Kathleen Powers

PhD Designated Emphasis in STS

PhD Candidate, Rhetoric
University of California, Berkeley
CSTMS Research Unit: Berkeley Program in Science and Technology Studies, Designated Emphasis in STS
Degrees M.Phil. Sociology :: University of Cambridge (2013)
B.A. Sociology :: Yale University (2012)

Research Areas

philosophy of science, theoretical neurobiology, history of medicine, 20th century vitalism, cybernetics

I am interested in the definition of biology in the Western philosophical tradition - in particular, in 20th century vitalism's attempt to define biological life.

My dissertation, “The Cybernetic Origins of Life”, is about the influence of vitalist concepts of the organism on post-war American neurology. I focus on the experiments and writings of neurologist Warren S. McCulloch (1898-1969) on the vertebrate nervous system to gain an understanding of how life was considered in the philosophy of science immediately before the genetic revolution.

I applied to the Rhetoric program with a project on aesthetic theory and the documentation of trauma. I had conducted fieldwork in Tunis in the summer of 2011, in the wake of the Tunisian Revolution. After writing on the amateur photographic and televisual documentation of hospital trauma and on the relationship of these images to the protest events of the Revolution, I became interested in narrations of affliction. Specifically, I became interested in how the aesthetic or literary documentation of suffering contributes to ways we theorize our existence - how we think about Being, and how we value and understand life. I turned to the philosophy of science,  and I intend to attend medical school following the completion of the Rhetoric Ph.D.

last updated: July 23rd, 2019