May 10, 2019 | The Futures of Critical Food Studies

The Futures of Critical Food Studies

Friday, May 10, 2019

12:00-5:00pm

Namaste Lounge

“The Futures of Critical Food Studies” is a collaborative event organized by graduate students Erica Zurawski and Halie Kampman with the support of the UCSC Science & Justice Research Center’s Training Program, the Association for the Study of Food and Society, and College’s 9 and 10.  The event will bring together scholars in critical food studies to share conversations on the past, present, and futures of the field with hopes to create a space to share, collaborate, and discuss the field of critical food studies through important questions that persist as anxieties in the field.

The event will focus on thinking through questions such as: What is critical food studies? Where has critical food studies been and where is it going?  What is critical about critical food studies? What are some of critical food studies current anxieties and how do we attend to these anxieties? What does it mean to do critical food studies in our current political climate? How do we practice interdisciplinarity through thoughtful engagement? How do we envision the field of critical food studies moving forward?

These questions build on already existing conversations about the futures of critical food studies while also deepening the provocations to explore possibilities for the practice of interdisciplinarity.  As one of the most innovative and internationally recognized universities for critical food studies, this event seeks to build on UCSC’s unique history in the field.

Keynote Conversant

Ashanté M. Reese Assistant Professor of Sociology & Anthropology at Spelman College

Panel Participants

Alison Hope Alkon, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of the Pacific

Charlotte Biltekoff, Associate Professor of American Studies and Food Science and Technology, UC Davis

Melissa Caldwell, Professor of Anthropology, UC Santa Cruz

Madeleine Fairbarin, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, UC Santa Cruz

Rafi Grosglik, Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of California, Davis

Julie Guthman, Professor, Division of Social Sciences, UC Santa Cruz

Elizabeth Hoover, Manning Assistant Professor of American Studies at Brown University

Savannah Shange, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, UC Santa Cruz

Panel Moderators

Chris Lang, Ph.D. Student in Environmental Studies at the University of California Santa

Cruz

Allyson Makuch, Ph.D. Student in Environmental Studies at the University of California

Santa Cruz

Emily Reisman, Ph.D. Candidate in Environmental Studies at the University of California

Santa Cruz

Erica Zurawski, Ph.D. Student in Sociology at the University of California Santa Cruz

Critical Listeners

Arden Rosenthal, undergraduate

Manaiya Scott, undergraduate

Gabriela Mateo-Saja, undergraduate

Co-Sponsors

The Association for the Study of Food and Society, UC Santa Cruz Science & Justice Research Center, College’s 9 and 10, the departments of Environmental Studies, Sociology, and the Community Studies Program.

 

“The futures of critical food studies” Event Report

By Halie Kampman and Erica Zurawski

Attendees included scholars in the field, graduate and undergraduate students, faculty and staff members, and community members

Overview

This event brought together scholars in critical food studies to share conversations on the past, present, and futures of the field, creating a space to share, collaborate, and discuss the field of critical food studies. The event focused on thinking through questions such as: What is critical food studies? Where has critical food studies been and where is it going?  What is critical about critical food studies? What are some of critical food studies’ current anxieties and how do we attend to these anxieties? What does it mean to do critical food studies in our current political climate? How do we practice interdisciplinarity through thoughtful engagement? How do we envision the field of critical food studies moving forward?

These questions build on already existing conversations about the futures of critical food studies while also deepening the provocations to explore possibilities for the practice of interdisciplinarity.  As one of the most innovative and internationally recognized universities for critical food studies, this event built on UC Santa Cruz’s unique history in the field.

Key discussions and learnings from panels:

Panel 1

Panel one began with a discussion of how the study of food is not new in the academy. It has existed in different spaces, with links political ecology and anthropology. Panelists agreed that critical food studies is an engaging field because it is an interdisciplinary space which uses food to frame a variety of issues. Food studies has served as a lens to look at broader issues including power, knowledge politics, states and citizens, social cultures, and diasporas.

When asked about the institutional histories of food studies, Julie Guthman kicked off the discussion by emphasizing how the contemporary field of critical food studies was the result of critical and introspective thought, much of which was coordinated through UCSC-led workshops, events, conferences, despite what she described as minimal institutional recognition. Melissa Caldwell spoke to her experience as the former editor of Gastronomica, noting that the journal was rebranded to include conversations on the “ugly side of food” (i.e. away from glossy print celebrations of delicious food) and towards spaces where scholars and activists interact. Charlotte Biltekoff, as the only panelist not from UCSC added that food studies at UCD raises interesting questions about the boundaries of food studies, and the degree to which it may work with or alongside fields including science and technology, biotechnology, and biology.

Panelists were asked to define and reflect on some of the current unaddressed anxieties in food studies. Madeleine Fairbairn emphasized challenges of interdisciplinarity and pointed towards the benefits of work across parallel fields, like critical agrarian studies. Guthman commented that she has seen the field change from being dominated largely by white scholars, to become more racially diverse. Changes in student demographics, interests and activism have shaped the face of the field. Guthman added that any anxieties that she feels about her place in food studies, or in the parallel field of food justice, are welcome in the sense that they indicate that more space is being claimed by people of color. In light of this, she articulated the motivation to use her privilege to make changes at institutional levels.

Panel 2

The second panel began with a conversation on participants’ current projects, and quickly got into conversations about coloniality and decolonization. Elizabeth Hoover introduced a move away from a rhetoric of “decolonization,” recognizing the impossibility of actually deconstructing institutions that are colonial in every way. She offered, instead, to thinking about “indigenizing,” moving forward in a creative way while holding onto indigenous practices. In this move, Hoover thinks about moving forward and less about looking back.

Panelists were also asked to think about accessibility, with the question, “how can critical food studies become more accessible?” Alison Alkon and Rafi Grosglik both mentioned their upcoming work on food and media, both acknowledging the ability for social media and technology to disseminate conversations in critical food studies, but also acknowledging the difficulty in being a more public facing scholar. Elizabeth Hoover added that while fears of trolling and threats on social media do exist, there is also a lot of potential around utilizing these venues to invite people to the conversation. She asked, “What is the purpose of the venues by which we reach people?” Hoover gave blogs as an example, as a way to invite indigenous communities to the conversation and feature the power of photography. This certainly was a big point of convergence in this panel, thinking about accessibility, media and community. This could be a thread to continue in the future.

Finally, this panel built on the previous panel’s conversation around scholar-activism. Alison Alkon recognized that critical food studies has a better-than-average rate of people bridging the scholar/activist divide. For her, to occupy this role is to draw questions from the community, elevate voices, and listen to the narratives that run through. All panelists seem to acknowledge that the “scholar/activism” divide and role is constantly renegotiated. At the same time, this panel began a broader discussion on tempo, by noting that activism moves must faster than academia. Alison Akon notes that deliberateness is tied into questions of “slowness,” that while academia is slow, we do need to recognize that in order to move forward deliberately, we need to slow down. Elizabeth Hoover builds on this discussion through her work on “rematriating” seeds, highlighting womens’ role around connecting seeds back to the land and the slowness with which it takes to develop these relationships.

Key discussions and learnings from keynote:

The keynote address was formatted as a conversation between Ashanté Reese and Savannah Shange, focusing on Reese’s new book Black Food Geographies (UNC Press 2019). At the request of Reese, this format created a conversational atmosphere and gave due credit to the importance of collaboration, co-labor and co-scholarship.

Reese began by acknowledging how she has been influenced by Zora Neale Hurston, who inspired her to be an anthropologist and who she admires for her embodiment of a black sense of place. The ethic of care that Hurston showed in her work serves as an example for Reese, and appropriately, the theme of care permeated the discussion and indeed even the planning of the event and prior conversations with Reese about the event.

Shange asked Reese what kinds of connections she sees between freedom and food studies, to which Reese responded that black liberation was at the center of her work. Shange followed with a question on the links between gentrification, displacement and race, asking how ethical migration may be practiced in the wake of slavery. Reese responded by emphasizing the importance of place to black indigeneity. She explained that she does not want to see black food studies or geographies through the lens of displacement, and that there is an importance to drawing attention to the claiming of space. She articulated this with a story of a time when she was walking with an elderly woman in the Deanwood neighborhood (where she did her field work), and the woman stopped when a white speculator passed and yelled “buzzard!”

These types of themes shape and guide her book, Black Food Geographies, framed around highlighting everyday narratives of individuals working for black food justice. Reese explained how she feels that we are so focused on grand narratives of freedom, that we lose sight of the importance of the mundane or hidden forms of freedom. She explained how in black studies (or in life) one can look at moments of violence in the immediate, like a police shooting, but people tend to spend less time looking at slow everyday death. In this sense, Reese highlighted the importance of attending to grief not as an individual private emotion but as a broader constant, yet also an agent for moving forward. Methodologically, she places emphasis on the types of relationships that a researcher may forage with their interlocutors. Rather than asking for or extracting stories from her interlocutors, she encouraged them to tell her stories that they wanted to tell. In this way, she recognized the importance of refusal as a form of agency. She acknowledged the theoretical foundations of refusal in indigenous work, referring to Mohawk Interruptus by Audra Simpson.

Reese spoke not only of the kinds of relationships she aimed to build with her interlocutors, but the academic genealogy that she curated. She emphasized that academic genealogy matters, and scholars in food studies have particular agency in curating their own unique genealogy as the field is still being shaped. She encouraged scholars to take their citational politics seriously, and as a practice of reading.

Reese closed with a provocation and recommendation to scholars to be as outrageous as they want, using food as a lens to study whatever broader social phenomena they seek to understand. She advocated for more conscious citational practices – #citeblackwomen – and spoke about her desire to add authors who represent a broader diasporia than the US. There exists more work to be done in food studies, she said, particularly around themes of disability, queerness, and the (multiple) souths.

Conclusion: overarching theme throughout

There were quite a few overarching themes throughout the day-long conference. These included: the analytical power of food as a lens, the ever-changing nature of scholar-activism, a call for recognition and acknowledgment of work in the field that has always been done, a call for attention to work that is under-recognized, a call for building new kinds of relationships and new ways of experiencing the field, and finally, calling for more representation and care.

A big takeaway from this event, was the benefit of the format. In rethinking the entanglement of the pasts, presents, and futures of critical food studies, we offered a new way to think about the events around these types of conversations. Ashante Reese offered a similar disruption of the sanitized panel-keynote event format by asking, “what does it mean to be an expert?” and “how does one be a keynote?” In these questions and in the format of the event, I think we were able to see a different way of relating to each other and how to be in conversation with each other. In various conversations with participants after the event, many acknowledged how powerful the conversations were and how fruitful they were for a variety of reasons: for upcoming writing projects, for thinking through the field, for engaging in new ways.

More information can be found at: https://futuresofcriticalfoodstudies.sites.ucsc.edu/

April 20, 2019 | “No Really, What Percentage are You?” Race, Identity & Genetic Ancestry Testing

Saturday, April 20, 2019

1:00-5:00pm

Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History (705 Front St. Santa Cruz)

Free and open to the public; refreshments provided; no registration needed

Direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing services such as 23andMe and Ancestry.com are rapidly becoming a cultural touchstone, a mainstream phenomenon with significant implications for common notions of race and ethnicity, personal and social identity. Our public event will explore the promises and the problems of DTC genetic testing services, under the broader umbrella of racial justice and genomics.

We will explore questions arising within this new landscape of public genomics: How are people integrating genealogical knowledge (such as of their family tree) with new forms of DNA-based ancestry testing? What is the relationship between our genetic makeup and our racial and ethnic identities (and the ways we are racially classified)? What kinds of genetic ‘truths’ are being produced by these forms of commercialized science? Further, who owns, and has access to, our genetic data? What kinds of organizations are using our data, and for what purposes?

We will engage both science and art to creatively grapple with questions of race and ethnicity in this age of data-driven identities. Our event will host an art exhibit on genomics and identity; an interactive collage-making session; and an experimental type of panel called a chain reaction in which professors and graduate students working in this broad field will converse in a semi-structured conversation through a chain of dyads.

Hosted by Science & Justice Training Program Fellows:

Jon Akutagawa (Biomolecular Engineering), Dennis Browe (Sociology), Maggie Edge (Literature), Dorothy R. Santos (Film & Digital Media) and Caroline Spurgin (Education) with undergraduate fellow Diana Sernas (Mathematics). 

If you feel that genetic ancestry testing has benefited or impacted you in some way, please inquire and send anecdotes to Dennis Browe.

Participants:

Chessa Adsit-Morris, UC Santa Cruz Graduate Student of History of Art & Visual Culture

Russ Corbett-Detig, UC Santa Cruz Assistant Professor of Biomolecular Engineering

James Doucet-Battle, UC Santa Cruz Assistant Professor of Sociology

Ed Green, UC Santa Cruz Associate Professor of Biomolecular Engineering

Chris Hables Gray, Lecturer, UC Santa Cruz Crown College

Braden Larson, UC Santa Cruz Graduate Student of Molecular, Cell, & Developmental Biology

Paloma Medina, UC Santa Cruz Graduate Student of Biomolecular Engineering, Science & Justice Fellow

Co-Sponsored by

The UC Santa Cruz Science & Justice Research Center, the School of Engineering NIH Training Grant, College Nine Student Senate, the departments of Biomolecular Engineering, Education, and the Genomics Institute Office of Diversity, Oakes College Senate, and the Stuart Lab.

Rapporteurs’ Report

Introduction

With the human genome first sequenced and reported in 2001 and then a final draft in 2003 – the end-goal of the Human Genome Project (HGP) – some scholars now term this post-HGP era as one of ‘postgenomics.’ (Reardon 2017; Richardson and Stevens 2015). In this postgenomic era, questions of race and ethnicity are at the forefront of both scientific debates and popular cultural movements: the recent controversy over Harvard geneticist David Reich’s New York Times op-ed in March, 2018 has scholars publicly debating the usefulness of racial categories as precise forms of scientific analysis; the public return of white nationalism(s) across many countries; as well as the use of forensic genetics to solve crimes, the growth of DNA ‘magic boxes’ in police stations, and the raising of concerns about discrimination in DNA phenotyping.

On the level of ‘personal genomics,’ direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing services such as 23andMe and Ancestry.com are rapidly growing into a mainstream phenomenon. They have arguably become a cultural touchstone, with significant implications for common notions of race and ethnicity, personal and social identity. The tools of genetic ancestry testing are increasingly being used for myriad projects of adjudicating one’s identity, such as conceptualizing racial/ethnic heritage as percentage points of ancestry. For example, many in the US now hope to find ‘Native DNA’ to believe they are members of a tribal nation, while tribes do not simply recognize blood quanta as the primary marker of tribal belonging (TallBear 2013); white supremacists are chugging milk; and African Americans are using personal genomics to construct meaningful biographical narratives, engaging in what Alondra Nelson terms ‘affiliative’ self-fashioning in the context of their genealogical aspirations (2016).

To grapple with the implications of some of these world-making projects, our event “No, Really, What Percentage are You?”: Race, Identity, and Genetic Ancestry Testing, explored the promises and the problems of DTC genetic testing services, under the broader umbrella of racial justice and genomics. Over the course of a 4-hour event held at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History on April 20th, over 120 community members joined the fellows along with guest panelists to explore how both science and art engage questions of race and ethnicity that are so prevalent today in this age of data-driven identities. The primary questions explored were as follows:

  • How are people integrating genealogical knowledge (such as of their family tree) with new forms of DNA-based ancestry testing?
  • Is mapping one’s genetic ancestry an act of restoring the past, or does granting a private company access to this information encourage us to commercialize our own genes, or some combination of both?
  • Does it act to uphold existing concepts of race through ancestry, or can it encourage people to see categories as being more flexible than previously thought?
  • Who benefits from these projects, and who might be harmed?
Event Activities and Outcomes

To explore these questions through various activities employing science and art, our event unfolded across two areas of the museum — the main atrium and small conference room (seated, approximately 50) — and featured a number of main attractions: 1) an art installation showcasing the work of artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg; 2) an experimental conversational panel called a chain reaction; 3) large educational posters covering aspects of the foundational concepts and science behind genetic ancestry testing; 4) a collaborative art-making and collage station; 5) and a curated playlist of videos about genetic ancestry testing. We detail each of these activities below.

1) Art Installation

Two people watch the tv screen, a table is in view with information pamphlets.

Artworks were shown near the museum entrance

Two artworks were shown close to the museum entrance and near the event’s welcome table in the atrium. Heather Dewey-Hagborg’s video work, Stranger Visions, along with a zine she co-created with Chelsea Manning and Shoili Kanungo titled Suppressed Images, were shown as a pop-up solo show. The artworks showed the process the artist performed to create 3D printed sculptures from DNA sequencing and phenotyping processes. Through this work she raises concerns about the impulse genetic determinism and the biases and limitations of these DNA phenotyping processes. Event participants displayed curiosity toward this forensic process and the critical (and critically important) questions raised by this video-artwork.

2) Chain Reaction Panel

The chain reaction is an experimental take on the panel discussion format. Seven experts served as panel participants (see below). Dyads were in conversation for approximately 12 minutes each. The format was as follows: the first and second speakers engaged in an initial semi-structured conversation on pre-selected topics for 12 minutes. Once the first conversation ended, expert 1 was asked to leave and was replaced by expert 3. Expert 2 and 3 continued the conversation for another 12 minutes. Then, expert 2 was replaced by expert 4. This process continued until all seven speakers spoke with two other speakers. Fellow Dorothy R. Santos served as the moderator for chain reaction.

Chain Reaction Panelists, Braden Larson and Paloma Medina speaking with each other in front of the audience.

Chain Reaction Panelists, Braden Larson and Paloma Medina

True to the panelists’ diverse expertise, a wide range of topics were covered during this panel, ranging from the importance of narrative through the use of DTC genetic ancestry testing (both the use of cultural narratives as a marketing tool for these companies and the constructing of identity narratives through using the knowledge gained from these tests); who uses these tests and how they, as tools of identity-making, can be used toward many different ends and purposes; the history of genetics, replete with racism and eugenics; the question of gift exchange in our society and whether certain types of genetic gifts (such as agreeing to have one’s genome sequenced for the benefits of ‘science’) fall under sacrificial exchange or egalitarian forms of exchange; the appeal of DTC ‘personal genomics’ due to people’s striving for forms of certainty rather than uncertainty about their lives and identities; the technical possibilities for what DTC genetic ancestry tests can and cannot tell us, and with what levels of certainty, about our ancestry; histories of colonialism and genocide that must be taken into account when trying to paint accurate pictures of many people’s ancestries; and the ongoing question of improving technologies, such that we cannot necessarily predict how genomic information will be used in five and ten years from now — by whom, and toward what sorts of purposes and ends genomic knowledge will be employed.

In general, feedback on the chain reaction was positive, especially by the panelists who commented that they enjoyed the open-ended and stimulating conversation. Some audience members lamented the use of jargon by chain reaction participants–if we were to hold a similar event again in the future, we might consider working with chain reaction participants beforehand to help them think about communicating in more accessible ways.

3) Educational Posters

We hung four educational posters in the museum’s atrium, designed to break down complex scientific topics explored at our event.

SJTP Fellow Caroline Spurgin standing with one of the posters hanging from the ceiling of the museum.

SJTP Fellow Caroline Spurgin

The four posters covered: modelling genetic variation; racism and genetic science; beyond Mendellian inheritance; and inferring genetic ancestry. The posters provided a foundation to engage in conversation and that would result in an invitation to engage in the Collaborative Art Project. Event coordinators were able to spark interesting conversations by asking visitors (who were reading the posters) what they thought about different parts of the posters.

 

 

4) Collaborative Art Activity

The museum’s atrium served as a wonderful focal point for the collaborative art activity. With little to no verbal instruction, visitors gravitated to the art making table and began making collages answering two prompts. The following prompts were printed and displayed on the tables and the wall hanging for community members to respond to creatively:

“To quantify means to measure or express the quantity of something. For example, Genetic Ancestry Test results quantify your genetic ancestry. In two collages, show us how you would quantify yourself and the ways you cannot be quantified. Then add your collages to the wall to be part of the collaborative art project!”

Participants contributed their collages as responses to both the prompts and the educational posters hanging in the atrium. People of all ages were able to participate in the collaborative art activity.

Paper collages strung across a red wall using twine.

Collage display in atrium.

5) Curated Video Playlist

In the small conference room, prior to the start of the chain reaction panel, short, accessible videos on genetic ancestry testing played on loop as visitors sat waiting for the panel to begin. Videos included a newly released educational video by Vox: What DNA ancestry tests can – and can’t – tell you; A provocative and satirical ad for AeroMexico Airlines for ticket discounts based on DNA test results; and informative, humorous videos, including one by BuzzFeedVideo: Ethnically Ambiguous People take a DNA Test; and a CBC News video called Twins get ‘mystifying’ DNA ancestry test results (Marketplace). The idea of curating the videos involved showing, first, a breakdown of the science involved, and second, some moral, ethical, and cultural questions raised around using DNA ancestry test results to rethink one’s ancestry.

Conclusion

This event served to engage the multi-layered discussion of genomics, race, and ancestry by providing students and the general public with the means and tools to become more informed and to think critically about this timely subject. We achieved our goal of facilitating an interdisciplinary discussion between art, science, and science education. We could also have had a more diverse range of experts on the panel since the majority were from the Biomolecular Engineering department. It may have been advantageous to include more social scientists and humanities scholars. This observation was made by a community member and the fellows made certain to listen to this visitor’s concern of lack of disciplinary diversity on the panel. Yet they, along with other visitors to the museum and students from the university, commented on the informative and engaging nature of the event. We realized after speaking with many event participants that we could have created a take-away bibliographic resource. We sparked the curiosity of many visitors and, we think, let people leave with many questions for further reflection, but we could have provided a more concrete list of relevant resources.

One line of future inquiry that arose from this event is the challenge of trying to understand the moral and ethical questions that are continuously arising as genomic technologies improve. As practices of DNA phenotyping are on the rise and the spectre of novel forms of genetic discrimination continues to haunt the fields of genetics and genomics, how can we, as members of a multitude of larger collectives, continue to ask relevant questions and remain pertinent in thinking through complex issues spanning science and race, identity and ethnicity, and the intertwining of genealogical and genetic ancestry?

References

Nelson, A. (2016). The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation After the Genome. Beacon Press.

Reardon, J. (2017). The Postgenomic Condition: Ethics, Justice and Knowledge After the Genome. University of Chicago Press.

Richardson, Sarah S. & Stevens, H. (2015). Postgenomics: Perspectives on Biology After the Genome. Duke University Press.

TallBear, K. (2013). Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science. University of Minnesota Press.

March 6 and 13, 2019 | SJTP Op-ed Workshops with Sally Lehrman

Wednesday, March 6 and March 13

10:30am – 12:30pm

SJRC Common Room, Oakes 231

As part of the Science & Justice Training Program, the Science & Justice Research Center has organized a two-part workshop on writing Op-Eds about science and society issues. Sally Lehrman, Science & Justice’s Visiting Professor, teaches science journalism and has extensive experience writing about the social, ethical and political dynamics of science in major publications. She will walk us through the process of conceiving, writing and placing articles about your research in non-academic publications. As you know, this kind of writing is increasingly important for academics to engage in, and will be a good CV builder. All graduate students are welcome to join, even if you participated in previous iterations of the workshop.

The two workshops will take place on Wednesdays, March 6 and 13 in the Science & Justice Common Room, Oakes 231 from 10:30am – 12:30pm. Please RSVP to cmasseng@ucsc.edu to reserve your spot! For those away from campus, we can offer remote participation via Zoom.

Mar 14, 2018 | Reflexivity Isn’t Enough: (Re)Making ‘Place’ in Ethnographic Practices

Wednesday, March 14, 2018 | 4:00-5:30 PM | SJRC Common Room

This presentation consists of two parts. First, Hernández will present a talk that draws on their forthcoming journal publication which narrates an embodied and experiential ethnographic approach, one that reimagines ethnography and ethnographic practices, and works to contribute to healing and Indigenous survivance.

Second, Hernández, who is a Society for Visual Anthropology awardee, will conduct a reading of their ethnographic poetry while inviting bees into the space with the help of photo-ethnography. Hernández’s dissertation work is a relational collaboration with bees, among many more-than-human beings, in and with the borderlands of California and Arizona. Thus, bees and the Indigenous lands from where they live and from which they come will be present and honored through both visual and poetic engagements.

Krisha J. Hernández (Mexica/Aztec, Yaqui (Yoeme), & Bisayan), is an Indígena Ph.D. Candidate and Teaching Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). Hernández is the recipient of fellowships from the National Science Foundation, UCSC Graduate Division, UCSC Science and Justice Research Center, and is a Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate and Sally Casanova Pre-Doctoral Scholar. She is a researcher in the Indigenous Science, Technology, and Society (Indigenous STS) international research and teaching hub lab chaired by Canada’s Research Chair in Indigenous Peoples, Technoscience, and Environment, Dr. Kim TallBear. Her forthcoming dissertation, “Agents of Pollination: Indigenous Bodies & Lives, and U.S. Agriculture Technosciences,” is concerned with Indigeneity and materialisms, (de)colonization and settler colonialism, and collaboration (with more-than-(but including)-human beings) as healing. Hernández researches human-insect relations in food and agricultural systems, more-than-human socialites, foodways, and environmental change in which they employ a critical Indigenous feminist lens toward more-than-human personhood.  Hernández has had the privilege of working as an invited guest on Kānaka Maoli land, and currently works and thinks with desert lands and pollinators in the southern ‘borderlands’ of California and Arizona— primarily in relational collaboration with bees and moths.

 

Feb 07, 2018 | Academic (Re)Considerations: “Non-Humans” and/as Research Objects, Subjects, and Co-laborers

Academic researchers across disciplines have long utilized animals, plants, rocks, and a range of non-human others, yet historically this research has been grounded in a foundational distinction between nature and culture, non-human and human. In this round table discussion with Laurie Palmer (UCSC Art) and Felicity Schaeffer (UCSC Feminist Studies), we will collaboratively discuss methodological approaches to research on and with animals, plants, rocks, and a range of non-human others with the hope of developing more concrete, nuanced vocabularies, engagements and practices. Participants are invited to submit brief works in progress in advance, which will serve as the foundation for the discussion. Palmer and Schaeffer will briefly discuss their theoretical interests as well as their methodological approaches to both the category of the non-human itself, as they define it, and non-human beings themselves. Subsequently, all participants will engage in a collaborative discussion around their experiences of, questions around, or hopes for engagement with nonhuman as subjects and collaborators. Rather than asking participants to present polished work, our intention is for the discussion to be a space in which to surface the questions and tensions that each of us grapples with in our scholarship.

To this round table, we invite decolonial and anticolonial thinkers and scholars who strive to work in deeply caring and collaborative ways across multiple boundaries, including but not limited to the boundaries of discipline, hierarchy, and anthropocentrically driven engagements. At the same time, we frame this discussion as one that acknowledges and engages with lived realities and histories of environmental violence and injustice of many peoples. Drawing on the theory of ethnographic refusal, as articulated by Audra Simpson, we seek to engage with folks who refuse to reproduce settler colonial violence on and with non-human others in their work. As Eve Tuck and Marcia McKenzie elaborate, a refusal is not only a no, but a redirection to ideas otherwise unacknowledged or unquestioned: “A generative stance situated in a critical understanding of settler colonialism and its regimes of representation.”*

We invite thinkers and scholars who insist on working in ways that actively build relationships, fostered through personal responsibility and collective accountability, to and with more than (but including) human beings. In so doing, we hope to hold decolonial, justice-oriented forms of engagements with more than human beings in every stage of our work.

Participants will submit a piece of work or work in progress by January 22, 2018, which will be circulated to their fellow participants for reading ahead of the workshop. We are looking for messy and promising provocations, not polished manuscripts. In addition, folks who work in the arts or who feel their methodological engagements may be best communicated in non-text forms are encouraged to participate. Finally, the discussion is not limited to research phases of our work. Rather, we also hope to (re)consider the products of our work (i.e., text-based literature, film, image, etc.). Vegan and vegetarian food will be provided.

To participate: please submit a 250-350-word abstract, and/or up to 2 pages of thought from a work in progress, about specific ways in which you (imagine and/or practice) methodological engagements with non-human kin and/or collaborators during in and all phases of your work, to nonhuman.workshop@gmail.com by January 22, 2018.

Convened by Science and Justice Training Program Fellows: Krisha Hernández (Anthropology, PhD candidate) and Vivian Underhill (Feminist Studies, PhD student). In collaboration with Taylor Wondergem (Feminist Studies, PhD student)

 

*Tuck, Eve and Marcia McKenzie. Place in Research: Theory, Methodology and Methods. P 148

 

Wednesday, February 07, 2018 | Humanities/Social Sciences, Room 359

Rapporteur Report

By: Taylor Wondergem

On February 7th, 2018, an interdisciplinary group of scholars gathered on UC Santa Cruz’ campus to discuss their methodological and theoretical engagements with nonhumans as research subjects, objects, and co-laborers. Organized by Krisha Hernández, Vivian Underhill, and Taylor Wondergem, the event included faculty panelists Laurie Palmer (Art) and Felicity Schaeffer (Feminist Studies) as well as 16 graduate student participants.

Dr. Palmer discussed her work on fracking in the Monterey Shale formation as a sculptor and visual artist of materiality and place. In thinking about how oil’s intractable embeddedness in some ways belies its extraction, she discussed her approach to focusing on formations – such as shale – that are not present to first-person sensory experience. Using data and images from geological productions, she raised questions around how scientists and scholars do, could, or should render the underground visible while attending to the violence of the illusion of transparency. Her discussion of the ways in which representations objectify and separate one from their object of representation – and how she engages with that dynamic – echoed other participants’ concerns around representations of a range of other nonhuman beings.

Dr. Schaeffer discussed her recent work engaging with Gloria Anzaldúa and recentering the role of spirituality as a deeply material way of knowing. Working beyond feminist science studies’ largely secular ways of thinking about matter, she asked questions around how to enact ways of knowing in ways that don’t reproduce Western frameworks. The audience asked how she defined the terms wild science, erotic science, and sacred science, and what work those terms did for her, and Dr. Schaeffer responded by situating the importance of calling knowledge science because of the power that those disciplinary boundaries hold.

Participants’ work centered around themes of disrupting settler colonialism, extraction and disaster in the Anthropocene, and similar questions of representation and intervention. One group of works centered around practices and values of care and relationality, and the discussion focused on questions raised about how ‘the other’ speaks when ‘speech’ is already problematic. Participants’ definitions of listening as methodology differed, depending on the genealogies of teachers and thought they draw on. Another group of works centered around methodological experimentation beyond writing as a mode of representation: for instance, photography, film, and wood cuttings. Participant Melody Overstreet’s artwork took up space in the room and affirmed the blur between multiple assumed boundaries, as she discussed her sense of quiet presence as method. Krisha Hernández rearticulated that for her, this sort of work is about relations and relationships, not embodying or speaking for more-than-humans.

Another cluster of works thought about the absences, impossibilities, and misrecognitions enacted by settler colonialism, late liberalism, and/or racial capitalism. Participants discussed the ways in which nonhuman and more than human beings relate and are intertwined within these frameworks, and a key point of discussion was on how to relate to/with the role that science and scientific discourse plays: the tensions around the legibility granted by scientific epistemologies to regulatory and other processes, but the exclusions and violences that it simultaneously enacts.

Jan 31, 2018 | Research Justice 101: Tools for Feminist Science

How do we practice a socially just science? Join Free Radicals, a Los Angeles-based feminist and anti-racist community organization of scientists, that aims to incorporate a critical social justice lens into science, for an interactive workshop on feminist practices and socially conscious frameworks for building feminist research and engineering practices. Justice provides a framework for scientists to think through the hidden assumptions in their methodological approaches, and challenges researchers to think more deeply about the political implications of their work.

Participants will be challenged to apply principles and practices of justice to their own work, interrogating questions such as: Who benefits? Who is harmed? Who is most vulnerable?

In our communities of practice and beyond, whose well-being are we responsible for? How do our individual and collective identities affect the questions we ask? And ultimately, who do we do science for, and why? The workshop will conclude with practical skills and resources for participants to push their research communities to be more inclusive, equitable and attentive to social justice.

Free Radicals is a collective that envisions an open and responsible science that works toward progressive social change. Our work focuses on creating resources for political education through workshops and our blog: freerads.org.

Paloma Medina is a second year Ph.D. student in Biomolecular Engineering and Bioinformatics (UCSC) studying genetic ancestry and the evolution of sex. She has worked with the science of de-extinction, developmental biology, and animal behavior. As part of the Science and Justice Research Center Training Program, she helped initiate the Queer Ecologies Research Cluster and is continually seeking new creative ways to promote biodiversity. More information about Queer Ecologies can be found at: https://users.soe.ucsc.edu/~pmedina/queer_ecology_reading_list.html.

 

Co-Sponsored by the UC Santa Cruz Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD), Institute for Scientist and Engineer Educators (ISEE), Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE)

 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018 | 4:00-6:00 PM |Engineering 2, room 599

Event Description

Event description by Bradley Jin

Research Justice 101 participants

Paloma Medina and Free Radicals pose with SJRC's Jenny Reardon and Karen Barad. Photo credit: Bradley Jin.

In a packed room in the E2 building at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Paloma Medina stood before an attentive audience. She spoke about why she loves biology. For her, biology is a way to redefine the word ‘natural.’ To many, what is ‘natural’ is the difference between right and wrong, normal and abnormal. She finds this definition lacking; it does not reflect the diversity of people and things that she sees every day. Medina wanted to find a new, better ‘natural.’ To do this, she had to take a journey of self-reflection. Through careful consideration and thought, she found what she was looking for: feminist science.

Medina wants to share feminist science with others. To help others practice feminist science, she, along with the Free Radicals, hosted Research Justice 101: Tools for Feminist Science. On a cool February afternoon, faculty, professors, and graduate and undergraduate students alike came together to learn about and discuss feminist sciencewhat it is, and why we need it. Medina focused on the uses of reflexivity, critical theory, and feminist standpoint theory in her work. She and the Free Radicals asked the audience to consider how communities, cultures, and historical locations all factor into the viewpoints from which they interpret the world. By interrogating where we stand, we can better understand what assumptions we bring to scientific inquiry. Participants divided into pairs to try to apply this to their own research, as well as to each other. Each pair discussed their current research or research aims. Attendees asked each other how, why, and for whom their research existed: Is it accessible? What will it be used for? Attendees considered these questions and more.

Each pairing then assembled together to form larger discussion groups. Each group was led by a faculty advisor as well as a member of the Free Radicals. Groups collaborated to explore ways in which they could practice feminist science. Each group produced something different. Some spoke about how to communicate feminist science to the public, while others discussed how to redefine objectivity. At the end, the groups came together and shared what they had learned.

The event concluded with a request: Medina and the Free Radicals asked the audience to not only leave with a better understanding of feminist science, but to actually commit to practicing it. In unison, the audience shouted out what they would do to to make their science better. Some pledged to talk to colleagues or friends about feminist science. Others promised to make sure that their research was accessible and not hidden behind academic paywalls, or to remain conscious of their social and economic status so that they wouldn’t undervalue their privileged positions. The attendees left with both a new set of tools for practicing feminist science and a renewed sense of purpose.

Rapporteur Report

Critical Listener and Rapporteur Report by Dennis Browe

Convener: Paloma Medina

Participants:

Free Radicals, a “Los Angeles-based feminist and anti-racist community organization of scientists, that aims to incorporate a critical social justice lens into science.”

-       Sasha Karapetrova, laboratory assistant and prospective environmental science/biochemistry graduate student

-       Alexis Takahashi, multiracial community organizer, garden educator, and writer.

-       Linus Kuo, market researcher with a background in psychology, and current Masters of education student.

-       Andy Su, aspiring science educator and seeking to translate his experiences in community organizing toward transforming science institutions.

-       Paloma Medina, Ph.D. student in Biomolecular Engineering and Bioinformatics (UCSC) studying genetic ancestry and the evolution of sex.

Overview

The overall goal of this workshop was to introduce – and collectively think through – various tools for scientists from a range of disciplines to grapple with questions of justice in their research. The Free Radicals use feminist science studies as a guiding frame to grapple with these questions. Amidst upbeat music playing overhead, the workshop began within a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Soon the room was overflowing. By the start of the welcoming commentary participants lined the back and side walls. About forty participants were gathered, and an informal audience poll showed that there was a wide mix of people in the room – professors, graduate students, undergraduates, and some staff and community members, comprising a variety of backgrounds and disciplines spanning the computer, physical, natural and social sciences and the humanities – a perfect mix for the themes of this workshop.

Jenny Reardon (UCSC Professor of Sociology and SJRC Director) gave a brief welcome, happily acknowledging, with assent from the crowd: “I think we can conclude there is an interest in research justice on this campus.” Dr. Reardon then introduced Kate Darling (former SJRC Associate Director and UCSC Sociology adjunct faculty), who helped to further set the tone of the afternoon: “We don’t necessarily want to retreat from a move where we protect science, or only critique it, but to open up conversations of justice and equity in STEM fields, in health research and care.”  Dr. Darling then introduced the Free Radicals team to begin the workshop, which took the form of an interactive presentation (using Powerpoint on a large screen) interspersed with three participatory activities – individual, pairs, and larger groups, all focusing around locating participants’ own research projects and interrogating various assumptions and power dynamics built into these projects.

POLITICAL ACKNOWLEDGMENT

Sasha Karapetrova, a Free Radical, began with a political acknowledgment of the context in which the event was taking place: “We are gathered here and doing this workshop on the occupied lands of the Amah mutsun Tribe.”  Sasha then asked the room: “Is research just?” Almost no one raised their hand. She then asked if people think research is unjust. To this question there was a more varied response – some thought yes, some no, and others mentioned that they have mixed answers here. This helped situate the room further, illustrating that many attending this workshop share some overlapping concerns regarding justice and injustice in research. Here the workshop was still speaking of these issues at a high level, without delving into the specifics of how each might play out in more concrete practices, i.e. what are injustices participants encounter or notice in their own research and institutions, and what strategies they have pursued to attempt to rectify these issues.

EXAMPLES OF UNJUST SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH

The Free Radicals team then launched into the main presentation, each team member stepping in and out, collaboratively taking turns leading various parts of the slideshow. They began by covering ways in which research can be unjust: science employed by the State or military can damage the land (such as DDT research and use); the process of conducting unethical experiments (such as the infamous Tuskegee syphilis case); and, third, ways that science is done, such as larger budgets into research for cystic fibrosis compared to sickle cell disease[PM1] .

THE FEMINIST SCIENTIFIC METHOD

The team moved onto discussing the scientific method, stating that this method or framework does not leave much room for scientists to interrogate their own process of research. They discussed the “God trick,” one assumption of science in which scientific research creates an illusion of pure objectivity (referencing Donna Haraway’s 1988 article on “Situated Knowledges”). The team explained that to move away from this “God trick” we need to embrace a feminist science, using tools from multiple theoretical lineages including feminist standpoint theory (Smith 1997, Harding 2004, Collins 1997, Haraway 1988)  and feminist intersectionality (Crenshaw 1991). The team further cited Dr. Deboleena Roy’s “Feminist theory in science: working toward a practical transformation” as a feminist model of inquiry, helping to put theory into practice. They stated that through using these feminist frameworks, science can and should benefit marginalized communities and challenge power and knowledge dynamics: working from these different assumptions could, ideally, help result in research justice.

LOCATING YOURSELF, THE FIRST STEP TOWARDS RESEARCH JUSTICE

The Free Radicals began detailing the steps of how to do research with questions of justice remaining at the forefront, starting with locating oneself, the communities one comes from and lives in, and one’s historical and cultural locatedness. Questions of locatedness demonstrate how knowledge and knowledge-making is socially and historically situated. One participant asked for the team to distinguish between cultural and community. The team members helped each other out, answering that we can think of cultural as about broader norms in a society, versus more specific community norms we are a part of. Paloma, the Convener, helped illustrate these points by discussing her own research. She located her own background, describing her multiple identities as a queer woman of color and as a biologist. She explained how her locatedness has sparked her research goals, beginning to explore what is the “natural.” She thus applied her skills in biology to study sex chromosomes and their naturally occurring mutations in various species.

LOCATING YOUR RESEARCH

After doing an individual activity on “Locating your Research,” the Free Radicals introduced a simultaneously useful and humorous (for its overwhelming number of nodes) mindmap on the big screen – a chart borrowed from Charlotte Cooper on “Research Justice: Some Handy Questions.” They then led the room through the steps of thinking through a research project with a feminist lens: after locating one’s research, define the purpose and clarify the questions one is asking; then interrogate the hypothesis, meaning asking questions such as “how was the research done and who designed it? Who participated, and how?” The final step is to analyze power dynamics of the completed research – how was it disseminated? What was done afterwards? The relationship between the scientist and the subjects of the research must be recognized and articulated. The team mentioned the importance of turning to an interdisciplinary range of knowledge and theories for explanations and forms of evidence.

                                                                                             

GROUP ACTIVITY: TRANSFORMATION

For the final third of the workshop, the Free Radicals led a large-group activity. The activity involved participants splitting into five groups of seven with each Free Radical pairing with a professor in the room to co-lead their group. The task was to brainstorm how to transform institutions to more thoroughly include research justice and how to create strategies for social change (Figure 1). During report-back, one strategy discussed amongst the room is finding out where the momentum in funding sources currently is. One can figure out how their own research interests relate to the momentum of the already built research field/institution. Additionally, one can create a niche for their research, and build out community and ideally obtain funding toward researching this niche interest. A few participants expressed being uncomfortable letting personal passions drive their research for fear of it discrediting their research. By voicing concerns and hurdles met when applying the feminist model of inquiry, many strategies to overcome barriers to research justice were shared among the group. It is clear that discussions and events that center research justice strategies, potentially a grant writing workshop, are desired and needed to help researchers  

Research Justice 101 brainstorm

Figure 1. Photo of group activity brainstorm led by Professor Linda Werner, Computer Science, and Paloma Medina, Biomolecular Engineering.

GROUP ACTIVITY: SEMANTICS OF ‘FEMINIST’ SCIENCE

One question that came up during the group activity, which offers occasion for citizen-scientist groups such as the Free Radicals and SJRC to continually interrogate (because there is no final, perfect answer to arrive at) is the semantics and definitions used toward building justice in research practices. One participant commented that they understand issues of justice to be a daily concern in running a lab and research projects, yet do not understand why a specifically “feminist” lens is needed. They work in a lab led by a woman of color and see her daily handle practical issues – bureaucracy, funding stretched thin, implicit and structural issues of racism and sexism –  that tend to impede on her and her lab’s ability to more fully tackle issues of justice and inclusivity, such as training more young women of color scientists. These same practices might be termed “feminist” by some, but not by others, and a question becomes, do these semantic distinctions make a difference, and if so, what differences might they make?

GROUP ACTIVITY: SCIENTISTS NEED TO SHOW UP

The team spoke of encouraging scientists to “show up” as much as possible, to try and get communities to care and to foster citizen scientists from the community, while acknowledging that scientists need to be citizens too. A participant remarked that ethics within science is generally too narrow a framework for thinking about issues of inequality and equity; instead, questions of justice probe deeper than ethical legal frameworks for the scientific research being done. A further strategy discussed is how to diplomatically connect departments, such as life scientists, physicists, computer scientists, and/or engineers coming together with social scientists and humanities scholars. These themes clearly overlap and resonate with the mission of the Science and Justice Research Center, and this workshop proved to be a valuable encounter for furthering this mission. By bringing together a wide range of participants –in terms of both career-stage and disciplinary backgrounds – it helped foster a shared framework for thinking through concrete ways to put these goals into action.

CONCLUSIONS: FRAMEWORK OF CHANGE

The Free Radicals ended the workshop by briefly touching on the “Ecological Framework of Change” for doing feminist science and research: a diagram consisting of concentric circles, representing different levels at which change can be fostered: the individual is the innermost point or circle, surrounded by a working group, surrounded by an institution, which is lastly enveloped within a field of study. Before participants left, each person was also given an artistic postcard to take home with them, to write down an action that they could commit to taking as a result of coming to the workshop. These gestures provided a fitting linking of this ending to serve as a new point of departure for projects bringing together a range of scientists and humanists, academics and citizens, to continually build community in the interests of justice in science and research more broadly. Commonsensical in some ways, justice in research should never be a singularly taken-for-granted category, goal, or strategy for change. Through hosting future events, the Science & Justice Research Center can and will continue interrogating meanings of research justice and its promises offered of a better world, or worlds.

 

Works Cited

Collins, Patricia Hill. "Comment on Hekman's 'Truth and Method: Feminist Standpoint Theory

Revisited': Where's the Power?" Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society22.2 (1997): 375-381.

Crenshaw, Kimberle. "Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color." Stanford law review (1991): 1241-1299.

Haraway, Donna. "Situated knowledges: The science question in feminism and the privilege of partial perspective." Feminist studies 14.3 (1988): 575-599.

Roy, Deboleena. "Feminist theory in science: working toward a practical transformation." Hypatia 19.1 (2004): 255-279.

Smith, Dorothy E. "Comment on Hekman's 'Truth and Method: Feminist Standpoint Theory Revisited'." Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 22.2 (1997): 392-398.

Feb 24, 2016 | Graduate Training Program Informational Meeting

The Science and Justice Research Center will host an Informational Meeting on our internationally recognized interdisciplinary Graduate Training and Certificate Program:

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

12:00 – 1:45PM

 Graduate Student Commons 204

Our Science and Justice Training Program (SJTP) is a globally unique initiative that trains doctoral students to work across the disciplinary boundaries of the natural and social sciences, engineering, humanities and the arts. Through the SJTP we at UC Santa Cruz currently teach new generations of PhD students the skills of interdisciplinary collaboration, ethical deliberation, and public communication. Students in the program design collaborative research projects oriented around questions of science and justice. These research projects not only contribute to positive outcomes in the wider world, they also become the templates for new forms of problem-based and collaborative inquiry within and beyond the university.

Spring 2016 Course:
Science & Justice: Experiments in Collaboration
SOCY/BME/FMST 268A & ANTH 267A
Prof. Jenny Reardon
Wednesdays 10-1, College 8 301

Students from all disciplines are encouraged to attend
Prior graduate Fellows have come from every campus Division.

13 Represented Departments:
Anthropology, Biomolecular Engineering, Earth & Planetary Sciences, Environmental Studies, Film and Digital Arts, Digital Arts and New Media, History of Consciousness, Literature, Philosophy, Physics, Politics, Psychology, and Sociology

As SJTP students graduate they take the skills and experience they gained in the training program into the next stage of their career in universities, industry, non-profits, and government.

Opportunities include graduate Certificate Program, experience organizing and hosting colloquia series about your research, mentorship, opportunities for research funding and training in conducting interdisciplinary research at the intersections of science and society.

For more information on the Science & Justice Training Program, please see: http://scijust.ucsc.edu/training/

Dec 12, 2015 | Science & Justice Training Program Certificate Reception

4:00-5:30 PM | SJRC Common Room, Oakes 231

Please join us in congratulating the graduate fellows on their achievements in completing the Science & Justice Training Program. This certificate provides recognition to current graduate students who have developed collaborative research methods for exploring the meeting of questions of science and knowledge with questions of ethics and justice. For more pedagogical information on the nationally and internationally recognized Science & Justice Training Program, please read Experiments in Collaboration: Interdisciplinary Graduate Education in Science and Justice originally published in PLOS Biology.

Graduate students interested in the Science & Justice Training Program, please visit: Science & Justice Training Program.

Faculty interested in supporting the Science & Justice Training Program or for more information on our Broader Impacts Initiative, please read: Broader Impacts.

Oct 07, 2015 | It’s About Time: How Perceptions of Time Influence Environmental Action

How do conceptions of time inform our perceptions of anthropogenic climate change and influence the political and societal will to respond? How can an appreciation for the timescales of civic policy help scientists to frame their findings for effective social change? How can we render scientific data actionable while retaining the depth of temporal knowledge? This presentation and panel discussion will provide an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the effects of human behavior on different timescales. By bringing together these different perspectives, we aim to theorize how perceptions of time can help communities, such as UCSC, implement both long- and short-range environmental goals and allow for more active engagement with environmental issues.

Elida Erickson, Sustainability Programs Manager and Interim Director, UCSC Office of Sustainability

Zoey Kroll, Internet Communications Coordinator, San Francisco Department of the Environment

Adina Paytan, Research Professor, Institute of Marine Sciences, UCSC

Organized by Science & Justice Training Program Fellows Carolyn Branecky (Earth and Planetary Sciences) and Samuael Topiary (Film + Digital Media)

Read Rap Report > It's About Time

October 7, 2015 | Physical Sciences Building, Room 305 |   4:00-6:00 PM 

It’s About Time: How Perceptions of Time Influence Environmental Action
SJWG Rapporteur Report
7 October 2015
Rapporteur Report by Carolyn Branecky & Samuael Topiary
The Panel Discussion
At this Science & Justice Training Program event, Zoey Kroll, Adina Payton, and Elida Erickson
discussed how different perceptions of time influence the ways they communicate anthropogenic climate
change to broader publics and the implications of this communication for political action. Carolyn and
Topiary moderated a discussion with the three panelists, followed by a question and answer discussion
with the audience. By focusing on the timescales that define each of the panelists’ efforts, we explored
some of the possibilities as well as the limitations on both communication and action which face the
environmental movement today.

The panel began with a presentation by Zoey Kroll, who provocatively suggested that ten seconds
was the timeframe she is most guided by in her work as the Internet Communications Coordinator at the
San Francisco Department of the Environment (SFDE). In suggesting that she has about ten seconds to
capture the attention of the average visitor to the SFDE website, Kroll stated that her work was defined by
her ability to communicate quickly and simply. Thus, she sees quickness as essential to working on the
long-term goals of municipal transformation. The SFDE provides easy to understand guidelines for
recycling and composting to help SF city dwellers and businesses to implement new city ordinances, such
as the plastic bag ban.

Dr. Adina Paytan, UCSC Earth and Planetary Sciences Research Professor, focused on the
techniques she uses to communicate the impact of human activities on the ocean environment. She
explained how her research spans a wide range of temporal scales, observing natural processes that occur
in one season to environmental change that evolves over millions of years with spatial scales that range
from the molecular to the global. Although her work explores these multitudes, she explained how she
relies upon human lifespans to communicate the gravity and relevancy of her data. Using the benchmarks
of generations within her own family, she plots the changes in ocean acidification levels, noting the wide
change between the years when she was born and when her daughter was born. Using these personal
markers in her research data graphs, Paytan suggests that in talking about long-term issues, she finds it
essential to put her data into the perspective of a human generation, stating that a 100-year lifespan is
about as much as people can really understand in terms of rates of change.

Elida Erickson, Sustainability Programs Manager and Interim Director at UCSC’s Office of
Sustainability, focused on institutional timescales at the university, stating that the Office of Sustainability was established seven years ago by students, focusing on the problems of food waste. She discussed the ways that timescales for environmental action can differ among the groups that she works with. On the one hand, college students want to see change happen within their 4-year term at the university and have been successful in some cases at catalyzing that change within their time here. Yet, from the administrative side, sometimes institutional policies, such as building permits in the case of one student project, can defer or prevent the implementation of creative solutions. In drawing a distinction between student timeframes and administrative timeframes, Erickson raised the issue of how working with committees has its own kind of timeframe and challenges, and suggested that working with administrators was the least fun part of her job. She also noted that the ambition and perspective of students wanting to achieve environmental goals on a student timeframe can help to push the administration to move faster than they might otherwise to implement environmental policy changes.

Conversation Following the Presentations
Both UCSC and the City of San Francisco have Zero Waste programs, whose shared goal is to
eliminate (in some sense of the word) waste by a given date. Kroll, representing the City of San
Francisco, and Erickson, representing UCSC’s Office of Sustainability compared the implementation of
these Zero Waste programs in a compelling way. Both of these speakers discussed the role which politics
plays in their work as well as the need to navigate institutional positions when strategizing on
communicating environmental action. Kroll suggested that she tends to think and work from a citizen
point of view, rather than from a City government's administrative perspective. Erickson suggested there
was a difficulty with fast change, suggesting that UC-wide initiatives, such as Zero Waste, which are
mandated from the top down, often leave people in the middle having to adjust.For example, UCSC is
“crawling” on a campus-wide composting due to the undesirability of a bin next to offices. She suggested
that while the voice of students can push the administration to be more responsive, it can also be pushed
aside more readily. Kroll suggested that in San Francisco, the idea of Zero Waste 2020 produces
excitement and creates a sense of a goal for people to work toward. She notes that to date, San Francisco
has achieved an 80% diversion rate and that 10% of the outlying waste has to be addressed with producer
responsibility laws.

The panel discussed the difference between achievable goals and “impossible” or aspirational
goals, such as Zero Waste, and mused about the ways in which achievable goals helps to foster personal
action, while “impossible” goals can be useful to galvanize a larger community movement. This line of
thinking was interrogated by Anthropology PhD candidate Kristin Lawson, who questioned the role of
time in relationship to differences between institutional and individual action. Kroll responded that
institutions and municipalities can affect change at the procurement level and spoke about the high
purchasing standards held by the City of San Francisco, which publishes a directory for approved sources,
which in turn, provides a pathway for industry to move in this direction. Kroll also discussed the way that
her personal experience of working on a collective urban farming project with a 2-5 year timeframe
demonstrated how working toward specific goals can head off a sense of numbness and disempowerment
that comes from doom and gloom climate change predictions. She added that, in San Francisco, one
hears is a lot of talk about “disruption” as a solution and she wonders if the feeling of urgency (about
climate change) must be combined with the experiences that help one feel one’s actions are making a
difference. Kroll focuses on how to make her work be as accessible and inclusive as possible.

Paytan picked up on the issue of “doom and gloom,” stating that she feels scientists need to be
more solution-oriented when communicating the negative consequences of their research, such as rapid
climate change, species extinction, and environmental destruction. Dr. Karen Barad (UCSC Feminist
Studies) pushed Paytan on the ways in which scientists communicate their work using standard notions of
time, questioning “the seduction of clock time” and its tie to capitalism. Barad wondered about the
temporality of urgency and its relationship to doom, questioning whether there might be a way to discuss
urgent time, which is not tied to doom, but rather allows the past and the future to carry more meaning.
Paytan countered that, although we receive distressing data about climate change, our planet has been
around for four billion years and has been through other huge changes, stating that she personally finds
comfort in knowing that we humans are not going to be here forever. Barad countered that she is not
comforted by how this kind of philosophical nihilism is often taken up politically, especially considering
the unevenness of how the planet is being damaged and by whom. She noted that scientists often have
lively alternative conceptions of time and can think about temporality more richly when our hands are not
tied to “clock time.” Barad continued by suggesting that although something like sea-level rise happens
at a certain rate within a fixed frame, the consequences of that rise are experienced very differently by the
people living in rich countries than in poor ones and wondered whether these effects should be put in
words of time or social equality.

Towards the end of the panel discussion, PhD student Ella Ben-Hagai raised the question of
whether zero waste goals were paradoxical to the push for economic development and expansion in both
San Francisco and at UCSC. She also provocatively wondered whether the zero waste programs were
causing these two enclaves to become islands of “sustainability” and created zones of privilege or
whether there was some notion of zero waste mandates as being more “trickle down” kinds of strategies
for other places.

The panel discussion concluded with a question about the politics behind scientific research and
an acknowledgment of the importance of having interdisciplinary conversations between scientists, social
scientists and humanists and which include voices and experiences from both inside and outside of the
academy, in helping to further discussions about environmental action and in order to build new alliances
to build a progressive agenda.

Post-panel Discussion Reflections
Following this panel discussion, we received written comments from our panelists reflecting on moments
that stuck out to them. The following quotes come from this written feedback:

Kroll:
“It was interesting to hear candid words from Elida about what it's like to work within a
university context, ... how terms are defined or redefined as campaigns evolve (Can Zero Waste
really mean 95% waste diversion?). The role of the Science and Justice Program in bringing
together a dynamic audience and panel cannot be understated.

Paytan:
“Having social scientists, humanists and physical scientists on the panel contributed to a
fascinating exchange of ideas. As a scientist and particularly a geologist I tend to define time as a
precise measurement related to the rates of rotation of planetary bodies (the Earth and the Moon)
and it was very interesting and educating for me to hear how others regard time in a much more
subjective manner and that time could be by personal and even societal experiences. I also
learned a lot about the challenges people have when they have to communicate timelines to a
broad community and accomplish set goals, both the campus sustainability goals and the City of
SF environmental Stewardship (0-50-100 roots) goals are impressive!”

Apr 22, 2015 | Fixing the Pathological Body

The medical industry leans heavily upon a distinction between the "normal" and the "pathological." How and why do we continue to define this distinction, and for whom are these categories useful?  What are some alternative ways to organize the lived experiences of human bodies and/or minds?

A Panel Discussion with Janette Dinishak (Assistant Professor of Philosophy at UCSC) Kelly Ormond (Professor of Genetics and Genetic Counselor at Stanford University) Matthew Wolf-Meyer (Associate Professor of Anthropology at UCSC and author of The Sleeping Masses).Organized by Science & Justice Training Program Fellows Sandra Harvey (Politics), Linda Dayem (Philosophy) and Jessica Neasbitt (History of Consciousness). Co-Sponsored by UCSC Departments of History of Consciousness, Literature, and Philosophy, as well as the Institute for Humanities Research.

Janette Dinishak is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her research interests include philosophy and history of psychology and psychiatry (especially autism), Wittgenstein, philosophy of mind, disability, and ethical theory.

Kelly Ormond is a Professor of Genetics at the Stanford School of Medicine. While Ormond's primary role is to direct the MS in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling program, her research focuses on the intersection between genetics and ethics, particularly around the translation of new genetic technologies (such as genome sequencing or non-invasive prenatal diagnosis) into clinical practice. She is especially interested in patient decision making, informed consent, and the interface between genetics and disability.

