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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Postgrad (School of Social and Political Studies)

Postgraduate Course: Gender, Science and Technology (PGSP11217)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis class presents and explores key concepts, theoretical approaches, issues and studies from research in feminist science and technology studies (STS). In broad terms, the class examines how the social phenomena of gender, science and technology are interrelated, and how they shape each other in dynamic and complex ways. Much of the class¿ material deals with the historical and present-day gender-based inequities that exist in science, technology, engineering and medicine. More importantly, the class reveals how these professions are involved in crafting our understanding of men and women, maleness and femaleness, and masculinity and femininity. We also examine how the human-made material world is implicated in the gender social order, helping to perpetuate dominant ideas and expectations of men and women. Last, we consider the role of feminism as a political endeavour in the study and doing of science and technology.

Gender, Science and Technology (GST) can be taken as a standalone class, but it is designed to rely on some basic lessons about science and technology from Semester 1 courses offered by STIS. While it is not necessary to have taken these to complete GST successfully, these courses can prove to be good preparation for the material covered here. Similarly, there is no need for previous training in gender or feminist studies, although some rudimentary understanding may prove useful. Ultimately, the class aims to provide enough material¿in lectures and readings¿to introduce students to key feminist STS research. In summary: this course requires no prior knowledge of gender, science and technology, although previous familiarity with STS and/or gender studies is useful.
Course description Gender, Science and Technology gives students the opportunity to explore how the social phenomena of gender, science and technology are interrelated, and how they shape each other in dynamic and complex ways. The class uses sociological, historical and philosophical perspectives to investigate the powerful gender politics of technoscience. Students learn about a wide range of issues, such as: how the sciences are involved in crafting our understanding of men and women, maleness and femaleness, and masculinity and femininity; how everyday technological artefacts like smartphones help perpetuate dominant ideas and expectations of men and women; and how feminist activism can engage with science and technology. Upon completing the class, students will understand how gender threads through all of society, including sciences commonly understood as free from biases, and technologies that are seemingly neutral objects. Gender, Science and Technology requires no previous training in gender or feminist studies, nor does it require training in science and technology.

Outline content

Week 1: Introduction and beginnings
Before starting our look at the relationship between gender, science and technology, it is necessary to understand basic ideas. In this lecture, we will discuss the two key social orders we will examine: sex and gender. These two terms are most often misunderstood and misused. We will develop a fundamental understanding of the relationship between these two very different social phenomena. We will also discuss feminism and its relationship to the study of gender, science and technology.

Week 2: Science and the sexual binary
We tend to think that men and women are 'obviously' and 'naturally' different, because sexual differences are not of our making. In reality, the idea that there exists an essential difference between the sexes is wrong. During this lecture, we use historical case studies to examine the way in which the sciences, and especially the biological and medical sciences, have constructed the idea of the sex binary. We also discuss how such knowledge contributes to ongoing beliefs about what men and women are 'naturally' capable of doing and not doing.

Week 3: Feminist epistemologies of science
Feminist epistemology asks two questions. First, how does the male dominance of scientific research influence the type of knowledge produced by that research? Second, is it possible to develop a practice of knowledge-making that incorporates feminist principles? In this lecture, we think about how beliefs about masculinity and femininity find their way into scientific facts. We also examine the concept of 'standpoint epistemologies' and how we can advance the cause of gender equality using scientific knowledge.

Week 4: Gender and environment
In week 4, we study 'ecofeminism,' a contested and even controversial theory and movement that looks at the relationship between gender and the environment. In doing so, we will bring our discussion right up to date to current calls for renewing academic interest in the relationship between gender and environment in order to address contemporary environmental problems such as climate change.

Week 5: Engineering and masculinity (and engineering masculinities)
Engineering is one of the most gendered professions in many modern societies. In week 5, we study how engineering was born and developed as a type of work done by men, and only men. We examine the notion of 'hegemonic masculinities,' and consider how ideas about the ideal engineer and interwoven with ideas about the ideal man. Together, these two topics provide us with the necessary understanding to make sense of the shockingly low number of women professionally practicing engineering, and our everyday assumptions about who is qualified to build our technologies.

Week 7: The gendering of technological things
We tend to think of our material things as neutral objects, but technological things are in fact tremendously political. In this lecture, we explore how technological artefacts are 'gendered.' That is, how technological artefacts are labelled as masculine or feminine things. We use the idea of 'co-production of gender and technology' to unpack the gender politics of our technologies and to find
the politics embedded into the human-made material world that surrounds us. Using several compelling case studies, we will arrive at two key lessons: first, all are gendered; second, the mundane stuff of the world has great political power.

Week 8: Gender, technology and work
In two previous lectures, we examined how gender shapes technological work and artefacts. Here, we discuss work more broadly, and how gendered technologies shape our ideas and experiences of that work. First, we tackle the role that technology has played in our modern understanding and experiences of housework. We explore how technologies can be marketed as liberating along gendered lines and ultimately have the opposite results, again on gendered lines. We then learn about how gender politics shape our understanding of who does what, and what types of work deserve value.

Week 9: Gender and reproductive technologies
Reproduction and sexuality are fundamentally important to understanding gender, and reproductive technology have been important topics of study for those concerned with gender and technology. This week looks at reproductive technologies (such as oral contraceptives) that have been shaped by our ideas about gender, and they in turn shape what we think about gender and sexuality.

Week 10: Gender and ICTs
Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are everywhere. They are economically and symbolically important. They are continuously changing. ICTs also matter greatly with regard to gender. In this lecture, we study ICT work and technologies. We use ideas about 'hegemonic masculinities' and 'co-production' from earlier weeks to examine these topics. We then explore present-day efforts to address gender inequities in computer science education, and how ICTs can be used to play with our gender identities.

Week 11: Science, technology and feminist praxis
Ultimately, feminism is a political movement. Feminist studies, including feminist STS, hope to serve a particular end: the abolition of sex-, gender-, and sexuality-based discrimination. This final lecture asks how feminist STS can contribute to feminist praxis. To do so, we draw on case studies, research agendas, and a tremendously influential manifesto.

Gender, Science and Technology is designed for students interested in unpacking accepted ideas and finding new ways to think about gender and technoscience. It is taught through lectures and seminars. The latter involves extended discussions intended for students to hone their critical thinking skills by dismantling each week¿s ideas. The seminars are a crucial part of the class. As such, attendance is required, and forms part of the final mark.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. have an understanding of the gender and sex as concepts in social and political studies, as well as they relationship between the two.
  2. have a substantive understanding of the key issues in feminist science and technology studies, the prominent pieces of writing, as well as the most important theoretical framework and arguments in the field.
  3. understand how the human-made material world is gendered in a variety of ways.
  4. understand how science and technology have contributed to our understanding of the sexual binary and are implicated in creating and sustaining the gender social order.
  5. have developed an ability to make use of key theoretical approaches in feminist STS, both in written work and in oral discussion.
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Additional Class Delivery Information This course will be delivered through a 10-week lecture and seminar discussion format. Each three-hour session will involve a one-hour lecture and a 90-minute discussion session, separated by a short recess. The lectures will introduce the material, examine the readings and draw key lessons about that week and its relationship to feminist STS more broadly. The discussion session will involve a short student-led presentation and group exploration of the readings. Discussion is a key element of this class.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Sarah Parry
Tel: (0131 6)50 6389
Course secretaryMr Dave Nicol
Tel: (0131 6)51 1485
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