In the humanities, we saw the example in Classics and I also brought up an example in Medieval History, where in both the "decolonization" of knowledge is being pushed by 1) tying it to some vague notion of inclusion, which should be understood as the support for taking identity classes such as ethnicity/race and gender into account when analyzing the demographics of researchers in these fields and 2) by also pushing taking these identity categories into account when determining the value of the knowledge generated in these fields, that is, complaining that (for instance) Classics and Medieval History are way too centered in the study of Ancient and Medieval Europe, including its history, culture, philosophy, politics, etc or that the identity of the researchers is tied to the content of their research. The latter could also be extended to other fields in the humanities where this debate has been going on for a long while and where it is actually feasible to argue that, indeed, only considering traditional Western constructs in the analysis probably limits the generation of knowledge therein. Issues like whether the journal system is discriminatory or not is basically a mix of these two points, since they are quite evidently not mutually exclusive and may actually be correlated (because field preferences may be correlated with some identity classes).
In particular, I do believe there is huge value in broadening the analysis and taking non-traditional and non-Westernn perspectives into account in the humanities and I don't think anyone in those fields has a problem with that - hence the existence of several "XXXX" studies departments (where "XXXX" is always an identity category) and also the existence of complete fields within key disciplines of the humanities dedicated to the study of non-Western history, culture, philosophy, politics, etc. What's weird, though, is why would someone then pick a fight with Classicists and Medievalists when these two fields are simply doing the same, but centered in Europe (and, in particular, the Ancient Greco-Roman civilization) - which may be very traditional but that does not really mean it lacks value, at all. At worst, one could simply rename the fields to make this clearer, but the criticism actually goes beyond that and jumps into our present-day identity politics as one can easily tell by the constant presentism the so-called "decolonizers" and their supporters like @Pants-of-dog engage in. I would guess this should be non-controversial, and if it somehow is controversial then it's as easy as to read the history of those "XXXX" studies fields.
Where things get more complicated is when this extends to science, and particularly STEM. For social sciences, the idea that Eurocentrism is a bad thing is already fairly questionable, and probably depends on the case. For instance, take clinical psychology: Is eurocentrism necessarily a problem when studying personality disorders? Maybe, perhaps what for some culture is a "disorder" for another is not. But, does it mean that the validity of the research of these aspects of personality will depend on the researcher's cultural background? That seems to be tougher to defend, but perhaps there is a way to do so. Either way, one can easily find academics who do believe this and who have their own journals to that effect:
Decolonizing Psychological Science: Introduction to the Special Thematic Section (JSPP Vol 3 Num 1, 2015) wrote:Abstract
Despite unprecedented access to information and diffusion of knowledge across the globe, the bulk of work in mainstream psychological science still reflects and promotes the interests of a privileged minority of people in affluent centers of the modern global order. Compared to other social science disciplines, there are few critical voices who reflect on the Euro-American colonial character of psychological science, particularly its relationship to ongoing processes of domination that facilitate growth for a privileged minority but undermine sustainability for the global majority. Moved by mounting concerns about ongoing forms of multiple oppression (including racialized violence, economic injustice, unsustainable over-development, and ecological damage), we proposed a special thematic section and issued a call for papers devoted to the topic of "decolonizing psychological science". In this introduction to the special section, we first discuss two perspectives—liberation psychology and cultural psychology—that have informed our approach to the topic. We then discuss manifestations of coloniality in psychological science and describe three approaches to decolonization—indigenization, accompaniment, and denaturalization—that emerge from contributions to the special section. We conclude with an invitation to readers to submit their own original contributions to an ongoing effort to create an online collection of digitally linked articles on the topic of decolonizing psychological science.
Similarly, one can also find a similar discussion in political science, and indeed there is an explicitly organized effort in one of the field's associations to that effect:
Western Political Science Association (WPSA) wrote:Decolonizing Political Science
We call this virtual community a virtual collective, as it is an intentional organization of scholars united by shared values and goals centered on decolonial politics and decolonizing academia. This virtual collective is organized and facilitated by junior women of color political scientists. We come from different subfields, universities, backgrounds, and academic ranks. We acknowledge that there are no Native or Indigenous women in this initial group of facilitators. To address this, we will prioritize the recruitment of Native and Indigenous women colleagues in all of our initiatives and develop non-tokenizing relationships based on genuine trust and solidarity in this continuous process.
