Spring 2024

Science and Politics: Michel Foucault and Bruno Latour

Listed in: Political Science, as POSC-429


Jaeyoon Park (Section 01)


In this course we explore the relations between science and politics. Are science and politics two distinct domains of life, and if so, what differentiates them? How do they interact? We know that policies can be based on scientific research, and that scientific priorities can be shaped by political motives. But does scientific research ever resemble politics? Can politics affect, not just scientific objectives, but the very content of knowledge or truth? We will explore these questions by studying two major theorists of science and politics: Michel Foucault and Bruno Latour. We will read both their philosophical and empirical work. One aim of the course is to build a vocabulary for discussing the many and complex relations between science and politics. A second aim is to ground this vocabulary in concrete examples. Studying Foucault’s histories of psychiatry, medical science, and criminology and Latour’s ethnographies of biological research and engineering will enable us to do both. Course texts include: Madness and Civilization, The Birth of the Clinic, Discipline and Punish (Foucault); and Science in Action, Politics of Nature, Down to Earth (Latour).

Requisite: at least two courses in political theory or philosophy. Limited to 20 students. Not open to first-year students. Spring semester. Visiting Assistant Professor Park.

How to handle overenrollment: Instructor will manage the roster.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Emphasis on written work, analytic reading, class discussion.


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2024