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Teaching STS full description

STS stripe

Summer Semester 2016

Prof. Dr. Veronika Lipphardt: Knowledge in Context

(Course Number 00LE62VS-LAS-CO0020)

This course introduces students to a broad consideration of knowledge in its historical, social, political and practical contexts. Drawing on work in the history, anthropology and sociology of knowledge, the course addresses knowledge production and circulation beyond academia, as well as knowledge transfers in and across professional fields, educational systems, regions, cultures, and knowledge regimes. It aims at fostering reflection about questions such as "What counts as knowledge? What has counted as knowledge in previous centuries? What is (or what was) the relationship between scientific knowledge and knowledge that is (was) not deemed scientific, as, for example, common sense knowledge, or the knowledge of non-academic professional fields, or knowledge produced and used by political entities?" We will discuss historical examples and theoretical perspectives, such as social constructivist or cognitive theories, and take an ethnographic perspective onto knowledge in everyday life.


Prof. Dr. Veronika Lipphardt: Science in Context

(Course Number 00LE62VS-LAS-CO0017)

This course introduces students to classical and recent approaches in Science Studies. To my understanding, STS (Science and Technology Studies) and HPS (History and Philosophy of Science) both contribute to Science Studies. Science Studies is an interdisciplinary field that draws from anthropology, sociology, political sciences, philosophy, history and cultural studies to explore what counts as scientific knowledge and why, and how science and technology intervene in (and interact with) the wider world. It allows students to reflect upon their involvement in science and technology, to develop a critical understanding of the role of science and technology in the world, and to consider the impact and implications of their own work for society.

In the common picture of science, science creates and accumulates knowledge by confronting the natural world, and it makes progress because of its systematic method. According to this narrative, different scientists should perform an experiment similarly; scientists should be able to agree on important questions and considerations; and most importantly, different scientists considering the same evidence should accept and reject the same hypotheses. Scientists should be able to agree on truths about the natural world. Contrasting with these widespread assumptions, the course starts from the assumption that science is a thoroughly social activity. It is social in that scientists are always members of communities, trained into the practices of these communities and necessarily working with them. These communities set standards for inquiry and evaluate knowledge claims.

The course starts from basic tenets of Science Studies scholars, such as:

• Knowledge has a history (or, in fact, multiple histories)

• Knowledge is embedded in practices

• Knowledge is a social endeavour

• Knowledge is involved in struggles for power

• Knowledge is controversial, negotiated, and stabilized

• Knowledge oscillates between the local and the universal

• Knowledge emerges in transfers.

The course regards scientific knowledge as socially shaped; however, this does not mean that scientific knowledge is not correct. Yet instead of prioritizing questions such as „Which knowledge is a good truth claim“ or „valid/unvalid“, or „false/correct“, the course encourages students to ask questions such as „How is scientific knowledge produced, negotiated, stabilized, and circulated?“ – „How does scientific knowledge shape our life worlds?“ – „What does it mean to live in a knowledge based society?“ – „What are the gaps between data and truth claim? How do scientists decide for a specific way to overcome them?“ and, oriented towards social, ethical and political relevance: „If it is unavoidable to base decisions on knowledge, how can one deal with knowledge in a reflected and responsible way?“ – „How (if at all) can we resolve conflicts between competing truth claims; how can we make decisions in the light of competing truth claims?“


Winter Semester 2015/2016

Prof. Dr. Veronika Lipphardt: Responsibility and Leadership in Academia

(Course Number 00LE62VS-LAS-CO0015)

This course introduces students to the many facets and challenges of responsibility and leadership in academia. It aims to provide academic insights into the critical discourse around these issues, as well as reflections on and applicable skills for responsible behaviour in academic environments. Both leadership and community building will be analyzed in their relevance for shaping the social and intellectual world of academia and beyond. By analyzing, comparing and contrasting different approaches to leadership and responsibility in academia as discussed in the literature, students acquire the competency to critically evaluate various models of leadership in academia.

The course will be focussing on six specific topics: Gender and Diversity; Economics; Ethics of Science; Misconduct; Uncertainty; Leadership Models. For at least four of these, invited speakers will bring in first-hand expertise.


Sarah Fründt: Museums and Sensitive Objects

(Course Number 00LE62S-LAS-CH0012)

Museums are often considered “windows to science”, as they present research results, research objects, original sources as well as a discipline’s very own set of assumptions, theories, methods, and historical developments to the interested public. In science, one of the most important ethical questions usually revolves around the notion: Is science allowed to do everything? By proxy the same questions can be asked about museums: are they allowed to own everything they do, show everything they can, tell every story they want? What are their responsibilities? Fueled by international decolonization, especially anthropological museums have been heavily criticized over the last decades. Not only for constructing an image of indigenous peoples that is far away from reality, but also for owning and presenting certain types of objects, such as human remains, sacred items, burial goods, items of cultural significance and other so called “sensitive objects”. In reaction, museum practice is slowly changing and guidelines (and in some cases also legal solutions) appear.

In this course we will look at three interconnected topics:

a) the current debate on repatriation and restitution of human remains and other museums objects,

b) the question if sensitive objects can/should be used for research?

c) the question if sensitive objects can/should be presented in exhibitions?

Teaching will include a theoretical and historical introduction to the topic, complemented by a number of documentary films. A number of sessions will then be used for student presentations of case studies and their discussion. Active engagement with these case studies (including contacting people involved) will be encouraged.


Summer Semester 2015

Prof. Dr. Veronika Lipphardt: Knowledge in Context. An Introduction to Science Studies