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Decolonising Science Reading List – Chanda Prescod-Weinstein – Medium
"A note on Making Meaning of “Decolonising” — and in relation to that I want to be clear that the original motivation behind the creation of this list was to address a land claim issue: the use of Maunakea by non-Kanaka Maoli for science. Please be thoughtful about using “decolonising” if you’re not going to tie it into the physicality that colonialism necessarily requires. Intellectual colonialism only works when there is a physical threat associated with it.

A twitter thread by Melissa Daniels (Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation) on engaging in colonialist activity under the guise of “decolonising education”

Thank me for my free labor maintaining this list by making a donation to The Offing via Paypal, Crowdrise, or a monthly donation at Patreon.

October 2016 Introduction
In April, 2015, one of the most visible topics of discussion in the Astronomy community was the planned Thirty Meter Telescope and protests against it from Native Hawaiians who didn’t want it built on Mauna Kea. I wrote a lot about this on social media, spending some significant time trying to contextualize the debate. This reading list was originally created in response to requests for where I was getting some of the information from. A lot of people asked me about what I’d been reading as reference points for my commentary on the relationship between colonialism and what we usually call “modern science.”

In August 2016 I updated to announce: I’m happy to report that Sarah Tuttle and I will be contributing to this list with our own publications in future thanks to this FQXi grant that we are co-I/PI on: Epistemological Schemata of Astro|Physics: A Reconstruction of Observers. The grant proposal was based on a written adaptation of a speech I gave at the Inclusive Astronomy conference, Intersectionality as a Blueprint for Postcolonial Scientific Community Building.

As part of this work, I’ve continued to expand the reading list, which seems to have become a global resource for people interested in science and colonialism. As I originally said, I make no claims about completeness, about updating it regularly, or even ever coming up with a system for organizing it that I find to be satisfactory. You’ll find texts that range from personal testimony to Indigenous cosmology to anthropology, to history to sociology to education research. All are key to the process of decolonising science, which is a pedagogical, cultural, and intellectual set of interlocking structures, ideas, and practices. This reading list functions on the premise that there is value in considering the ways in which science and society co-construct. It is stuff that I have read all or part of and saw some value in sharing with others.

I am especially indebted to the #WeAreMaunaKea movement for educating me and spurring me to educate myself.

Original April 2015 Commentary

There are two different angles at play in the discussion about colonialism and science. First is what constitutes scientific epistemology and what its origins are. As a physicist, I was taught that physics began with the Greeks and later Europeans inherited their ideas and expanded on them. In this narrative, people of African descent and others are now relative newcomers to science, and questions of inclusion and diversity in science are related back to “bringing science to underrepresented minority and people of color communities.” The problem with this narrative is that it isn’t true. For example, many of those “Greeks” were actually Egyptians and Mesopotamians under Greek rule. So, even though for the last 500 years or so science has largely been developed by Europeans, the roots of its methodology and epistemology are not European. Science, as scientists understand it, is not fundamentally European in origin. This complicates both racist narratives about people of color and innovation as well as discourse around whether science is fundamentally wedded to Euro-American operating principles of colonialism, imperialism and domination for the purpose of resource extraction.

This leads me to the second angle at play: Europeans have engaged what is called “internalist” science very seriously over the last 500 years and often in service and tandem with colonialism and white supremacy. For example, Huygens and Cassini facilitated and directed astronomical observation missions in order to help the French better determine the location of St. Domingue, the island that houses the modern nations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Why? Because this would help make the delivery of slaves and export of the products of their labor more efficient. That is just one example, which stuck out to me because I am a descendant of the Caribbean part of the Atlantic Slave Trade, and I also have two degrees in astronomy (and two in physics).

There is a lot that has been hidden from mainstream narratives about the history of astronomy, including 20th century history. Where has the colonial legacy of astronomy taken us? From Europe to Haiti to now Hawai’i. Hawai’i is the flash point for this conversation now, even though the story goes beyond Hawai’i. If we are going to understand the context of what is happening in Hawai’i with the Thirty Meter Telescope, we must understand that Hawai’i is not the first or only place where astronomers used and benefited from colonialism. And in connection, we have to understand Hawai’ian history. Thus, my reading list also includes important materials about Hawai’i’s history.

tl;dr: science has roots outside of the Eurasian peninsula known as Europe, it likely has its limitations as one of multiple ontologies of the world, it has been used in really grotesque ways, and we must understand all of these threads to truly contextualize the discourse in Hawai’i around science, Hawaiian epistemologies and who gets to determine what constitutes “truth” and “fact” when it comes to Mauna a Wakea.

Finally, I believe science need not be inextricably tied to commodification and colonialism. The discourse around “diversity, equity and inclusion” in science, technology, engineering and mathematics must be viewed as a reclamation project for people of color. Euro-American imperialism and colonialism has had its (often unfortunate) moment with science, and it’s time for the rest of us to reclaim our heritage for the sake of ourselves and the next seven generations.

