Columbia
Courses in Science and Society at Columbia University

Columbia and Barnard have a constellation of faculty members located in a variety of departments and institutes whose research and interests lie at the intersection of science and the humanities. Among many specializations, include the historical development of scientific knowledge and in the processes—technical, social, political, intellectual, material and cultural—by which knowledge has been acquired, disseminated, and employed.

List of Courses: 2016 Spring Undergraduate

Archive for 2016 Spring Undergraduate

MDES W3990: Science, Religion, & Politics in The Ottoman Empire | P. West

W 2:10-4 | 3 Points
This course investigates continuities and breaks in religious, scientific, and political institutions and discourses during the long history of the Ottoman Empire. It will begin with an overview of of Islamic and Greek intellectual legacies. The course will be divided into three parts focusing on three major periods of Ottoman history: formative, early modern, and modern periods. An important aspect of the course is to consider developments in the Ottoman Empire in connection with the other contemporary societies. Hence, we will situate developments in the Ottoman history within the larger hisotrical changes in Euroasia by reading both primary and secondary sources.
Link to Vergil

MDES W3901: Empire And Ecology in the Anthropocene: An Environmental History Of The Middle East | C. Primel

M 2:10-4:00 | 3 Points
This course explores the emerging field of the environmental history of the Middle East. It offers new perspectives for rethinking the history of the region in ecological terms, from the effect of climate change on early modern empires, to the centrality of water and hydrocarbons, to the colonial and postcolonial transformations of the 19th and 20th centuries. Prior coursework in the history and/or politics of the Middle East is recommended.

 

MDES G4058: Human Rights: History, Law, Literature | N. Kebranian

M 4:10-6:00 | 4 Points
This is an interdisciplinary course introducing students to the historical, juridical, and literary constructions of human rights as concept, practice, and discourse. Coursework is geographically and thematically comparative with readings in history, law, political philosophy, anthropology, criticism, and literature. Students are expected to engage with the following questions: How did ideas about rights emerge and give rise to the juridical development of ‘human rights?’ What kinds of human subjects do rights discourses presuppose and/or produce? What does human rights law achieve, and how? And how, if at all, does literature reveal the human rights’ system’s social, ethical, and political possibilities and limits?

 

SCNC W3920: IGNORANCE: How it Drives Science | S. Firestein

W 6:10-8:00 | 2 Points
Prerequisites: have completed the CORE science requirements. Scientific knowledge increases at an exponential rate. Curiously ignorance does not similarly decrease. The basic activity of science is to engage ignorance. In this course we will examine the scientific approach to ignorance, though readings, discussions and visits from working scientists who will discuss the state of ignorance in their field and in their individual laboratories. We hope to gain an understanding of the scientific process by analyzing how it approaches what it doesn’t know. We will also include the scientific approach to uncertainty, doubt and failure – all crucial ingredients in the activity of scientific investigation. Requirements will include weekly postings based on readings and visiting lectures, and a final paper. This class will meet only ten times between February 4 and April 15 (thus its value of 2 points). Because of this short, but intense, schedule absences will not be excused and will have a negative impact on the final grade. This course does not satisfy any science requirements. Admission to the course is limited and requires permission of the instructor. This can be gained by submitting a brief (max 350 words) statement outlining your interest in taking this course and what you hope to achieve in the course. “One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done” -Marie Curie, letter to her brother 18 March 1894

 

HIST W4588: Race, Drugs, and Inequality: Harm Reduction in the 20th Century and Beyond | S. Roberts

