Housing Politics (Spring 2016; Community-Based Learning course, Undergraduate)
Housing is an essential human need, an enduring political issue, and a timely sociotechnical problem that many U.S. cities struggle to address. This Philadelphia-based course engages with local housing issues by taking into account how policy, design, and political economic legacies shape the current landscape. We will learn about the history of U.S. housing, noting how cities developed with regional differences; national policy will be used to frame comparative analysis. Philadelphia and its neighborhoods will serve as our case study. Students will learn how housing developed alongside industry, greenspaces, race, ethnic, and class politics, as well as public health mandates. As a hybrid course, at least half of our weekly class time will be spent in the field, learning about current Philadelphia housing issues from a variety of organizations across the city. Some current issues include vacant lot projects, homelessness, zoning, gentrification, healthy homes programs, energy efficiency, and debates over how to address aging rowhome stock. Course work will be based on weekly ethnographic journals, where students analyze topics in multimedia format.
Politics of Environmental Health (Spring 2016, Spring 2015, Winter, 2014; Undergraduate)
In this course, we will examine 1) current environmental health issues, 2) the social, economic, technoscientific, and political dynamics that produce environmental health conditions, and 3) the tools available to address these legacies as well as our future. Environmental health issues are notoriously difficult to address through research, regulation, and medical care. Students will examine how “environment” and “health” are defined by different stakeholders; how health is impacted by environment, and how environmental factors are addressed in healthcare settings; how scientists study human exposure in everyday environments and what institutions are responsible for regulating hazardous materials; and finally, how community health is impacted by pollution and what actions communities take to protect health. Using historical and contemporary case studies, students will engage with these questions at different scales of analysis, learning about the politics of knowledge, social movements, the medical establishment, and the ethics of health in late industrialism. The course is interdisciplinary and draws on approaches from multiple social science disciplines. Course readings come from public health, environmental studies, as well as the field of Science and Technology Studies.
Geographies of Health (Fall 2015; Graduate)
How does place shape our perspectives, experiences, and decisions about health? How do researchers produce knowledge about disease with location technologies? How are treatments conditioned by space? How does the rise of wellness culture privilege certain contexts and render others invisible? These questions highlight some of the geographic dimensions of health and disease that will be explored in this seminar.
Health is produced in place, shaping how we think about our bodies and others, what we do to get or stay healthy. Place is also intimately tied up with health outcomes, a perspective that is slowly moving into various sites of U.S. healthcare. Health-care happens in the home, hospital, and clinic, but also on the move. In the event of infectious disease outbreaks, quarantine protects the general population, but almost always in ways based on racial, ethnic, and class discrimination. In western cultures, the operating room gradually became a primary place to treat disease; today, more effort is spent on bringing care to patients in their homes. Location has always been a key metric in epidemiology; the advent of geographic information systems has made place-based analyses possible but also at times problematic. Its use is debated in the field of public health and related environmental health sciences. The rise of digital health technologies has made remote and mobile healthcare possible, creating new communication opportunities between patient and provider. Emerging health technologies are also reconditioning the role of patients, caregivers, and health providers, leading to a host of new ethical questions. As you can see: The place-based dimensions of health, illness, and care provide many opportunities for social analysis.
Health Politics (Fall 2015, Fall 2014; Undergraduate)
This course examines the structure and culture of health in the U.S., focusing on contemporary problems and debates. Through case studies, we will map out the historical, technical, political and scientific factors that shape contemporary health, learning key social science concepts and frameworks along the way. Case studies are drawn from a variety of contexts – smoking legislation, biosecurity, cancer care, AIDS research, the Affordable Care Act, urban and environmental health, pharmaceuticalization, and health informatics. Students will grapple with these issues through different analytic lenses: bodies, identities, institutions, policies, and what counts as evidence.
Biopolitics of Health (Fall 2014; Graduate)
“Biopolitics” is a core social science framework for thinking through how contemporary life is defined and governed. From individual and family to social group and population, biopolitical mechanisms have been observed across cultural scales, institutions, and contexts. Core life decisions, how we work and play, and move through social spaces (or not) are implicitly embedded with and structured by biopolitics. Health, medicine, and disease are rich with biopolitical operations, and an critical site for social science analyses. How we care for ourselves and others is a key nexus for biopolitical investigation; this nexus includes social and political institutions that govern, supply, and create possibilities for health. Global assemblages and neoliberal policies are, of course, part of the mix. Course readings move from the theoretical origins of biopolitics (Foucault) to key commentators (Agamben, Achille, Hardt and Negri) and then on to contemporary issues, contexts, and fields where scholars have elaborated on biopolitics in practice: cancer wards, the heroin epidemic, HIV research, reproductive technologies, the human genome project, global pharmaceutical markets, the science of obesity, and end-of-life care.
Technoscientific Bodies (Winter 2014; Graduate)
This course examines how bodies have been rendered by science, technology, and medicine in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Course modules are organized around enduring and emerging concepts in STS – labor, populations, difference, information, cyborgs, species, and ethics. Through assigned readings, we will explore the theoretical and methodological traditions (in the social sciences and humanities) that investigate the body, getting a rich sense of the field of STS. We will work to question, de-tangle, and discuss contemporary technoscientific issues regarding bodies – dementia, reproductive technologies, virtual worlds, health risks, research ethics, and pharmaceuticalization – and how STS analysis lend insight into their dynamics.