Summer 2024 - SA 365 D100

Selected Regional Areas (A) (4)

Science in Asia

Class Number: 3143

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    May 6 – Aug 2, 2024: Thu, 11:30 a.m.–2:20 p.m.

  • Instructor:

    Michael Hathaway
    Office Hours: Thursday 10:30-11:30 am and by appointment
  • Prerequisites:

    SA 101 or 150 or 201W.



An examination of selected aspects of the social structure, culture and the processes of social change in varying regional areas. The focus will vary from semester to semester.


Course topic: Science in Asia: Transnationalism, Gender and History

Science is a powerful force in the world, and many of us are taught that science is universal and "culture-free." We are told that it doesn't matter who creates and uses science, that its methods allow anyone in anyplace to know what is and what is not scientifically true. This course challenges those precepts, by looking at science as a cultural formation. We will examine the relationship of place, gender and history in questions of what science has been, is now, and will be in the future. Specifically, we will look at the question of science in Asia, both historically and in the contemporary period. We will ask what might an "Asian Science" look like? How does a post-colonial context change the way that science is imagined and practiced?  When did "science" emerge, and what makes it similar or different from other forms of knowledge? How might we think about “Science” in relation to “Indigenous Knowledge”?

This class will examine academic works, as well as popular writings and film to push us to look at current debates about science in the news, such as questions about HIV/AIDS testing, genetic cloning and stem-cell research. We will explore some of the broader issues in science studies scholarship, examining the gendered dynamics in scientific labor and how scientists' assumptions about reality shape their interests and experiments. The course will look at how forest ecologists in Japan and the US approach their work and carry out their research, as well as ongoing debates about the role of Asia in questions about "Universal" or "Western" science.

Students will write a research paper on a topic of their choice. The class will be conducted as an intensive seminar, with active student participation


The course has three themes and goals. One is to encourage you to develop the analytical skills to question commonplace assertions and assumptions about science, and the notions of “east” and “west.” Two, I hope to foster your capacity to critically examine theories, and to elaborate not only on what aspects of social life they help us to see, but also what they obscure from view. A premise of the course is that there is no single “best theory” to explain the world. The third theme is that realities are built out of overlapping perspectives. Our understandings are best forged out of listening and engaging with diverse viewpoints among each other and through our readings.


  • Seminar Participation 20%
  • Seminar Facilitation 20%
  • Mid-term 20%
  • Final Project 40%


For this class, you must take the mid-term, submit the final project and do at least 2 critiques, otherwise you will receive an N grade, which is considered an F for academic purposes.

Grading: Where a final exam is scheduled and the student does not write the exam or withdraw from the course before the deadline date, an N grade will be assigned. Unless otherwise specified on the course syllabus, all graded assignments for this course must be completed for a final grade other than N to be assigned. An N is considered as an F for the purposes of scholastic standing.

Grading System: The Undergraduate Course Grading System is as follows:

A+ (95-100) | A (90-94) | A- (85-89) | B+ (80-84) | B (75-79) | B- (70-74) | C+ (65-69) | C (60-64) | C- (55-59) | D (50-54) | F (0-49) | N*
*N standing to indicate the student did not complete course requirements

1)  Accommodations for disabilities: Centre for Accessible Learning

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need classroom or exam accommodations are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (1250 Maggie Benston Centre) as soon as possible to ensure that they are eligible and that approved accommodations and services are implemented in a timely fashion.

2)  On late submissions: In general, I do not accept late submissions, unless you have a very good reason and consult with me well in advance. You will need to keep up with lectures and reading material in order to complete most of the assignments on time, so please plan accordingly. Depending on the circumstances, I will determine whether an extension will be granted and/or a grade reduction will be imposed. In the event of a family emergency or serious illness, I will work with you on an individual basis to develop a schedule for completing course work.

3) Excused absences: If special, extenuating circumstances force you to miss one or more classes, you will need to provide me with a letter from an administrative office. I allow for absences for major religious holidays of any faith, and do not require a note as long as you confer with me in advance. You will not be penalized for excused absences. It is your responsibility to contact me and/or other members of the class to find out what you missed, and to catch up as needed.

4) Academic Responsibility: I take cases of academic dishonesty very seriously. This does not just include turning in an assignment that someone else wrote, but also includes when the source of ideas or word choices (direct quotes) are not cited. Also, copying text from source without explicitly quoting it is plagiarism (even if you cite the source). I will provide an information sheet that describe how to use proper documentation procedures.

Academic Honesty and Student Conduct Policies: The Department of Sociology & Anthropology follows SFU policy in relation to grading practices, grade appeals (Policy T20.01), and academic honesty and student conduct procedures (S10‐S10.05). Unless otherwise informed by your instructor in writing, in graded written assignments you must cite the sources you rely on and include a bibliography/list of references, following an instructor-approved citation style. It is the responsibility of students to inform themselves of the content of SFU policies available on the SFU website.

5) On seeking help: Please see me if you are having trouble with the content of the course or the assignments. It is important to me that you do as well as you can in this course

6) Research Ethics: This is a Research Ethics Board approved course. Please familiarize yourself with appropriate ethical standards before conducting your research. Copies of printed material regarding research ethics standards will be distributed in class. Students should submit their research plans to the instructor by a date to be determined. The instructor will assess and approve them before students start their research.

