SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

Mastering Nature: The Politics of Science and Technology in the Global South

Module Code:
158000213
Status:
Module Not Running 2021/2022
Credits:
15
FHEQ Level:
6
Year of study:
Year 3
Taught in:
Term 2

This module examines the relationship between the production of scientific knowledge and technology and political projects in the Global South. It investigates how the struggle over power transforms and is itself transformed by science as modern and contemporary regimes worked to “master” non-human and human nature (and bodies) in the Global South. We examine the ways in which expert networks, natural environments, human bodies and minds, the spaces of labs and hospital wards, the physicality of non-human things (e.g. railway tracks, microbes and electricity grids) and regimes of authority come together to produce and adapt science and new technologies in the non-West. The module is organized thematically around the biological, physical and environmental sciences, and ends with a section dedicated to digital politics. Through these themes the module explores relationships between for example: imperial control and environmental management; religious authority and medical and evolutionary biology; postcolonial nationalism and technologies of time/space compression like transport and communication; climate change sciences and natural resource scarcities/abundance; and the digitization of neoliberalism. Delving deep into case studies that focus on the politics of particular sciences and technologies across the Global South rather than as a survey course of that literature, the module is ultimately dedicated to interrogating larger questions such as the politics of scientific objectivity, non-human agency, and the relationship between manufactured “imaginaries” and lived experience in the non-West.

Please note that student numbers on this module are capped.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  • Gain familiarity with the theoretical frameworks deployed in sicence, technology, society studies (STS), with a focus on the politics of science and technology.
  • Explore the diverse methods and analytical approaches deployed to study the political dynamics underlying the production of scientific knowledge and technological adoption in the Global South.
  • Exposure to the multiple human-non-human actors and forces involved in the production of scientific discovery and technological innovation across non-Western polities.
  • Develop the particular research and methodological skills necessary to trace and unmask political dynamics in fields such as scientific and technological innovation presented as "universal" and/or "objective."

Workload

This module will be taught over 10 weeks with:

  • 2 hour seminars per week

Method of assessment

Assignment 1: Research outline 15%
Assignment 2: Draft research paper 25%
Assignment 3: Research paper 50%
Seminar participation: 10%

Suggested reading

Suggested reading

  • Bruno Latour, The Pasteurization of France, Alan Sheridan and John Law trans., (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993(1984))
  • Gyan Prakash, Another Reason: Science and the Imagination of Modern India, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999).
  • Kearan Healy, Last Best Gifts: Altruism and the Market for Human Blood and Organs, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2006).
  • Sherine Hamdy, Our Bodies Belong to God: Organ Transplants, Islam and the Struggle for Human Dignity in Egypt, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012).
  • Joāo Biehl, Will to Live: AIDS Therapies and the Politics of Survival, (Princeton University Press, 2009).

Disclaimer

Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules