There have been a lot of horrible hashtags on the internet this season, but I wanted to call attention to a particularly colonial one: #ScienceMustFall. Created in reaction to a viral video of panelists at a University of Cape Town panel talking about the need to decolonize science from western modernity, the hashtag mocks the students on the panel and their notion of decolonization. The internet’s reaction (which can be summarized with “HAHAHA IDIOTS”) is incredibly disheartening to me, given that it’s 2016 and I thought we were all on the same page about “science” being a convex of white power and privilege.
This isn’t to say that the scientific method doesn’t reap great rewards when used correctly, it’s just to say that the mystification of “science” as this Transcendental Harbinger of Truth is just so… sixteenth century. Then I turned on the T.V. and Trump was talking about ripping babies out of women’s wombs and how America was Great once, so I realized that maybe it’s time I put my effort into bumping up the voices that actually deserve to be read on the internet.
Thankfully Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, a theoretical astro-physicist who works as a researcher at UW in Seattle, put together an A+ comprehensive reading list for those interested in re-learning what they thought was true about the ideology of “scientific truths.” Since the holidays are right around the corner (not really) and some of these books are expensive (really), I thought it would be helpful to put together a little bargain shopping list for some of the key texts that she mentions. Because reading books IRL is still cooler than scrolling on your tablet and also if you’ve rolled your eyes more than twice while reading this article, consider yourself in need of some post-colonial truth bombs.
Also, any excuse to read about female cyborgs and medical apartheids.
1.The Eastern Origins of Western by John M. Hobson (Cambridge, £35)
This book is a great place to start, as it lays out a really comprehensive intellectual history of the West – focusing, specifically, on how much the “West” is truly indebted to the “East.” His research challenges the assumptions that civilization rose from the West in a vacuum and argues that “each major developmental turning point in Europe” was contingent upon “assimilation of Eastern inventions” which “diffused from the more advanced East” across the global economy. He also argues that the “construction of European identity after 1453 led to imperialism.” So basically: important facts to bring up this year during Thanksgiving. Check out the publisher’s cool list of sales and coupons here.
2. Whose Science? Whose Knowledge?: Thinking from Women’s Lives by Sandra Harding (AbeBooks, $22)
A follow-up book to Harding’s first, The Science Question in Feminism, this newest book “conducts a compelling analysis of feminist theories on the philosophical problem of how we know what we know.” A must-read for anyone interested in the connections between social context and scientific knowledge — particularly as it relates to patriarchy. Plus, a 50% off deal at ABE books.
3. Hating Empire Properly: The Two Indies and the Limits of Enlightenment Anticolonialism by Sunil M. Agnani (ResearchGate, $23)
Winner of the 2014 Harry Levin prize, Hating Empire Properly thinks through the eighteenth-century imagination of geography and identity. With a focus on the colonial spaces of the Enlightenment, Agnani investigates the historical limits of key radical and conservative writers. His ultimate proposition? To “inhabit a dominant form of reason as a way forward for the critique of both empire and Enlightenment.” Yep, a whole lot of Benjamin will be referenced in this text. That’s a good thing. Available on Amazon, with free shipping.
4. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women by Donna Haraway (Barnes and Noble, $25)
This groundbreaking work by Haraway offers a powerful collection of essays that get deep into the connection between the odd threesome of simians, cyborgs, and women. The connection? “A great destabilizing place in Western evolutionary technology and biology.” If ever you wanted to look at the cyborg as a site of “immense possibility for modern feminists” then this is the text for you. Get it for 20% off at Barnes and Noble.
5. Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet Washington (Amazon, $12)
The double standard in the world of medical ethics is hard to ignore: when men complain of side effects from birth control pills, the trials stop. When women do, they just find different women. This comprehensive book by Harriet Washington looks into the American medical establishment’s long sordid history of using African-Americans as unwitting human guinea pigs. From Thomas Jefferson’s early uses of untested smallpox vaccines to Columbia University’s controversial drug experiments in the 1990’s, this book clarifies what folks mean when they use the term “Scientific racism.” On sale at Alabris books.