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: 2017 Fall Graduate

Archive for 2017 Fall Graduate

GU4615: The Psychology of Culture and Diversity | V. J. Purdie-Vaughns

T 2:10-4:00

The instructor’s permission is required; some basic knowledge of social psychology is desirable. A comprehensive examination of how culture and diversity shape psychological processes. The class will explore psychological and political underpinnings of culture and diversity, emphasizing social psychological approaches. Topics include culture and self, culture and social cognition, group and identity formation, science of diversity, stereotyping, prejudice, and gender. Applications to real-world phenomena discussed.

BC3334: Science, State Power & Ethics | T. Halpin-Healy

Tu 4:10-6PM

A comparative study of science in the service of the State in the U.S., the former Soviet Union, Fascist Italy, and Nazi Germany during pivotal periods through the first half of the 20th century. Topics to be covered include the political and moral consequences of policies based upon advances in the natural sciences making possible the development of TNT, nerve gas, uranium fission and hydrogen fusion atomic bombs. Considers the tensions involved in balancing scientific imperatives, patriotic commitment to the nation-state, and universal moral principles and tensions faced by Robert Oppenheimer, Andrei Sakharov, Neils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg. Selected readings include: Michael Frayn’s play Copenhagen, Hitler’s Uranium Club by Jeremy Bernstein, Brecht’s Galileo, John McPhee’s The Curve of Binding Energy, Richard Rhodes’ The Making of the Atomic Bomb.

GU4645: Culture, Motivation and Prosocial Behavior | S. Komissarouk

W 2:10-4:00

Prerequisites: Some knowledge of Research Methods, Statistics, and Social Psychology, plus Instructor’s Permission. Reviews and integrates current research on three important topics of social psychology: culture, motivation, and prosocial behavior. Discussions and readings will cover theoretical principles, methodological approaches, and the intersection of these three topics. Students will write a personal research proposal based on the theories presented during the seminar.

EEEB: History of American Ecology & Environmentalism | S. Tjossem

T 9:00-10:50AM

Ecology is a common but ambiguous term that has been used to address social, political and environmental problems. This lecture/discussion explores the history of ecology as a developing academic discipline and as a tool for social reform. We will explore various conceptions of nature and ecology in changing ideas of conservation, preservation, the Dust Bowl, the atomic age, growing environmentalism, and the current focus on biodiversity as one route to a sustainable society. We will look at how scientific information has been constructed and used in environmental debates over pollution and overpopulation and will question the utility of distinguishing between “first nature” (untouched by humans) and “second nature” (nature modified by humans). Along the way, we will address connections between environmentalism and nationalism, the relationship between environmental change and social inequality, the rise of modern environmental politics, and different visions for the future of nature.

GR8906: Craft and Science in the Early Modern World | P. Smith

M 10:10am to 2pm with required lab times through the semester

This course studies the materials, techniques, settings, and meanings of skilled craft and artistic practices in the early modern period (1350-1750), in order to reflect upon a series of issues, including craft knowledge and artisanal epistemology; the intersections between craft and science; and questions of historical methodology and evidence in the reconstruction of historical experience. The course will be run as a “Laboratory Seminar,” with discussions of primary and secondary materials, as well as text-based research and hands-on work in a laboratory. This course is one component of the Making and Knowing Project of the Center for Science and Society. This course contributes to the collective production of a transcription, English translation, and critical edition of a late sixteenth-century manuscript in French, Ms. Fr. 640. In 2014-15, the course concentrated on mold-making and metalworking. In 2015-16, it focused on color-making, including pigments, varnishes, cold enamels, dyes, imitation gems, and other color processes, and in 2016-17 on vernacular natural history and practical optics. Students are encouraged to take this course for both semesters (or more), but will receive full credit only once. Different laboratory work and readings will be carried out each semester. This course will also be open to a small number of select undergraduates, with instructor’s permission and an add/drop form.

GU4635: Science Fiction Poetics | M. Golston

MW 6:10-7:25PM


HISTUN 3911: Global Histories of Science | M. Elshakry and K. Sivaramakrishnan

M 2:10 – 4PM

This course will introduce advanced undergraduate and graduate students to problems and methods in the history of science from comparative, international and global perspectives. We consider a variety of conceptual and historical problems in the history of science from these different geopolitcal scales and through a number of case studies. Investigating the ways in which science, technology and medicine (STM) were variously adopted, reconfigured or resisted around the world, we also aim to consider how these examples might, in turn, shape our understanding of the different norms and paradigms in STM studies itself.

We have organized the course around a series of select conceptual and historical topics and themes. We begin with a discussion of how to define “global history” itself, including the genealogy of the term and its value as a heuristic category. We then move on to a series of themes, including: the international politics of infrastructure and of development; curing and caring, the environment and the politics of embodiment in comparative perspective; and finally, debates over international intellectual property rights and transparency and secrecy in STM research.

RELIW4616: Technology, Religion, Future | D. Kittay

TH 4:10-6PM

This seminar will examine the history of the impact of technology and media on religion and vice versa before bringing into focus the main event: religion today and in the future. We’ll read the classics as well as review current writing, video and other media, bringing thinkers such as Eliade, McLuhan, Mumford and Weber into dialogue with the current writing of Kurzweil, Lanier and Taylor, and look at, among other things: ethics in a Virtual World; the relationship between Burning Man, a potential new religion, and technology; the relevance of God and The Rapture in Kurzweil’s Singularity; and what will become of karma when carbon-based persons merge with silicon-based entities and other advanced technologies.


GU4321: Human Nature: DNA, Race & Identity | M. & R. Pollack

W 2:10-4:00 | 4 Points
The course focuses on human identity, beginning with the individual and progressing to communal and global viewpoints using a framework of perspectives from biology, genetics, medicine, psychiatry, religion and the law.
Link to Vergil

P8773: The Social History of American Public Health | D. Rosner

T 8:30 – 11:20AM

This course introduces students to the historical development of public health in the United States. The course traces the evolution of public health—as both a conceptual framework and a set of institutions and practices—from its beginnings in the sanitary reform movement of the nineteenth century to its status as a broad and expansive field at the end of the twentieth century. The course is organized chronologically and thematically. It provides an overview of the changing sources of morbidity and mortality in the United States over the past two centuries and the policies and practices that have been undertaken to limit disease and improve health across successive eras. Individual sessions of the course focus on critical issues and episodes that shaped this historical development. Some sessions center on significant diseases, such as tuberculosis, coronary heart disease, and AIDS; other sessions examine public health interventions, such as quarantine and health education; and others highlight populations considered to be especially vulnerable to illness, such as immigrants, racial and ethnic minority groups, and infants and children.

@The Center of Science and Society at Columbia University 2016
| Contact Us | Non-Discrimination | |