T 2:00-4:00 | 4 Points
Prerequisites: the instructor’s permission. Through a series of secondary- and primary-source readings and research writing assignments, students in this seminar course will explore one of the most politically controversial aspects in the history of public health in the United States as it has affected peoples of color: intoxicating substances. Course readings are primarily historical, but sociologists, anthropologists, and political scientists are also represented on the syllabus. The course’s temporal focus – the twentieth century – allows us to explore the historical political and social configurations of opium, alcohol, heroin, cocaine, medical maintenance (methadone), the War on Drugs, the carceral state and hyperpolicing, harm reduction and needle/syringe exchange. This semester’s principal focus will be on the origins and evolution of the set of theories, philosophies, and practices which constitute harm reduction. The International Harm Reduction Association/Harm Reduction International offers a basic, though not entirely comprehensive, definition of harm reduction in its statement, “What is Harm Reduction?” (http://www.ihra.net/what-is-harm-reduction): “Harm reduction refers to policies, programmes and practices that aim to reduce the harms associated with the use of psychoactive drugs in people unable or unwilling to stop. The defining features are the focus on the prevention of harm, rather than on the prevention of drug use itself, and the focus on people who continue to use drugs.”[1] Harm reduction in many U.S. communities of color, however, has come to connote a much wider range of activity and challenges to the status quo. In this course we will explore the development of harm reduction in the United States and trace its evolution in the political and economic context race, urban neoliberalism, and no-tolerance drug war. The course will feature site visits to harm reduction organizations in New York City, guest lectures, and research/oral history analysis. This course has been approved for inclusion in both the African-American Studies and History undergraduate curricula (majors and concentrators). HIST W4588 will be open to both undergraduate and masters students. To apply, please complete the Google form at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1xaPFhQOzkl1NHnIjQIen9h41iel2hXAdhV59D5wH8AQ/viewform?usp=send_form. Questions may be directed to skroberts@columbia.edu.

 

HIST BC 4064: Medieval Science and Society | J. Kaye

Th 4:10-6:00 | 4 Points
Prerequisites: Permission of the instructor. Enrollment limited to 15. Preregistration required. The evolution of scientific thinking from the 12th to the 16th centuries, considering subjects such as cosmology, natural history, quantification, experimentation, the physics of motion, and Renaissance perspective. At every point we link proto-scientific developments to social and technological developments in the society beyond the schools.

 

HIST BC4064: Medieval Science and Society | J. Kaye

Th 4:10-6:00 | 4 Points
Prerequisites: Permission of the instructor. Enrollment limited to 15. Preregistration required. The evolution of scientific thinking from the 12th to the 16th centuries, considering subjects such as cosmology, natural history, quantification, experimentation, the physics of motion, and Renaissance perspective. At every point we link proto-scientific developments to social and technological developments in the society beyond the schools.

 

SUST W3360: Natural Disasters and Sustainable Development | J. Mutter

T/Th 6:10-7:25 | 3 Points
This course investigates the impact of natural disasters on sustainable developing with emphasis on the role they may play in development countries. In the first decade of the 21st century an unusually large number of natural disasters – from earthquakes and associated tsunamis, to hurricanes floods and droughts — have struck across the world, affecting countries from the wealthiest and most openly governed to the poorest with failed, fragile or authoritarian governments. The socio-economic effects in all places affected by these disasters are still unfolding. Some seem to be deeply impacted while others have had relatively little lasting impact.

 

HIST W4993: Histories of Cold | R. Woods

T/TH 6:10-7:25 | 3 Points
This course investigates the impact of natural disasters on sustainable developing with emphasis on the role they may play in development countries. In the first decade of the 21st century an unusually large number of natural disasters – from earthquakes and associated tsunamis, to hurricanes floods and droughts — have struck across the world, affecting countries from the wealthiest and most openly governed to the poorest with failed, fragile or authoritarian governments. The socio-economic effects in all places affected by these disasters are still unfolding. Some seem to be deeply impacted while others have had relatively little lasting impact.

 

RELI W3601: Atoms and Eve: Exploring Science and Religion in America | C. Rock-Singer

3 Points
This course will explore central concepts at the intersection of science and religion, including knowledge, practice, community, agency, and the body. The course will begin by asking: What is science? What is religion? How should they be related? Students will then read a range of theoretical, anthropological, and historical texts that present points of contact, tensions, similarities, parallels, and conflicts between science and religion. There will be a special emphasis on case studies from the American context, and a final project will enable students to explore religion and science in New York City.

 


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