STS Colloquium Series

Spring Semester 2023

Friday, Feb. 10, 2-4 pm, Zoom

"Critical Approaches to Science and Religion"

A dialogue featuring Myrna Perez Sheldon (Ohio University), Terence Keel (UCLA), and Ahmed Ragab (Johns Hopkins)

Moderated by Debbie Weinstein (American Studies, STS) and Daniel Vaca (Religious Studies)

Thursday, March 16, noon

Nicholson House, 71 George Street

Kristina Lyons (Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Environmental Humanities, University of Pennsylvania)

"The memory and mourning of water: Reimagining a fractured Andean-Amazonian fluvial corridor"

Thursday, March 23, noon

Nicholson House, 71 George Street

Nicole Starosielski (Associate Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, NYU)

"Southern Networks and New Infrastructure Imaginaries"

Co-sponsored by the Department of Modern Culture and Media

Thursday, April 6, noon

Lawrence Bradley (Geography/Geology Department, University of Nebraska, Omaha)

Co-sponsored with the Departments of History and Earth & Planetary Sciences

Thursday, April 20, noon

Nicholson House, 71 George Street

Elaine Gan (Assistant Professor of Science in Society and Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Wesleyan)

Fall Semester 2022

Thur, Dec. 1, noon (Zoom)

Rena Selya (Center for Social Medicine, UCLA, and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center) 

Blacklisted from federal funding review panels but awarded a Nobel Prize for his research on bacteriophage, biologist Salvador Luria (1912–1991) was as much an activist as a scientist. In Salvador Luria: An Immigrant Biologist in Cold War America, Rena Selya draws on extensive archival research; interviews with Luria’s family, colleagues, and students; and FBI documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act to create a compelling portrait of a man committed to both science and society.

Luria was born in Italy, where the Fascists came to power when he was ten. He left Italy for France due to the antisemetic Laws of 1938, and then fled as a Jewish refugee from Nazi Europe, making his way to the United States. Once an American citizen, Luria became a grassroots activist on behalf of civil rights, labor representation, nuclear disarmament, and American military disengagement from the Vietnam and Gulf Wars. Luria joined the MIT faculty in 1960 and was the founding director of the Center for Cancer Research. Throughout his life he remained as passionate about his engagement with political issues as about his science.


Thur, Nov. 10, noon (in person), Nicholson House, 71 George Street
Xan Chacko (STS, Brown): "From Data to Value in the 'Empty Fields' of Seed Banking"
Within my larger project on the history and practices of seed banking for conservation and food security, this paper focuses attention on the role that data play in understanding and maintaining collections of living things. With clashing systems of classification, I show the archival strategies used to sort and store meta information about the plants. I ask, How do varying forms of relating to data prioritize plants, traits, and genes differently? Moreover, I dwell on the tenuous relationship between the physical objects that are stored in the banks and the data about them that are stored on servers. The complex systems that structure the data around banked seeds affect the security of the collection and the usefulness of the collection in the future. I am inspired to think with Marianna Hovhannisyan's ('22-'23 Pembroke Postdoctoral Fellow) conceptual framing of 'empty fields' in the context of museum collections as a productive way to think through the elisions of knowledge produced by the datafication of seeds in the vault.


Spring Semester 2022

Banu Subramaniam, "Decolonizing Botany"
Thursday, April 21, 1 pm
Sharpe House, room 125 (79 Brown Street)

Banu Subramaniam is Professor and Chair of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at UMass Amherst.  She is the author of the award-winning books Ghost Stories for Darwin: The Science of Variation and the Politics of Diversity (2014) and Holy Science: The Biopolitics of Hindu Nationalism (2019), as well as numerous articles and co-edited volumes.  Her talk will draw on her current book project, "Decolonizing Botany."

Abstract: What does it mean to do botany as a feminist?  Drawing on recent interdisciplinary scholarship, I show how gender, race, class, sexuality, and nation shape the foundational language, terminology, and theories of modern botany, and how botany remains grounded in the violence of its colonial pasts. Decolonizing Botany reckons with these difficult origins and lays a roadmap that brings scholarship from the humanities and the sciences to reimagine the practices of experimental biology.

How to Make a Copy: Precision, Plenitude, and the Work of Image Reproduction
Mal Ahern, Assistant Professor of Cinema and Media Studies, University of Washington

Thursday, April 14, 12:00 - 1:30
Sharpe House Room 125

Mass media relies on the large-scale reproduction of pictures through mechanical and electronic means. This talk imagines image reproduction as a site of social and aesthetic struggle. In the United States at midcentury, new forms of automation threatened to displace skilled workers in printing pressrooms, film laboratories, and projection booths. Cybernetic theories and new computation technologies collided with craft techniques, leaving visible traces across the supposedly uniform mass image. Misprints and distortions revealed the image’s formal infrastructure in disjointed layers, swarms of dots, and hallucinogenic flicker. Drawing on examples from the end of World War II to the advent of computer graphics in the 1970s, this talk will show that historical struggles over image reproduction can help us reframe later pushes towards digitization and media convergence. The emergence of the digital image in the late 20th century was perhaps the ultimate means of automating the work of image reproduction.