Matthew Wolf-Meyer is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He received his Ph.D. from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota, specializing in medical anthropology, the social study of science and technology, and neuroscience. He is author of The Slumbering Masses: Sleep, Medicine and Modern American Life (UMN Press, 2012), which focuses on sleep in American culture and its historical and contemporary relations to capitalism. His second book, What Matters: The Politics of American Brains, focuses on the ethical and epistemological practices in contemporary neuroscience, cybernetics, disability activism, and psychoanalysis in American society. Currently he is in the early stage of a new project focused on the neurological turn to the gut as an extension of the nervous system, the history of shit in the United States, and the therapeutic uses of human excrement in modern medicine.

April 22, 2015

"Fixing the Pathological Body"
SJWG Rapporteur Report
22 April 2015
Rapporteur Report by Jess Neasbitt
This event was organized to begin what we hoped would be ongoing discussions that addressed
themes and questions like the following: "The medical industry leans heavily upon a distinction
between the "normal" and the "pathological." How and why do we continue to define this
distinction, and for whom are these categories useful? What are some alternative ways to
organize the lived experiences of human bodies and/or minds?" We invited Drs. Dinishak and
Wolf-Meyer and Professor Ormond to introduce their research and engage in a panel discussion
regarding these questions, as well as those asked by the audience.

After a brief introduction of the panelists and the overall event theme by Jessica Neasbitt, Dr.
Dinishak spoke about her interest in issues surrounding “deficit attribution.” She forwarded this
model as a specific form of pathologizing difference, and encouraged the audience to consider
what (or whose) standard is being used to assess the lack, or absence of a feature that a person
“should have,” that is a hallmark of “deficit attribution.” Dr. Dinishak is interested in calling the
moral complacency surrounding this decision into question, as well as bringing the narratives of
the pathologized into the conversation. This led to a brief overview of her research regarding the
narratives of autists, which involves qualitative interviews, and speaks to her stated commitment
to finding responsible approaches to engage in such research in ways that acknowledge subjects
as “not just objects to study.” Instead, Dr. Dinishak encouraged the audience to consider what the
narratives of autists can teach us about the lived experience of those labeled autistic, the cultural
representation of these individuals, and what their (autists) concerns might be.

Following Dr. Dinishak, Professor Ormond discussed how disability is talked about in genetic
counseling. Building off of Dr. Dinishak’s talk, she mentioned the challenge of mixing lived
experiences of people with disabilities with discussions of risk assessment during counseling
sessions. She is interested in starting conversations that focus more on the former than on the
medical aspects of potential conditions a fetus may develop in order to move past parental fear
and into a space of more expansive possibility. Professor Ormond stated that, at the present time,
potential parents most commonly focus on the medical aspects of potential disorders/disabilities
over the lived experiences of those diagnosed with them, and this often leads them to constrain
their choices to either abortion or bringing the baby to term and keeping it (versus adoption and
other possible options).

Dr. Wolf-Meyer also discussed social fixes in contrast to medicalization, and gave examples
from his para-ethnographic work. Most of his examples involved the tendency to medicate rather
than seek social fixes, which often require the rethinking—and perhaps radical changing—of
powerful institutions. The influence of capitalism was a recurrent theme, not only during Dr.
Wolf-Meyer’s presentation, but throughout the panel discussion and the question and answer
period; however, the “normalization” required of subjects in capitalist societies was integral to
several key aspects of Dr. Wolf-Meyer’s talk. Among these were: the increase of medical and
pharmaceutical interventions to make individual bodies “fit” into existing social systems and the
dramatic decrease of any social “safety net” (public assistance for persons with disabilities).
The individual, and the individualization of responsibility, were recurrent themes throughout the
event—especially in relation to the influence of capitalism on the practice of medicine in the
United States. Many attendees questioned panelists on whether or not their proposed
interventions into these practices and/or institutions were realistic, given the tenacious hold of
capitalism and its current rigid practices. While there were some small-scale examples of
successful interventions given (communal living, alternative clinics that evaluate social fixes as
well as medical ones), this was the extent of the discussion, and—given more time—this would
be a fascinating avenue to continue exploring.

Another topic in which the concept of the individual loomed large was the genome. There were
several audience comments and questions regarding the power of the genome and the ease with
which risk scores that describe possible futures transition into labels that dictate identities. This
tied in with the parental fear that Professor Ormond had discussed earlier, and the question was
asked: Is fear a necessary part of medical care? Professor Ormond reiterated that this was one of
the limitations of genetic counseling, that there is no “gene for” (it is not as clear cut as that), and
that this is one of the reasons why she believes that discussions with genetic counselors might be
better framed in terms of “abnormal-normal, risk-chance.”

Most of the remainder of audience questions and comments can be divided into two categories:
those focused on the role of the history of eugenics and race in regard to processes of
pathologization, and those focused on the terminology used by the panelists. The history of
eugenics was mentioned by one panelist—Professor Ormond credited it as contributing to how
genetic counseling happens today. However, there were several excellent questions that brought
up the possibility that genetic counseling may be contributing to current eugenicist practices,
especially in relation to abortion of fetuses that are at increased risk for particular pathologized
conditions. While there was some further discussion of the relation of race, eugenics, and
pathologization, we were again limited by the format and time constraints of the event; however,
we all agree that this is an area of rich possibility for further events to explore.

Audience questions regarding the terminology used by the panelists were extensive, and also
limited by available time. Overall, these questions focused on the terms used to describe those
persons being pathologized, and why these specific words were chosen. Questions about the use
of the following terms were recorded: difference vs. deficiency, disorderly vs. disabled, disorder
vs. condition, atypical vs. abnormal, variance vs. diversity, and risk vs. chance vs. diagnosis. The
length and breadth of this list suggest yet another subject that could feasibly support its own
panel discussion; at the very least, it should be addressed in any future events planned as an
outgrowth of our event.

Our initial vision for this event was to begin a conversation regarding what work pathologization
does, and for whom. Overall, we agree that this panel was a good start to what we envisioned as
an ongoing dialogue, and we—along with our critical listeners, Jeff Sherman and Jen Trinh—
have many ideas as to aspects of our theme that future events might explore. These include
narratives and counter-narratives of pathologization, the role of institutions in pathologization
(and how this might be addressed), late capitalism and pathologization (especially regarding the
concept of “productive” bodies and the commercialization of pathology), disability activism, and
the history of pathologization—particularly in regards to race and eugenics. All of these topics
came up in one form or another during our event, and we all agree that the format of the event
severely limited our ability to allow the in-depth examination of any one of these rich lines of
questioning. However, these are topics that we think merit exploration and would make for
future events that would both continue the discussion that began during our event and interest a
wide variety of individuals and groups on campus and in the surrounding community.

As to the possible forms the continuation of this discussion might take, there are several that we
would like to forward. First (and most ambitious), we would like to suggest that, given the easy
division of our overall theme into the sub-topics mentioned above, a conference (or other multipanel
event) on this theme would be both one way to continue this discussion and have many of
the people who should be represented “at the table.” Regardless of the format of the event, we all
agree that future speakers must include disability rights activists, community members, and
narratives of pathologization that originate from the pathologized themselves. Suggestions for
future speakers included Mia Mingus and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha; we also
acknowledge that more outreach and collaboration with the disability studies community on
campus should have been part of our process, and would highly benefit any future events that
stem from our event.

Other suggestions for keeping the discussion going dovetail nicely with the stated desire of the
Science and Justice Research Center for achieving more of an online presence. These include a
series of blogs (some of which would be guest authored), a series of podcasts and/or an interview
series, and a moderated online forum on the topic. The growing number of scholars working on
related themes on this campus, the presence of a healthy activist community (both on campus
and in the community), and the upcoming History of Consciousness concentration of
“Differences Now” all point to there being a good deal of interest in—and potential for joint
sponsorship of—a variety of events that could further the discussion that began during “Fixing
the Pathological Body” in new and innovative ways, and we look forward to seeing where this
discussion goes next.

In closing, Jessica, Linda and Sandra would like to thank our generous co-sponsors, without
which this event would not have been possible: the departments of History of Consciousness,
Literature, and Philosophy, the Institute for Humanities Research, and the Science and Justice
Research Center. We would also like to thank our critical listeners (Jeff Sherman and Jen Trinh)
for their time and extremely helpful feedback. To our panelists, Dr. Janette Dinishak, Professor
Kelly Ormond, and Dr. Matthew Wolf-Meyer, we wish to extend our sincere gratitude for your
participation and inspiring discussion, which we envision as the beginning of a much needed
exploration of the work, histories, and purposes of pathologization.

Attendance
There were approximately 26 attendees, the majority of whom hailed from the social sciences.
The remainder of the attendees were from the sciences and the community.