The Sociology and Anthropology Student Union, SASU, is a governing body of students who are engaged with the department and want to build the SA community. Get involved!  Follow Facebook and Instagram pages or visit our website.


1) Seminar Participation: (Attendance, active participation, film reviews, quizzes): Expressing your questions, ideas and comments is essential to good class discussions. If you are normally reticent in class, I encourage you to speak up. If you are usually talkative, make sure and give others the room to contribute to the discussion. Your active listening is also helpful for engendering good discussions. If you genuinely have a difficult time speaking publicly, contact me by email and we can discuss alternative assignments.

2) Seminar Facilitation: (Leading class discussions, critique papers): In the beginning of the second class, you will select one class for you (with partners) to lead the group in discussion with a seminar presentation. For this day, it will be especially critical that you have a strong grasp of the material and in your facilitation, you should integrate your peers’ critique (described below) with their questions and comments.  

Starting on class 2, and until class 12, you can write critiques, or reaction papers to the readings. Of a total of 8 classes, you will choose 3 classes to write a short half page (double-spaced) response.  To balance out the semester, you will write two critiques before the mid-term and one afterwards. In order to fully engage with the readings, it is necessary to critically reflect on their broad themes, individual arguments, and supporting evidence.

You will bring four printed copies for us to read at the beginning of class. You can have two copies on one page (you can cut the page in half), so this will just be two sheets of paper. If there are any critiques turned in on a given day, we will share these in class and use them to initiate discussion.

Take note: these are not summaries of the readings. You should briefly summarize a major theme or themes and critically explore them, or reflect on how the essay relates to broader discussions in the course. I will look for your ability to critically analyze some aspect of the reading and compare and contrast it to other readings. They demonstrate that you’ve done the reading and provide a jumping-off point for class discussion.

You may have one or more film reviews. Begin the review with a summary of the film’s main structure, what points the filmmaker tried to make, and what kind of evidence s/he uses to make those points.  Briefly mention who made the film and when, where it was made, what peoples and circumstances it concerns, and what period is under discussion.  Next, evaluate the film’s relationship to our readings and discuss its merits and weaknesses.  Provide references for each review. These are 2-3 pages in length.

Additionally, there may also be several short individual and collective assignments, such as selecting additional films to view for class, or bringing a news article to the attention of the class.

3) Mid-term exam: There is a mid-term exam to show your understanding and engagement with the course materials. This will be on class #7.

4) Final project and prospectus: The final project is due at the beginning of the final class. 

Each student will have an opportunity to discuss their final project with me around class #6. By 12pm (noon) on the day before class #6, email a one-page prospectus for the project and I will return your prospectus with comments and suggestions by that night. It is expected that you will have read my comments and clarified your prospectus for discussion on class #6.  On class #11, you will turn in a paper copy of your rough draft with comments from an external reviewer. Make one copy for yourself, as these comments will help you revise the draft. I will hand out a “Peer Review Edit Sheet.” I will discuss these requirements in more detail.

You have several options for the final project. For each option, I have lists of possible books and topics for you to choose from, and I will be happy to suggest additional readings. Alternatively, you are welcome to choose your own topic if approved by me.

      a) Research Paper: Students may choose one particular topic to investigate. The paper will be 12-14 pages, double-spaced, with 12-point font. Highly focused papers are often more successful than papers that attempt a broad reach. Although this paper will be mostly based on external research, it must refer to at least three of the course’s required readings and one lecture, or another class activity.

      b) Podcast: Students may choose one topic to research that they will narrate into an approximately ten-minute podcast, to be placed on the course website. In many cases, this will be similar to the research paper, but in other instances students may wish to conduct an interview with someone about an instructor-approved topic related to the course. The podcast topic must draw on and relate to the course readings in some way. If the podcast is based on a research paper, students will also turn in a written transcript of their work. If you need, I will help look into recording equipment. Technical support is available through the LIDC.

During the last class period or two, each student will give a brief (5-10 minute) presentation to the class about their final project. We will allocate ten to fifteen minutes for class questions and comments. In the past, students have found these presentations very useful in helping them to further clarify and focus their projects.

5) Optional Extra Credit:

      a) I am happy to give extra credit for attending special lectures and other events that are related to our class topics. I will announce many of these opportunities in class and I      encourage you to take advantage of as many campus and community events as possible. In order to receive extra credit you will need to write a half page summary of what the event entailed and how it contributed to your perspectives on our class.

      b) By the fifth class, find a newspaper article connected to some of the concepts we have examined over the semester. Bring the article to class, and briefly describe and analyze it for the group’s benefit. Occasionally, I will present news articles for discussion in class.




1. These two books are available online through the SFU library or you can purchase paperback copies. 

        - Sergio Sismondo, An Introduction to Science and Technology Studies. London: Blackwell Publishers. Second Edition, 2010. 

*SFU library only has 3 digital copies:

        - Michael J. Hathaway, What a Mushroom Lives For: Matsutake and the Worlds They Make. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 2023.

2. I will bring copies of the articles or make them available in the library. These readings are listed in bold face on the course schedule.

3. I recommend that you listen to some podcasts that examine science from a critical perspective. One place to find relevant talks is the Havens Center at the University of Madison, Wisconsin. Below are links to three talks:

Michael Lynch: "DNA Testing, Fingerprinting, and the Credibility of Expert Evidence"

Sandra Harding: "Science and Multiple Modernities"

Emily Martin: "Transcribing Emotions in Everyday Life"


Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university.