My teaching expertise is broadly in management (especially cross-cultural management and diversity), the history and philosophy of science, psychology, and bioethics. As a teacher, I emphasize experiential and discussion-based learning, using case studies—of psychological experiments, for example—to show how concepts apply to everyday life.
In the 2017/2018 year, I will be the instructor of a brand new course at the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, University of Toronto. The course is called Making Up People: Psychology, Business, and the Self in 20th-Century America and will draw on material culture, popular culture, and readings in history of psychology, science studies, and history of business. The course description follows:
Are you an introvert or an extravert? Right-brained or left-brained? Such categories surround us in our daily lives, serving as ways of carving up human beings according to their psychological characteristics. This course takes as its subject the manifold tools, techniques, and theories that try to categorize human beings, from intelligence testing to brain imaging scans. It examines the network of actors who developed them, including psychologists and neuroscientists, but also management consultants and marketers, who rely on psychological classifications to describe people either as workers or as consumers.
A cluster of interrelated questions will guide the course. How can we study human beings using the methods of science? What are the implications when human beings, both as individuals and as groups, come to be objects of scientific investigation? What ethical and methodological concerns arise in classifying human beings? How do social categories, like gender, race, and class, intersect, or come to be embedded in, psychological categories? We will approach these questions historically, by drawing on histories of psychology, technology, selfhood, and capitalism, while also bringing in contemporary philosophical and political questions about subjectivity using approaches from science and technology studies (STS).
The course material goes beyond texts to encompass artifacts and popular culture: in addition to scholarly articles, we will handle material objects from the University of Toronto Scientific Instrument Collection’s trove of psychological tests, and watch movies and television shows featuring psychological themes. After introductory readings framing the problem of classification in the human sciences, the course devotes several weeks to psychological testing and social surveys, one of the most prominent techniques for classifying people. We then move to talk about how these techniques and classification schemes construct types of people, from ‘the psychopath’ to ‘the consumer.’