Not available in 2020/21
SO4B6      Half Unit
Nature and Technology: More than Human Sociology

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Carrie Friese STC.S213


This course is available on the MSc in Culture and Society, MSc in Economy, Risk and Society and MSc in Sociology. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

The premise of this course is that, to understand social life, we need to go beyond human subjects to also consider our relations with other living species and inanimate things. In this course we will explore how the more than human social world can be theorised, thus providing an alternative to the twin modernist notions of nature as the grounds for society as well as technology as the human construction of the material world. The theorists we will read in this course are largely located within Science and Technology Studies, and may include: Karen Barad, Vinciane Despret, Donna Haraway, Bruno Latour, Maria Puig de la Bellacasa and/or Isabelle Stengers. Drawing on these theorists, we will ask how entities like cells and microbes or plants and animals or digital and mechanical technologies shape human social life. Examples may be in the fields of: (re)production, infectious diseases, weather and climate, health care provision and/or commodity supply chains. We will explore how more than human perspectives on these processes reshapes sociological understandings of capitalism/post-capitalism, power and biopolitics, humanitarianism and rights, and/or inequalities. Through these theories and empirical case studies, across the course we will ask what it means to be human today, and we will probe the ethics involved in living together in power laden, affective relations with other species and things in remaking the planet.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the LT.

Formative coursework

Essay plan of 1,500 words due in Week 9 of Lent Term. This should include: a provisional thesis statement, an essay outline and an annotated bibliography.

Indicative reading

  • Barad, Karen. (2007) Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham: Duke University Press.
  • Chakrabarti, Pratik. (2012) Bacteriology in British India: Laboratory Medicine and the Tropics. Rochester: University of Rochester Press.
  • Elias, Ann. (2019) Coral Empire: Underwater Oceans, Colonial Tropics, Visual Modernity. Durham: Duke University Press.
  • Haraway, Donna J. (2016) Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press.
  • Kohn, Eduardo. (2013) How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human. Berkeley: UC Press.
  • Latour, Bruno. (2018) Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime. Cambridge: Polity.
  • Oudshoorn, Nelly. (2016) Telecare Technologies at the Transformation of Healthcare. London: Palgrave.
  • Puig de la Bellacasa. (2017) Matters of Care: Speculative Ethics in the More than Human Worlds. Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press.
  • Tsing, Anna. (2017) The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Vora, Kalindi and Neda Atanasoski. (2019) Surrogate Humanity: Race, Robots, and the Politics of Technological Futures. Durham: Duke University Press.


Essay (90%, 4000 words) in the ST.
Class participation (10%) in the LT.

Each student will sign up to lead the seminar discussion on two different weeks. This will be done in groups of 2-3 students. The group is to submit a 500 word plan for the seminar discussion, including introductory comments and discussion question. The best mark from the two will be taken as the summative class participation mark.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Sociology

Total students 2019/20: 16

Average class size 2019/20: 8

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication