Health Sciences 4Y03: Science, Culture and Identity
Dr. Ryan Wiley
Mondays, 08:30 to 11:20
The authority of science derives from the presumed objectivity, social
detachment and universality of scientific knowledge. However, critics argue that because scientific
institutions are embedded cultural constructs, the knowledge they produce is very much a reflection
of social organization, priority and power. This political understanding of science has translated into
fertile critiques of science from feminist, queer, ethnic and religious perspectives, which invite us to
reflect on how science identifies itself and how we identify with science. Through selected readings
and discussion, this course will explore some of these critiques and will appraise the challenge they
present to scientific authority.
First and foremost, this is an inquiry-based course. The objective, therefore, is to get you to engage
with science as a social construct: to think about some of the ways in which scientific work is shaped
by cultural, political and economic forces; and to reflect on science as an ideological lens that can
focus or distort our understanding of the world.
The selected readings do follow a certain internal logic, with successive weeks’ readings building on
earlier themes, but they do not presume to be an exhaustive, coherent or balanced rendering of the
scholarly canon. They are, however,
. It is not the intention of this course to make you an
expert in the field of science studies; the objective is to debate and think deeply about the issues and
questions these fertile readings inspire.
We aim to achieve these objectives in two ways. During the first half of the term, our weekly
meetings will give you the chance to discuss the readings with your peers—to refine your thinking,
exorcise your prejudices and ask new questions. This exchange, in turn, will help you (either
individually or in small groups) to flesh out the inquiry question that will occupy you during the
second half of the semester.
Evaluation in this course will comprise two elements: (
) participation in class discussion (40%) and
) the completion of a final research project (60%). We (
“I” as “instructor” and “you” as
“students”) will share responsibility for evaluation.