- The Committee for Interdisciplinary Science Studies - http://sciencestudies.gc.cuny.edu -

Past Seminars

2014-2015 Seminar: Natural Kinds

According to a popular metaphor, there are “joints in nature.” That is, some things in the world are divided into categories by nature rather than by human social practices. Examples include biological species (lions and tigers and bears), chemical elements and compounds, and even various human categories, such as sex and ethnic groups. The idea of natural joints has also been challenged in various domains, raising questions about how categories are formed: are they simply imposed by us or can some categories be described as natural?

In this seminar, we want to explore the status of natural kinds. Possible questions include:

2012–2013 Seminar: Nature/Culture

Biologists, social scientists, and humanities scholars have long been concerned with the relationship between the natural and the cultural. The Seminar gathers mid-career faculty members and advanced graduate students who are doing interdisciplinary research relating to this boundary. The seminar will address such questions as the following:

2011–2012 Seminar: Embodiment

Traditions of Science Studies have long provided a charter for interdisciplinary conversations about embodiment. We hope that this seminar will achieve a central goal of the Science Studies Committee by fostering critical friendships among scientists and humanists. Literary theory has long been exploring embodiment. Feminist theory, gender studies, queer theory, affect theory, and even earlier, prosodists analyzing sound and sense, all concerned with the centrality of embodied forms of knowing and expression, forecast current interest. Bringing insights from these fields in the humanities, into conversation with cutting-edge research from the sciences, promises to transform our understandings about embodiment. For example:

Spring 2011 Seminar: Mind & Nature

“We are parts of a living world,” writes Gregory Bateson in Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity (1979). That book helped to fuel interest in the issues that frame this year’s Science Studies theme:

Such issues have been approaches within a variety of different disciplines. Philosophers debate about whether minds are mere matter, and whether they are located within the brain or formed through ongoing interactions with the external world. Psychologists measure and model mental processes, and their their development over time. Neuroscientists are uncovering the microcircuits of perception and memory, as well as biological bases of our loftier aesthetic and moral values. Multispecies ethnographers are tracing how the minds and bodies of animals are being torqued by human political and economic systems. Anthropologists working in the Amazon are developing new ways of understanding cosmological systems that posit a spiritual unity and corporeal diversity in natural-cultural worlds. Social historians have investigated ideological upheavals that result from advances in technology. Biomedical ethicists track prosthetic and pharmacological “enhancements” that alter natural processes and create new subjectivities in the pursuit of ideals. Political scientists investigate ways in which institutions construct human identities and regulate the body. Art historians investigate the interplay between ideas of natural beauty and aesthetic aspirations. Bioartists make works out of living materials or inspired by natural processes. Literary scholars track changing concepts of human nature, gender differences, and the alleged natural dichotomies, such as reason and emotion.

All these different intellectual pursuits are fundamentally interdisciplinary because they explore relationships between things that can be investigated using a wide range of methodologies. The goal of this project is to foster conversations across fields about the relationship between mind and nature.