE: Art + Feminism Wikipedia Hackathon organizer, Jacqueline Mabey

Tuesday, June 4

  • Evelyn Fox Keller – A Feeling for the Organism, selections
  • IN CLASS: Max Liboiron – How to Titrate Like a Feminism []
  • IN CLASS: Gap Map and Knowledge Map

Wednesday, June 5

Supplemental: Clive Thompson – The Secret History of Women in Coding []

Week 3: Biology

Monday, June 10

  • Banu Subramaniam – Ghost Stories for Darwin, selections
  • IN CLASS: Preliminary outline/sketch/workflow for final project

Tuesday, June 11

  • Banu Subramaniam – Ghost Stories for Darwin, selections

Wednesday, June 12

  • Londa Schiebinger – The Gendered Ape, from Nature’s Body [PDF]
  • Londa Schiebinger – The Anatomy of Difference, from Nature’s Body [PDF]
  • LISTEN: The Hood Biologist interview, WBEZ []
  • FIELD TRIP: American Museum of Natural History, meet with curator Jacklyn Lacey
  • DUE: Revised Knowledge Map and Gap Map
  • DUE: Required Office Hours Visit #1 completed by today

Week 4: Biomedicine

Monday, June 17

  • Dorothy Roberts – Race, Gender, and Genetic Technologies: A New Reproductive Dystopia? []
  • Dig History Podcast – Choice, Sterilization, and Eugenics in Twentieth Century Puerto Rico []

Supplemental: Marie Jenkins Schwartz – Birthing a Slave (selections) [PDF]

Supplemental: Dig History Podcast – Tuberculean Chic: How the White Plague Shaped Beauty Standards in the 18th and 19th Centuries []

Tuesday, June 18

  • Michelle Murphy – Seizing the Means of Reproduction (selection) [PDF]
  • Alondra Nelson – The People’s Free Medical Clinics, from Body and Soul [PDF]
  • FIELD TRIP: New York Academy of Medicine

Wednesday, June 19

  • IN CLASS: Preliminary Presentations

Week 5: The Digital Age

Monday, June 24

  • Safiya Umoja Noble – Algorithms of Oppression (selections)

Tuesday, June 25

  • Safiya Umoja Noble – Algorithms of Oppression (selections)
  • Alex Rosenblat – There’s an App for Wrecking Nannies’ Lives []
  • Brian Merchant – Predictim Claims Its AI Can Flag ‘Risky’ Babysitters. So I Tried It on the People Who Watch My Kids []
  • IN CLASS: Peer review of final project draft

Wednesday, June 26

  • Safiya Umoja Noble – Algorithms of Oppression (selections)
  • DUE: Draft papers (and any supplemental materials)

Supplemental: Marie Hicks – The Mother of All Swipes []

Week 6: Feminist Futures

Monday, July 1

  • Alondra Nelson – Future Texts []
  • Ruha Benjamin – Racial Fictions, Biological Facts: Expanding the Sociological Imagination through Speculative Methods []
  • DUE: Required office hours visit #2 completed by today

Supplemental: Sami Schalk – Bodyminds Reimagined (selections)

Tuesday, July 2

  • Octavia Butler – Blood Child [PDF]
  • Flash Forward Podcast – What to Expect When You’re Expecting in Space []

Wednesday, July 3

  • IN CLASS: Final Presentations