STS Circle at Harvard
Jill Lepore (Harvard, History) will present "The Past as Proof" as part of the STS Circle at Harvard lecture series.
Lunch is provided if you RSVP. Please RSVP via our online form before Thursday afternoon, January 28th.
Abstract: In the last decades of the twentieth century, literary scholars, intellectual historians, and historians of the law and of science became fascinated by epistemological questions about the means by which ideas about evidence police the boundaries between disciplines. This fascination produced invaluable interdisciplinary work on subjects like the history of truth and the rise of empiricism and of objectivity. For all the fascination with questions of evidence, though, very few scholars have investigated the nitty-gritty, stigmata-to-DNA history of the means by which, at different points in time, and across realms of knowledge, some things count as proof, and others don’t. This talk traces a key transformation in the history of evidence—the turn from “facts” to “data”—through a very nitty-gritty examination of a murder in Vermont in 1919.
Biography: Jill Lepore is the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History at Harvard University. She is also a staff writer at The New Yorker. In 2012, she was named Harvard College Professor, in recognition of distinction in undergraduate teaching. Much of Lepore's research, teaching, and writing explores absences and asymmetries of evidence in the historical record. Her books include The Name of War (1998), winner of the Bancroft Prize; New York Burning (2005), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; and Book of Ages (2013), Time magazine's Best Nonfiction Book of the Year, winner of the Mark Lynton History Prize and a finalist for the 2013 National Book Award for Nonfiction; and The Secret History of Wonder Woman (2014), a New York Times bestseller. Her next book, Joe Gould's Teeth, will be published in 2016.
The STS Circle at Harvard is a group of doctoral students and recent PhDs who are interested in creating a space for interdisciplinary conversations about contemporary issues in science and technology that are relevant to people in fields such as anthropology, history of science, sociology, STS, law, government, public policy, and the natural sciences. We want to engage not only those who are working on intersections of science, politics, and public policy, but also those in the natural sciences, engineering, and architecture who have serious interest in exploring these areas together with social scientists and humanists.
There has been growing interest among graduate students and postdocs at Harvard in more systematic discussions related to STS. More and more dissertation writers and recent graduates find themselves working on exciting topics that intersect with STS at the edges of their respective home disciplines, and they are asking questions that often require new analytic tools that the conventional disciplines don’t necessarily offer. They would also like wider exposure to emerging STS scholarship that is not well-represented or organized at most universities, including Harvard. Our aim is to try to serve those interests through a series of activities throughout the academic year.
The Harvard STS Circle is co-sponsored by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.