You are here: Home Professorship in Science … Events STS Society/Environment/Biology



The interrelationships between society, the environment, and biology are becoming ever more complex and ever more important. Concepts such as disease, genes, ecologies, and biomedicine have taken on new meanings in politics, law, ethics, popular culture, and the sciences themselves.

Because navigating and understanding this changing landscape poses challenges that span academic disciplines, we invite you to join us at the Summer 2018 Colloquium series of the Chair in Science and Technology Studies, University College Freiburg, for lectures and discussions with world-renowned scholars in Science and Technology Studies, History of Science, and History of Medicine.

All lectures are free and open to the public and will be followed by discussion. All talks will take place in the University Library Veranstaltungssaal (1. OG), 16.00.

Talk abstracts will be posted as they become available.

The series poster is downloadable. Please feel free to distribute.


University of California, Santa Cruz. Winner, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award.

“Just Genomes?”

Concerns about the links between racism and the then new science of genomics arose in the early 1990s when the proposal of the Human Genome Diversity Project raised worries that studies of human genetic variation would once again reduce human beings to their genes in ways that would strip them of rights.   At the same time alarm bells sounded throughout the nascent genomics community about the immanent publication of Herrnstein and Murray’s (1994) controversial bestseller, The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life.  Human geneticists had done much work since World War II to distance the study of human genes from eugenics and race science under the NS regime, including inventing a new name for their field—genomics.  Would that work, and the possibility of a genomic account of human differences, be undone before the research had even really begun?  To avert this possibility, in the wake of the sequencing of the human genome—or the postgenomic era—genome scientists and their supporters proposed a new ‘democratic’ approach to genomics.  In several high profile cases, they proposed to give power back to “the people” to define themselves, and to control use of their DNA.  Yet the problem of race and racism persisted.  Based on in-depth ethnographic study of these cases, this talk explores why.  From the International HapMap Project, to David Reich’s recent editorial in the New York Times, it explains how and by what means debates about ‘race’ and racism remain central to the postgenomic condition.


University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Guggenheim Fellow.

“The Homelands of the Plague: Soviet Disease Ecology in Central Asia, 1920s–1950s.”

This presentation analyzes the development of an important Russian/Soviet school of "disease ecology" at the intersection of human medicine, veterinary medicine, and ecological fieldwork. Part of a larger study in progress, I will argue that (1) although entanglements with the dynamic Soviet political system directly affected scientists' work and ideas, analysis of their local activities in the borderlands demonstrates a surprising independence and autonomy; and (2) initial analysis also points to the importance of indigenous nomadic peoples' knowledge and lived experience in informing scientific theories about endemic diseases. I conclude by discussing how collaboration between graduate students in the history of science, technology, and medicine, scientists, and informants in Kazakhstan have been essential to this historical project.   


Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. FRIAS Fellow.

“Lively Selves or Risky Subjects: The Unsettled Life of a Technology of Solidarity.”

Social movements have become an important object and subject of attention in Science and Technology Studies (STS). This presentation examines harm reduction social movements, which try to reduce the consequences of risky drug-use behaviors through prevention, education, and distribution of clean needles and other technologies. This presentation centers around ideas and representations of naloxone, a narcotic antagonist used to revive those undergoing opioid overdoses, situating it as a “technology of solidarity” useful for expanding concepts of social responsibility among “bystanders”  and  others likely to witness overdose events. How was naloxone, an approved medical technology used regularly by emergency medical responder, “unsettled” and “reformatted”? How did naloxone move from a state of “closure” to one in which meaning was up for grabs? How were law, policy, and clinical guidelines remade so as to widen distribution? And, most significantly, how did “naloxone” go from being an unfamiliar object to a familiar one as overdose death rates have continued to rise in the United States?


Harvard University. FRIAS Fellow.

“Rejected Miracles: Reflections on a medical archive at the boundary between skepticism and the supernatural.”

This talk is about what must be the most unusual medical archive in the world. It is an archive of medical miracles – supernatural healings that don’t just ask you to take the patients’ word for it, but that have been extensively vetted by medical authorities.  The archive is not in some distant, exotic part of the world. It is just a short train or plane ride away from Freiburg, at the Catholic pilgrimage site in southern France called Lourdes.
The view of the medical authorities who assess all the reported miracles is that supernatural healings are possible, but rare. Of the more than 7,000 reported miracles whose cases are documented in this archive, only 70 have been officially sanctioned. What, though, about the 6,930 others – all the “failed” miracles?  We should not assume that a failed miracle is by definition an uninteresting miracle. On the contrary, in this talk I will argue that if we really want to understand the miracles of Lourdes – really want to understand the specific kind of Catholic supernaturalism that still flourishes in the modern age -- then focusing on the “failed miracles” may have the most to teach us.

(05.07.2018) rescheduled to Fall 2018

Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Winner, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and Fritz Thyssen Foundation Reimar Lüst Award for International Scholarly and Cultural Exchange.

Author of Designs on Nature: Science and Democracy in Europe and the United States and The Ethics of Invention: Technology and the Human Future.


Co-sponsored by:


Rescheduled to Fall 2018