Sharon Crasnow and our Halloween Spooktacular

Monday’s colloquium was a really approachable, clear, sharp presentation about feminist epistemology from Sharon Crasnow, a local philosopher of science, recently retired from Norco College, who will be a visiting fellow at the famed department in Pittsburgh this coming Spring. Sharon brought some much-needed analytical clarity to the debate about feminist STS, laying out its origins in Marxist analysis as well as bringing us up to date about the controversies that beset it to this day.

Next Monday, on All-Hallows’ Eve, we will be rattling some SSP skeletons courtesy of Feminist Theory Theater. This event will be held in the Mandeville Suite on the 11th floor of Tioga Hall. Whoever wishes to stay on for a drink afterwards is most welcome. Please bring a bottle of your favorite tipple, and join us for perhaps the most unorthodox colloquium presentation in the quarter century of the program….


Everyone showed up…

All the anthropology faculty I invited to the colloquium came! I felt as though for the nine years I’ve been here, I have been sitting in a small room called Science Studies at UCSD. Then on Monday, someone pointed out that one of the walls was actually double doors. So we opened the doors wide, and found ourselves looking at a spacious chamber full of other people doing meta-scientific scholarship, working in Japan, Kashmir, El Salvador, and Indigenous America, and tackling issues from food politics to neuroplasticity. Inspiring.

Anthropology and Science Studies

Next Monday, October 17th, the colloquium is dedicated to a discussion of possible future integration of colleagues from the Department of Anthropology into the Science Studies Program, something that we have been debating for a while. The names of various anthropology faculty kept coming up as possible interested parties, and so at the beginning of term I wrote to Saiba Varma, Hanna Garth, Dredge Kang, Janis Jenkins, Katerina Semendeferi, Joe Hankins, David Pedersen, Amy Non, and Tom Csordas with this message:

“As some of you know, we are an interdisciplinary graduate program with four participating departments — history, philosophy, sociology and communications. In the last couple of years we have added a cluster of great new faculty to our ranks, some of whom wanted to know why anthropology was not part of our program. We have recently tweaked the program’s administrative structure to allow for the incorporation of different departments, and are now hoping very much to engage as many of you as possible in a discussion of whether and how we might want to strengthen our tie with anthropology.” 

To my delight, most of them have accepted the invitation! So come on Monday and join in the conversation about the structure and future direction of the program. If you are unable to make it, but want to voice your opinion on this matter, please do so by posting to this website.

For anyone interested in what, exactly, the administrative tweaks are, here is the explanation I sent to the Dean of Social Sciences:

“The main change is that instead of membership of the program being channeled in a blunt way through the participation of only four departments, we would open up the possibility of membership to individual faculty all across the two divisions. The departments of Ethnic Studies, Anthropology, Literature and Visual Arts all have faculty working in the field of Science Studies. To allow these members of our community to join us fully, we will be asking departments to contribute 1.25K for each active faculty member in the program.

“One of the reasons for doing this is that philosophy’s involvement with Science Studies has been changing, and the chair and MSO have raised the question of why they contribute 5K to a program from which they do not reap much benefit in the form of student support. Since we currently have only two philosophy faculty involved with Science Studies, this new structure will halve their contribution from 5K to 2.5K. As for the integration of other departments, we are taking this slowly, but it is likely that in time for next year, Lisa Cartwright, who has moved over to Visual Arts from Communication, will be joining us as a member of that department under this new structure, allowing us to ‘road test’ the integration of a new discipline. Discussions with Anthropology, Ethnic Studies and Literature will take place over the course of the next academic year, using the colloquium as an intellectual forum.”

OK, so I was a bit over-optimistic about Visual Arts already being on board by now. It turns out that the integration of every new department has to go through a faculty vote and a grad division vote and an academic senate vote and gawd knows what else. All the more time to roll up our sleeves and have a debate about where our program and our field should be heading…

Grant update

Yesterday we sent off two FISP applications. The first asked for money to develop a prototype of a map called From Kumeyaay Nation to Biotech Beach: a radical cartography of UCSD and its environs, pitching it as ‘a tool for diversity training on this campus.’ The proposed post-docs, James Deavenport and Ulices Pina, are both finishing up PhDs in Latin American history. Ulices, who recently won an award from the Mexican government for his work, has family ties south of the border and a deep knowledge of the historical terrain. James is a radical cartographer working on mapping the archaeology of the indigenous Amazon. They just happened to be the graders for my history of bioethics class this quarter, which is serendipitous given that James has already made a digital map of historical changes to Kumeyaay land!

The other FISP application is a proposal to conduct some fieldwork in the nascent field of philosophy of science-in-practice. This one was entirely dreamed up by Ben Sheredos, currently a post-doc in biology, having done a joint PhD here in philosophy and cognitive science. As you can see from this summary, Ben is quite the interdisciplinarian. He assures me that he regrets not joining Science Studies for his PhD, and he does seem to be making up for lost time this quarter by taking Bob’s Introduction to Science Studies, as well as agreeing to give a joint presentation at the colloquium in a few weeks…

Emma Frow


Emma Frow (on the left, after the talk) from ASU gave a terrific talk last night on the social, economic, and scientific ecology of synthetic biology, and how it is inflected by hacker culture and the maker movement. This rapidly changing terrain, in which biology is no longer given but made, raises vexed questions about intellectual property, scientific priority, and control over standards.  My favorite line? In the Q&A Emma mentioned that some of the more anarchic MIT engineers have taken exception to the tyrannical rule of evolution in biology and coined the phrase No Mutation without Representation.

Next week Kamala Visweswaran, Professor of Ethnic Studies, is stepping in for the speaker who had to cancel, and will be telling us about how her training in Science Studies enabled her to make an important intervention in a textbook controversy in India. Yours truly will introduce the talk with a brief consideration of the case of Steve Fuller, the sociologist of science who testified for the Christian fundamentalists who wanted intelligent design taught in biology classes. The session will be pretty loose and conversational, and aims to interrogate the relationship between science studies and anti-science movements such as global warming denial and creationism.