Program in Science, Technology and Society

STS Colloquium Series

Feb 15 Laura Stark & Xan Chacko

Feb 22 Anne Fausto Sterling

Feb 29 Diana Pardo Pedraza (pre-circulated paper)

April 11 Sarah McCullough - Feminist Research Institute

April 18 Tasha Rijke-Epstein (pre-circulated paper)

April 25 Elaine Ayers

May 2 Arnon Levy


Feb 15 | Laura Stark & Xan Chacko 

4-5:30pm | Smith-Buonanno Hall 207

No thanks: Acknowledgment in Isis

This article undertakes a history of labor as seen through practice of acknowledgement in the journals of the History of Science Society. It situates the practice of acknowledgement within the broader historiography of science and documents what has been intentionally removed from Isis acknowledgements over the years. It focuses on the Isis editorial offices with special attention to the career of copy editor, Joan Vandegrift. Alongside a reading of select printed acknowledgements, this article offers an unprinted history of labor in the journal’s office. It shows how the history of acknowledgements in the Society’s journals echoes shifts in the field. Overall, the aim is to support better understanding, continued rewriting, and urgent transformation of the labor inequalities in our field.

Laura Stark is Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University’s Center for Medicine, Health, and Society, and Associate Editor of the journal History & Theory. She is author of Behind Closed Doors: IRBs and the Making of Ethical Research, which was published in 2012 by University of Chicago Press. 

Xan Chacko is Lecturer in STS at Brown University. She is the co-editor of Invisible Labour in Modern Science,  which was published in 2022 by Rowman and Littlefield.


Feb 22: Anne Fausto Sterling

“Chair’s Office” Seminar Room, 1st floor of Peter Green House



Current dogma has it that gender/sex identity somehow magically appears in young children between the ages of two and three years. Before that there was nothing, after that a static and monopole sense of self. And in any normative description the model child is assumed to be white. But this belief is almost certainly wrong. Identity is continuous, dynamic and cumulative and culturally varied. The infant, from birth or perhaps even earlier, starts to accumulate subjective experiences that ultimately contribute to identity formation. It is time to understand how we came to believe in fixed, normative, racially constricted, binary gender/sex/uality, and why it is no longer a useful approach to understanding development.


Feb 29 | Diana Pardo Pedraza

Noon-1pm | Conde Room, Nicholson House 

Containing Minefields: From Matters of Fear to Matters of Fact

Within Colombia’s decades-long armed conflict, improvised landmines have sown suspicion in the countryside. Deployed irregularly by rebel groups, these explosive devices have not only turned rural areas into “explosive fields” but also into unsettling “landscapes of suspicion.” This presentation delves into the widely adopted demining approach of Land Release, focusing particularly on its pivotal initial step—the Non-Technical Survey (NTS). I examine the technical processes and inscriptional devices through which a rather odd group of demining collaborators attempts to contain landmine-related suspicions by creating landscapes of certainty. These are spaces where the presence or absence of explosive devices is established as a fact, not as a “matter of fear,” as a demining technician put it. While the latter refers to local communities’ affective experiences of uncertainty, the former signifies the fabrication of a conclusive reality of explosive violence. 

Dr. Pardo Pedraza is an assistant professor of anthropology and international affairs at the George Washington University and a 2023=24 Fellow at the Harvard Radcliffe institute. Her ethnographic research focuses on improvised explosive devices and mine clearance and explores (de)militarized landscapes, humanitarian relations of care, and post-conflict politics.

This colloquium is a work in progress where we hope to solicit feedback from the audience. 

Please register here if you would like to receive the draft chapter. (


April 11 | Sarah McCullough

Noon-1pm | Conde Room, Nicholson House 

Title: Feminist STS as a Tool for Training Justice-Motivated Scientists

This talk will discuss the Asking Different Questions program, a research training designed to provide a broader swath of scientists with literacy in STS, particularly feminist and critical race STS. These fields offer insights into how histories of oppression such as colonialism, patriarchy and white supremacy continue to influence scientific practice today. They also offer alternative approaches and methodologies that can better address the reality of bias in research. The result is scientists motivated to transform their fields into spaces welcoming to more just and equitable research.

The integration of STS and scientific practice has the potential to strengthen the validity of science and account for long-neglected expertise coming from those historically excluded from research. Many feminist STS scholars were trained as scientists and found traditional scientific practice to be unwelcoming to alternative modes of knowledge production. Have we reached a point where feminist and justice-oriented scientists with an STS lens can continue to work in science and even flourish? 

Sarah Rebolloso McCullough, PhD, is the Associate Director at the Feminist Research Institute and Director of the Environmental Justice Leaders Program at UC Davis, where she applies her expertise in ethnographic methods, discourse and power analysis, and science & technology studies to create research partnerships between social science/humanities scholars, STEM researchers, and community partners. Her two major project are running a research training program that teaches feminist STS to justice-driven STEM researchers and studying mobility justice She earned her PhD in Cultural Studies with a designated emphasis in Feminist Theory & Research at UC Davis.


April 25: Elaine Ayers

Noon-1:30pm | Conde Room, Nicholson House 

Moss as Medium: Colonial Plant Transportation and the Materiality of Movement"

While historians of colonial natural history have long described how plants, animals, and other “natural” specimens were culled and collected in the field and, in turn, ordered and displayed at “centralized” institutions like museums, herbaria, and botanical gardens, few have considered the material media facilitating those processes of global shipping and circulation. Acting as a natural technology that functioned much like the modern packing noodle, moss—that commonplace, ancient, and mundane group of miniscule plants—was used to safely cushion more “valuable” specimens like cinchona saplings, taxidermied birds of paradise, and fragile porcelain across oceans. Gathered in one environment and “invisibly” transported to various locations via glass case or wooden crate, either ignored or interpreted in its own right by colonial naturalists, moss drove the global transformation of rainforests into monocultured plantations, the displacement of species into radically new environments, and the exploitative hoarding of objects in colonial institutions.


May 2nd: Arnon Levy

Noon-1:30pm | Conde Room, Nicholson House 

Values in science: a plea for pessimism

Recent philosophy of science has seen a retreat from the once-dominant value-free ideal for science – the notion that scientists should conduct research without appealing to moral, social and political considerations. There are several sources for this. Among them: feminist philosophers of science have argued that scientific knowers are inherently situated and their work must therefore be value-laden. The fact that “thick” concepts and “mixed claims” are central to many areas of science is seen as necessitating value judgments by scientists. Perhaps most prominently, the argument from inductive risk has convinced even relatively conservative philosophers that scientists must rely on values to manage tradeoffs among different sorts of error. 

While I accept that these arguments present formidable challenges to the feasibility of the value-free ideal, I aim to challenge the current consensus on two important fronts. First, I think that the value-laden picture seriously understates the dangers of a world in which scientists make value judgements, specifically in the course of ongoing work. The relative ideological homogeneity of present-day Anglo-Saxon academia makes this somewhat harder to appreciate, so I illustrate the worry with examples from other times and places. Second, I stress the ways in which the value-free ideal is an ideal, a normative standard. I urge that we take seriously the difference between refuting an ideal and showing how hard, or even virtually impossible, it is to meet. We should compare the merits of value-freedom to those of other ideals, and in doing so, we should make fairly pessimistic assumptions about how well individual working scientists will live up to them.