Note: this reading list is woefully low on materials about science in the pre-European contact Americas, Southeast Asia and parts of Australasia. I’m probably missing some stuff, but I think it signals a problem with research in the history of science too. Also I make no claims about completeness or a commitment to regularly updating it with my newest finds. Also see A U.S./Canadian Race & Racism Reading List.

May 2017 edit: I also just learned that there is a Reading List on Modern and Colonial Science in the Middle East.

October 2017 edit: I gratefully acknowledge Duane Hamacher of the Indigenous Astronomy twitter account for suggesting texts on Australian Indigenous astronomy and for introducing me to research on subarctic Indigenous astronomy.

Martin Kusch’s Sociology of scientific knowledge bibliography may be of interest.

As of May 2017 Beatrice Martini has posted Decolonizing technology: a reading list.

Works by me that may help you contextualize the list with problems I’ve been thinking about. These are partly here not because I particularly enjoy tooting my own horn but because I found that without them, people were assuming I hadn’t contributed to the dialogue myself beyond this reading list:

[lists follow]"
sciene  decolonization  readinglists  chandaprescod-weinstein  diversification  diversity  culture  race  gender  indigenous  indigeneity  imperialism  colonialism  science 
april 2019 by robertogreco
quantum distributions for Sarah Baartman | The Offing
"“Baartman lived in poverty, and died in Paris of an undetermined
inflammatory disease in December 1815. After her death, Cuvier dissected
her body, and displayed her remains. For more than a century and a half,
visitors to the Museum of Man in Paris could view her brain, skeleton and
genitalia as well as a plaster cast of her body.”

from Sarah Baartman’s Wiki page, referencing
Sara Baartman and the Hottentot Venus:
A ghost story and a biography
by Clifton C. Crais and Pamela Scully

here is what is true:
a black body radiator be a star that Rayleigh Jeans Law fails to approximate
black bodies be emitting spectral radiance but those white men act like they ain’t ever seen us i mean
who gave men permission to approximate the black body?
to contain us? how have men deluded themselves that they are close enough to touch
us? why must they demand black bodies self-sacrifice
in ultraviolet? that is why must we give
all of us to them until we have nothing left? until we approach
infinity? why must they make us approach infinity?
why must they contrast us against the omnipotent?
why must they deny us our humanity in death? why must they torture us
with the focus they have been beaming on to black bodies?
why are they so hungry? like we shine but it ain’t enough? for them
black bodies is never enough
and our purgatory ain’t either how dare they
in fact we the black bodies refuse and denounce lawful men
and their sickly approximations because
we the black bodies understand each other at visible frequencies
without a dissection or death—which is to say witness
us the black bodies rejoice to become mortals again because
here is what is true:
a black body radiator be in thermodynamic equilibrium which is to say
a black body be at rest yes let the black bodies rest
in peace watch us the black bodies converge into an infrared sunset so
blessed be the tail of a distribution curve like where my thigh meets my ass
mine own black body emblematic and
fundamentally mine"

[via: "quantum distributions for Sarah Baartman" is by Lena Blackmon, a Black woman undergrad studying materials science (applied physics) @Stanford. I dreamed of a poem like this: a Black woman writing herself & her history into science, with accurate science!"
https://twitter.com/IBJIYONGI/status/1012346837427109889

"This poem is also my answer to everyone who has ever asked me why it is a problem to compare Black people to dark matter:
black bodies be emitting spectral radiance but those white men act like they ain’t ever seen us i mean
who gave men permission to approximate the black body?"

"If you're writing about Black people and trying to use physics analogies, you better imagine that Black scientists exist and not just reference popular science writing by white people. Talk to a Black scientist. There are many @ #BlackandSTEM."

"Part of Black liberation has to be imagining Black experts in science too. Black people don't just write poetry. We also do science. Sometimes, like Lena, we do both. When you don't imagine that, you don't imagine Lena, and I need you to imagine Lena. I made a department for her."

"I am proud of everything we have published in Back of the Envelope, but it was work like Lena's that drove my initial thinking behind creating the department. I wanted somewhere that a Black woman wouldn't feel like she had to choose between her scientific and literary identities"]
lenablackmon  science  physics  sarahbaartman  blackness  bodies  blackbodies  darkmatter  chandaprescod-weinstein  body 
june 2018 by robertogreco
Chanda Prescod-Weinstein - Fields of Cosmological Dreams - YouTube
"The discovery of the Higgs boson reinforces the possibility that similar, scalar particles may exist in nature and could drive cosmological inflation. This talk describes scientific research in theoretical cosmology through the lens of the experience of a Black, Jewish, queer and femme physicist."
higgsboson  chandaprescod-weinstein  physics  2017  cosmology  race  gender  science  academia 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Decolonising Science Reading List – Chanda Prescod-Weinstein – Medium
"In April, 2015, one of the most visible topics of discussion in the Astronomy community was the planned Thirty Meter Telescope and protests against it from Native Hawaiians who didn’t want it built on Mauna Kea. I wrote a lot about this on social media, spending some significant time trying to contextualize the debate. This reading list was originally created in response to requests for where I was getting some of the information from. A lot of people asked me about what I’d been reading as reference points for my commentary on the relationship between colonialism and what we usually call “modern science.”

