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Curiosity Studies

A New Ecology of Knowledge

2020

Perry Zurn and Arjun Shankar, Editors
Foreword by Pam Grossman and John L. Jackson Jr.
Afterword by Helga Nowotny

Curiosity Studies

The first English-language collection to establish curiosity studies as a unique field


Curiosity Studies marshals scholars from more than a dozen fields not only to define curiosity but also to grapple with its ethics as well as its role in technological advancement and global citizenship. While intriguing research on curiosity has occurred in numerous disciplines for decades, no rigorously cross-disciplinary study has existed—until now.

From science and technology to business and education, curiosity is often taken for granted as an unquestioned good. And yet, few people can define curiosity. Curiosity Studiesmarshals scholars from more than a dozen fields not only to define curiosity but also to grapple with its ethics as well as its role in technological advancement and global citizenship. While intriguing research on curiosity has occurred in numerous disciplines for decades, no rigorously cross-disciplinary study has existed—until now.

 

Curiosity Studies stages an interdisciplinary conversation about what curiosity is and what resources it holds for human and ecological flourishing. These engaging essays are integrated into four clusters: scientific inquiry, educational practice, social relations, and transformative power. By exploring curiosity through the practice of scientific inquiry, the contours of human learning, the stakes of social difference, and the potential of radical imagination, these clusters focus and reinvigorate the study of this universal but slippery phenomenon: the desire to know.

 

Against the assumption that curiosity is neutral, this volume insists that curiosity has a history and a political import and requires precision to define and operationalize. As various fields deepen its analysis, a new ecosystem for knowledge production can flourish, driven by real-world problems and a commitment to solve them in collaboration. By paying particular attention to pedagogy throughout, Curiosity Studiesequips us to live critically and creatively in what might be called our new Age of Curiosity.

 

Contributors: Danielle S. Bassett, U of Pennsylvania; Barbara M. Benedict, Trinity College; Susan Engel, Williams College; Ellen K. Feder, American U; Kristina T. Johnson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Narendra Keval; Christina León, Princeton U; Tyson Lewis, U of North Texas; Amy Marvin, U of Oregon; Hilary M. Schor, U of Southern California; Seeta Sistla, Hampshire College; Heather Anne Swanson, Aarhus U.

Curiosity Studies

Perry Zurn is assistant professor of philosophy at American University, where he is codirector of the Curiosity, Mindfulness, and Education Lab.



Arjun Shankar is visiting assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Colgate University.



Pam Grossman is dean of the Graduate School of Education and the George and Diane Weiss Professor of Education at the University of Pennsylvania.



John L. Jackson Jr. is Walter H. Annenberg Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.



Helga Nowotny is professor emerita at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ).


Curiosity Studies

Contents


Foreword


Pamela Grossman and John L. Jackson Jr.


Introduction: What Is Curiosity Studies?


Perry Zurn and Arjun Shankar


Part I. Interrogating the Scientific Enterprise


1. Exploring the Costs of Curiosity: An Environmental Scientist’s Dilemma


Seeta Sistla


2. Curious Ecologies of Knowledge: More-than-Human Anthropology


Heather Anne Swanson


3. Curiosity, Ethics, and the Medical Management of Intersex Anatomies


Ellen K. Feder


Part II. Relearning How We Learn


4. A Network Science of the Practice of Curiosity


Danielle S. Bassett


5. Why Should This Be So? The Waxing and Waning of Children’s Curiosity


Susan Engel


6. The Dude Abides, or, Why Curiosity Is Important for Education Today


Tyson Lewis


7. “The Campus is Sick”: Capitalist Curiosity and Student Mental Health


Arjun Shankar


Part III. Reimagining How We Relate


8. Autism, Neurodiversity, and Curiosity


Kristina T. Johnson


9. Obstacles to Curiosity and Concern: Exploring the Racist Imagination


Narendra Keval


10. Curious Entanglements: Opacity and Ethical Relation in Latina/o Aesthetics


Christina León


11. Transsexuality, the Curio, and the Transgender Tipping Point


Amy Marvin


Part IV. Deconstructing the Status Quo


12. Peeping and Transgression: Curiosity and Collecting in English Literature


Barbara M. Benedict


13. Curiosity and Political Resistance


Perry Zurn


14. Curiosity at the End of the World: Women, Fiction, Electricity


Hilary M. Schor


Conclusion: On Teaching Curiosity


Arjun Shankar and Perry Zurn


Afterword


Helga Nowotny


Acknowledgments


Contributors


Index