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Course Information

Instructor Info:Falguni Sheth
TA Info:Matthew McKeown
Term: 2014F
Meeting Info: Tuesday
09:00 AM - 11:50 AM Cole Science Center 101

In this course, we will explore technologies of violence and vulnerability. Philosophers and sociologists have considered technology in its multiple dimensions: legal, political, social, and phenomenological, to name a few. Each epoch brings with it either new formations of technology or new forms of awareness by which technology functions or can be deployed for societal management. Power, violence, vulnerability can be inflicted and challenged through technologies. For the purposes of this course, we will explore various understandings of technology—understood conceptually as vehicles or instruments by which to accomplish certain goals. We will look beyond immediate/concrete forms of technology to understand their implicit foundations origins in sovereignty and order, and their purposes—for management, vulnerability, and resistance.


For example, since the War on Terror was declared by the US government in 2001, the last decade has seen an increase in the deployment of drones: for remote assassinations, commercial use (such as Amazon and photographing Martha Stewart’s house); surveillance (as seen in the police manhunt for Charles Dorner in 2013 or to prevent clearcutting of trees in South American rainforests). Yet by focusing on drones exclusively, we lose track of the fact that they are not the only form of technology being deployed for the purposes of governmental management. Are drones really the source of violence, or are they the latest incarnation of remotely-deployed technology to engage in violence or population management, in the same way that chemical warfare was used in past epochs (as in the case of the Tuskegee Experiments, or the introduction of smallpox to American Indians)? Similarly, neoliberalism is not just an economic ideology, but also a technology of obfuscation, used to facilitiate certain narratives of success (“resilience,” “autonomy,” “freedom”) or failure by distracting us from other policies that manage various categories of people (drug wars, repeal of welfare, assistance to banksters, etc.)

Students are expected to have taken at least 2 entire courses in philosophy or political theory, and need to provide the course details.

Unless there are openings, I will make NO exceptions to this policy, even if students have had several classes with me but fewer than 2 philosophy courses. The reason is that I would like students to have a broad background in philosophy to bring to bear on the course readings--the broader, the better.

Students will participate through class presentations, active news reading, and outside research.  This course will be presentation-, writing-, reading- and research- intensive.  Please note that readings and assignments are subject to change. Please refer to syllabus/class (and NOT to course website) to prepare your assignments. Readings denoted by (cw) will be found on course website. Readings denoted by [*] are optional and highly recommended.