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Science and technology are at the heart of many of the most pressing legal and social problems of our day: climate change, war, disease prevention, state and corporate surveillance, ‘post-truth’ politics, the Uberisation of everything. Likewise, legal institutions rely heavily on scientific claims for their legitimacy and technical innovations for their social and political effects. This subject takes a critical look at these dynamics, using both historical and contemporary examples to explore the complex relations between law, science and power. In doing so it asks: How do scientific discoveries and their technological applications shape our social and legal worlds? And how do law and society affect scientific and technological developments in turn?
The overall aim of this subject is to equip students from diverse disciplinary backgrounds with the analytical and critical tools necessary to understand and respond to complex questions of science and technology in all their legal, social, political, ethical, and cultural dimensions.
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has successfully completed this subject should have an understanding of the complex relations between law, science and power across both historical and contemporary contexts. Specifically, the student will be able to reflect on and evaluate:
- interdisciplinary approaches to the study of law, science and technology;
- the co-production of nature and culture, facts and values;
- science in the courts;
- science and the state;
- science and colonialism; and
- the 'constitutional' significance of science and technology to enable and constrain basic human possibilities.
In addition, a student will have obtained:
- understanding of foundational ideas from the fields of jurisprudence and science and technology studies;
- an appreciation of the challenges involved in regulating science and technology at a global scale;
- the capacity to conduct independent research about law's relationship with science and technology.
- in-depth knowledge of at least one case study discussed in class;
On completion of the subject the student should have:
- the capacity for close reading and analysis of a range of textual materials;
- the capacity to engage in critical thinking and to bring to bear a range of conceptual analyses upon a given subject matter;
- the capacity to articulate knowledge and understanding of complex ideas in oral and written form;
- an awareness of diversity and plurality;
- capacity for self-directed learning, specifically the ability to plan work and use time effectively; and
- capacity to judge the worth of their own arguments.
Last updated: 13 August 2022