In August 2016 I updated to announce: I’m happy to report that Sarah Tuttle and I will be contributing to this list with our own publications in future thanks to this FQXi grant that we are co-I/PI on: Epistemological Schemata of Astro|Physics: A Reconstruction of Observers. The grant proposal was based on a written adaptation of a speech I gave at the Inclusive Astronomy conference, Intersectionality as a Blueprint for Postcolonial Scientific Community Building.

As part of this work, I’ve continued to expand the reading list, which seems to have become a global resource for people interested in science and colonialism. As I originally said, I make no claims about completeness, about updating it regularly, or even ever coming up with a system for organizing it that I find to be satisfactory. You’ll find texts that range from personal testimony to Indigenous cosmology to anthropology, to history to sociology to education research. All are key to the process of decolonising science, which is a pedagogical, cultural, and intellectual set of interlocking structures, ideas, and practices. This reading list functions on the premise that there is value in considering the ways in which science and society co-construct. It is stuff that I have read all or part of and saw some value in sharing with others.

I am especially indebted to the #WeAreMaunaKea movement for educating me and spurring me to educate myself."
science  reading  readinglists  decolonization  chandaprescod-weinstein  2015 
may 2018 by robertogreco
The Diversity Racket — Medium
"The reason I know so much about discrimination in STEM is because I experienced so much of it. One of the ways that I have dealt with that, psychologically, was by mastering statistical and qualitative information about discrimination and how it works. I have participated in activism and tried to use what I learned about surviving the bad things that happened to me to protect people more junior to me. I mentor students, and I chair the National Society of Black Physicists’ (NSBP) Cosmology, Classical and Quantum Gravity committee to make sure that Black students attending our national conference get a chance to learn about my research area.

It was never my dream as a 17 year old freshman, a 21 year old first year graduate student, or a 28 year old PhD holder to become known for my ability to articulate the many big and small ways that discrimination shapes our world and the lives of “non-traditional” people who dare to dream about what the world is made of. I have only done this work, become this person, because I had the tool kit for it (thanks to an activist family and upbringing) and because the fucked up physics community left me with no choice.

By that I mean I felt I had two choices: I could give up on becoming a theoretical physicist, something I had dreamed of since I was 10 (which, by the way, makes this a now 22 year long journey), or I could give up time I might otherwise spend caring for my body, my friendships, my selfish literary interests, or sometimes even my own short-term professional aspirations to make room for myself and others like me in the long term.

And here is why I am now weary of a bunch of scientists running around talking about diversity and racism and homophobia and heternormativity and ableism: I’ve spent the last year dealing with a lot of people who usually operate outside the NSBP community who know all of these words, can school other people on how what they say doesn’t conform to an “anti-” stance on any one of them, and who can’t, for the life of them, remember that I am a scientist first. It’s why I’m in the STEM community, participating in any of these discussions.

The diversity racket is this: thinking that this is an intellectual exercise in being magnanimous, not a matter of survival. Someone who is supposed to be an ally and mentor told me yesterday that the reason they kept asking me to speak to minority students not about how to apply for a STEM program as minority students but rather about sexism — despite me repeatedly saying no, I didn’t want to — was because that was primarily how they knew and thought of me. This person apparently forgot that they first met me in my working environment, at a work lunch, one where I happened to be discussing science (although not with them).

And this person had never bothered to understand why I struggle so much for equity in the STEM community.

It’s not because I want to be harassed into volunteering my time to speak to students about sexism.

It’s not so someone who is supposedly an ally can choose to not understand that “no means no,” and that it’s especially important to recognize this when someone who identifies in any way with marginalized sex and gender communities says it.

It’s not so that people who are supposedly allies can characterize me as “difficult” just because I am direct, in the way white male scientists are encouraged to be.

Part of the problem is that this person is powerful, but more importantly, this person is not alone in failing to see all of me, beyond what they find useful about me.

People think I am here to be a resource for their social justice pedagogy needs.

I am not.

If I freely volunteer my time to engage in social justice education and discourse, understand that it is because inside of me there is the memory of a 10 year old Chanda who was super excited about becoming a theoretical physicist just like Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein, and I am still trying to make room for her and every little child who like her is somehow different from scientific tradition. It is because inside of me there is a 32 year old who still wants to believe (even if that belief shrinks daily) that there is room for a Black queer agender cissexed disabled Jewish woman to be treated just as well as your average, medicore straight white cisgender able-bodied male SCIENTIST.

If you’re serious about ending discrimination, you’ll remember that. You’ll keep your eyes on the prize, which is giving me an equal opportunity to be a scientist. That means lightening my social justice load and also getting me into a better position to be an efficient and visible advocate for science, a science that is less infested with discriminatory bullshit."
chandaprescod-weinstein  diversity  2015  education  respect  socialjustice  pedagogy 
july 2015 by robertogreco

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