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Viewing: STSC 219 O: Race, Sci, & Global

Last approved: Mon, 07 Oct 2019 19:34:21 GMT

Last edit: Mon, 07 Oct 2019 19:25:17 GMT

First Name Last Name Userid Title Home School Org Short Name
Ann Greene angreene Coordinator B School of Arts and Sciences History and Sociology of Science
Spring 2020 (Deactivations ONLY)
Fall 2019
Race, Sci, & Global
This course examines how the practice of sorting humans into distinct races is connected to the rise of modern science and to the economic globalization sparked by Columbus' arrival in the Americas in 1492. By examining the trajectory of race in science from the Iberian conquest of the Americas until the present, we will examine the ways in which colonial logics and structures persist into the present and the ways they've been disrupted by various revolutionary, anti-colonial, and anti-racist movements. Along the way, we will observe how cultural ideas about race have been woven into the conceptual fabric of modern scientific disciplines such as anthropology, biology, psychology, and sociology and how these disciplines have sought to redeem themselves from their racist pasts.
HSOC 219 - Race, Science, and Globalization
Every Other Term

Sector Requirements

Your department or program fields a variety of courses to meet distinct educational needs. Please explain how this course fits into your department's plan for participating in the general education curriculum of the College. The sector panel will want to know what is distinctive about this course along with the other courses your department lists in the sector that makes them suitable for the sector requirement.
The course falls squarely under humanities and social sciences and will teach method-related skills. The subject matter is pertinent and is sure to draw much interest from the Penn student body. Dr. Gil-Riano is an expert precisely on this topic and will likely keep offering this course for years to come.
One-term course offered either term
Humanities & Social Science Sector
Sebastian Gil-Riano
Standing Faculty
Standing Faculty
Undergraduate elective for STSC major (Majors are required to take 7 of these electives)
Understanding and historicizing conceptions of race
Considering implications of these for present and future society

Methods of Assessment

5 precis of readings (500 words max)
5 postings (paragraph length 300 words max) on historical actors from the readings
1 critical commentary on secondary source (5 minutes in class)
1 short essay on a primary source (1500 words)
1 final essay - critical analysis of course themes (2500 words)
no exams
class participation

Sector I - Society


Sector II - History and Tradition


Sector III - Arts & Letters


Sector IV - Humanities and Social Science

Through lectures, in-class discussions, field trips and assignments the course will ask students to analyze how scientific theories about race have been put into practice in different times and places. The course will thus provide students with a historical framework for assessing the risks involved in adopting racial classifications in scientific and medical studies. By learning how race has been theorized in the past, students will develop greater awareness of how structural and historical forces continue to shape interactions between different sectors of society. Through a group assignment that asks students to do research on how the history of race science is present in Philadelphia, the course also prompts students to think about the structures that their education is embedded in and what they think is an appropriate response.
This course gives students the opportunity to reflect on how abstract racial categories are given concrete shape through the practices of scientific experts. Among the practices that the course examines are the collection and measurement of human crania, medical examinations of racialized bodies, the creation of pedigree trees by eugenicists, the collection of blood and tissue samples by geneticists, and the collection of ethnographic and sociological data by social scientists. By situating these practices within their historical context, the courses prompts students to analyze how scientific practices are shaped by societal structures.
One of the course’s basic premises is that race is both a product of history and a necessary category of social analysis. Students will use approaches from the humanities – such as close reading of primary sources and writing synthetic essays – to learn how and why scientific experts previously conceptualized racial differences as biological in nature. Students will also engage closely with arguments from social science disciplines – notably cultural anthropology, sociology, and social psychology – which suggest that race is not biological and is instead a product of the economic and political interests of different sectors of society. The course will situate these arguments about race as a social construct within the history of the social sciences. By teaching students how racial thought has changed over time, the course will allow students to integrate approaches from the history of science into ongoing debates within social disciplines.
The course places creative practices like writing, fine arts, and music in an interpretive context by examining the role played by museums and the entertainment industry in creating racial taxonomies and commodifying racial identities. For instance, the course examines the European standards of beauty, femininity, and masculinity used by historical actors to create racial hierarchies and to objectify non-European bodies. Similarly, the course examines how those objectified by racial classifications exerted their agency through performances that subverted and complicated the racial identities ascribed to them. To address issues of creative practice, the course examines examples like the Las Castas Paintings of the eighteenth century, the history of human exhibits in zoos, circuses, world’s fairs, and museums, and the popularization of eugenics in the twentieth century. It also considers examples like the photographs of the “American Negro” compiled by the sociologist W.E.B. Dubois for the Paris exhibit in 1900 as counter-discourses that confronted the status quo.

Sector V - Living World


Sector VI - Physical World


Sector VII - Natural Sciences and Mathematics


Administrative Field

College Humanities and Social Science Panel
Bekir Küçük (kucuk) (Fri, 06 Sep 2019 16:52:04 GMT): The course falls squarely under humanities and social sciences and will teach method-related skills. The subject matter is pertinent and is sure to draw much interest from the Penn student body. Dr. Gil-Riano is an expert precisely on this topic and will likely keep offering this course for years to come.
Molly Mcglone (mmcglone) (Mon, 07 Oct 2019 19:25:17 GMT): The committee thought this was a good course and fit the sector IV goals very well. Please consider editing the syllabus so that students can explicitly see that the course is interdisciplinary in nature and to outline the goals related to sector IV.
Key: 581