Mal AhernMal Ahern


Thursday, Feb. 10, 12:00 - 1:00
Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, "Black Feminist Physics"

On Zoom - Registration Required:

Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is an assistant professor of physics and astronomy and core faculty in women’s and gender studies at the University of New Hampshire. Originally from East L.A., Dr. Prescod-Weinstein is a graduate of Harvard College, University of California — Santa Cruz, and the University of Waterloo. One of under 100 Black American women to earn a PhD from a department of physics, she is a theoretical physicist with expertise in particle physics, cosmology, and astrophysics, with an emphasis on dark matter.

In addition, Dr. Prescod-Weinstein is a theorist of Black feminist science, technology, and society studies, and a monthly columnist for New Scientist. Her research and advocacy for marginalized people in physics and astronomy have won multiple awards, and her first book, The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred, is now available from Bold Type Books.

Mark your calendars for future events:

April 21 Noon:  Banu Subramaniam University of Massachusetts, Amherst
"Decolonizing Botany"

Fall Semester 2021

Reflections on Choreorobotics (Professors Sydney Skybetter and Stephanie Tellex)

Thursday, October 7th at noon.

Reflections on ChoreoroboticsReflections on Choreorobotics









Spring Semester 2021

Reflections on Gaming and STS

Wednesday, April 17th at noon.

Please join us for a conversation between Kiri Miller and Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo

Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo is a Gateway Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Music at Brown and postdoctoral fellow at the Cogut Institute for the Humanities, where she teaches courses in rap songwriting and feminist sound studies.  She earned her Ph.D. in Science & Technology Studies from Cornell University in 2019. Her doctoral research explores the politics of community-studios, a term she has developed for fixed and mobile recording studios that prioritize working with artists from “underserved” communities as well as women and non-binary artists with the goal of providing these groups with free and low-cost recording services and education. In addition to her research and pedagogical practice, she also performs original music as a producer and rapper under the moniker Sammus. In 2019 she began working as an audio director at Glow Up Games, an R&D game studio responsible for developing a rap composition video game based on the HBO scripted series "Insecure." Drawing on her experience working on the game, her forthcoming research will focus on the challenges of designing rap composition tools that prioritize hip-hop heads and gamers while engaging with broader cultural conversations about problematic yet ubiquitous phenomena like “digital blackface,” “blackfishing,” and the “blaccent” as they are performed and circulated on apps like TikTok and Instagram.

Kiri Miller is Professor of American Studies at Brown. Her work focuses on participatory culture, popular music, interactive digital media, and virtual/visceral performance practices. Her latest book, Playable Bodies: Dance Games and Intimate Media (Oxford, 2017), investigates how dance video games teach choreography, remediate popular music, invite experimentation with gendered and racialized movement styles, and stage domestic surveillance as intimate recognition. It was awarded the Alan Merriam Book Prize from the Society for Ethnomusicology and the Dance Studies Association de la Torre Bueno Prize. Her previous monographs are Playing Along: Digital Games, YouTube, and Virtual Performance (Oxford, 2012) and Traveling Home: Sacred Harp Singing and American Pluralism (Illinois, 2008).

Save the date for a future event: Reflections on Art, Poetry, and STS

Wednesday, March 17 at noon

Professors Lindsay Caplan (History of Art and Architecture) and Ada Smailbegovic (English) in conversation about art, poetry, and STS

Zoom link for March 17:


Thursday, October 29, 12-1 pm: Expertise and the Pandemic:

Reflections from the anthropology and history of medicine

Please join us for a conversation between Katherine Mason and Deborah Levine about STS, expertise, and the Covid-19 pandemic. 
--Katherine Mason is the Vartan Gregorian Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Brown University and author of the award-winning book, Infectious Change: Reinventing Chinese Public Health after an Epidemic. Prof. Mason has written several articles about SARS and Covid-19, including in Current History and Fieldsights, and she is the co-lead investigator for the Pandemic Journaling Project
--Deborah Levine is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management at Providence College. A historian of medicine who regularly writes and teaches on health policy, Prof. Levine has recently drawn on insights from the history of medicine in articles in the Washington Post about vaccines and low-tech technologies for managing Covid-19.