Bruno Latour: Science, Society, and Politics

Instructor: Danya Glabau
The Studio
172 Mulberry Street
New York, NY 10013

Why does scientific knowledge seem to be increasingly vulnerable to critique from politicians, activists, ordinary citizens, and even scientists themselves? Why does the previously stable role of science in solving global crises and mapping the future flourishing of humanity seem to be in doubt? To scholars of Science and Technology Studies (STS), these debates reflect some of the central concerns of Bruno Latour, a philosopher of science and a founding thinker in the field. Through a career spanning forty years, Latour has mounted a strong challenge to the Enlightenment proposition that modern science has the unique capacity to access stable truths about the natural world. Instead, Latour argues that science is a social system, with its precepts supported by social practices, and that its findings do as much to create our possibilities of existence as to describe them. Yet far from seeking to undermine the very real,  positive products of scientific knowledge, his work expands the slate of actors and agencies that are implicated in scientific discoveries, debates, and policies.

This class will survey key moments in Latour’s thinking, starting with Laboratory Life, his first study of a scientific lab in 1970’s California. From there, we will examine his work on the Pasteurization of France, his analytical hallmark, Actor-Network Theory, and subsequent critiques of the concepts of modernity and “the social”. Together, through critical engagement with Latour’s body of work, we will evaluate the capabilities of modern science as an epistemological system, a driver of technological development, a mover of policies and politics, and a method for imagining the limits and possibilities of social life.

Course Schedule

Wednesday, 6:30-9:30pm
April 05 — April 26, 2017
4 weeks


Registration Open