“Decolonising Science Reading List”

“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…
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.”

There is this sense that science is a practice, and a historically-new practice that was invented by European men (who were later understood to be white) during the renaissance. And that, therefore, the way to ‘be a scientist’ is to be as similar to these men as possible. Even now that people who aren’t white men are allowed to be scientists, we are all subtly encouraged to be like our mythical understandings of those white men.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful and radical to recognize another way of being scientists?

Related: A really wonderful essay by a Hawaiiain physicist on the history of the controversy around the Thirty Meter Telescope, and his complex feelings

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