Our leadership style is flexible and reflective. We refuse to reproduce neoliberal or diversity-based styles that lead to nepotism and the concentration of power with status quo academics. We do not have a centralized or a hierarchical power structure, our members' input has equal weight to those of the facilitators. Our facilitators are determined by time and interest, rather than appointment.
There are also journal articles in the field in this matter, including point 1):
Indigenizing Political Science or Decolonizing Political Scientists? (Wilmer, 2016) wrote:Abstract
Native Americans have been structurally excluded from the discipline of political science in the continental United States, as has Native epistemology and political issues. I analyze the reasons for these erasures and elisions, noting the combined effects of rejecting Native scholars, political issues, analysis, and texts. I describe how these arise from presumptions inherent to the disciplinary practices of U.S. political science, and suggest a set of alternative formulations that could expand our understanding of politics, including attention to other forms of law, constitutions, relationships to the environment, sovereignty, collective decision-making, U.S. history, and majoritarianism.
...And also point 2) above:
Decolonising the political theory curriculum, Choat (Politics, 2020) wrote:Abstract
Recent calls to ‘decolonise the curriculum’ are especially pertinent to the teaching of political theory, which has traditionally been dominated by a canon made up overwhelmingly of White (and male) thinkers. This article explores why and how political theory curricula might be decolonised. By mapping core political theory modules provided at UK universities, and examining associated textbooks, the article shows that non-White thinkers and discussions of colonialism and race are marginalised and neglected. It then argues that there are intellectual, political, and pedagogical reasons why this neglect is problematic and should be reversed. Finally, the article reflects on the experience of rewriting and delivering a core second-year undergraduate modern political thought module at a post-92 London university, including assessing the impact of the changes on the attainment gap between White students and Black and minority ethnic students.
There is also an analogous movement in sociology, and one can also find journal articles with the same theme. An example:
Decolonizing Sociology: Epistemic Inequality and Sociological Thought (Social Problems, Go, 2017) wrote:It is hardly disputable there is inequality and marginalization within our discipline along the lines of ethnicity, gender, race, sexuality, and socioeconomic status among other vectors. What more can be said about it? For my part, I would like to pose two issues to consider. The first is the question of epistemic inequality and marginalization. My claim is that confronting social inequality and marginalization within the discipline must also confront inequality and marginalization at the level of social knowledge. We must confront how certain standpoints and knowledges are subjugated by the dominant standpoint of disciplinary sociology. The second is the spatial scale of inequality and marginalization within the discipline. My claim is that confronting social inequality and marginalization within the discipline also
And one can also find opinion pieces among practitioners in the field, which I think can be summarized just like this one does:
Steinberg (Stanford University Press blog, 2016) wrote:DECOLONIZING SOCIOLOGY
Since its inception, sociologists have unconsciously practiced a white sociology.
There is also a similar movement in economics (which hits closer to home), some examples: D-Econ (centered on heterodox economists), the Sadie Collective (centered on Black female economists) and also the most relevant (and institutional example) comes from the slate that was elected to the American Economic Association (AEA) last year (no other slates were formed to run, so it was a given from the beginning), where their priority is also centered on point 1) above regarding "decolonization" and the demographics of researchers in the field in particular. The AEA is important because it's by far the most important association in the field worldwide.
And of course, STEM is not an exception either. For starters, there's the Science letter I linked to earlier:
Science (2020) wrote:LETTERS
Systemic racism in higher education
Paul H. Barber1,*, Tyrone B. Hayes2, Tracy L. Johnson3, Leticia Márquez-Magaña4, 10,234 signatories
See all authors and affiliations
Science 18 Sep 2020:
Vol. 369, Issue 6510, pp. 1440-1441
The nexus of Black Lives Matter protests and a pandemic that disproportionately kills Black and Latinx people (1) highlights the need to end systemic racism, including in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), where diversity has not meaningfully changed for decades (2). If we decry structural racism but return to the behaviors and processes that led us to this moment, this inexcusable stagnation will continue. We urge the Academy to combat systemic racism in STEM and catalyze transformational change.
Everyone in academia must acknowledge the role that universities—faculty, staff, and students—play in perpetuating structural racism by subjecting students of color to unwelcoming academic cultures (3). Universities are not level playing fields where all students have an equal opportunity to participate and succeed. The misuse of standardized tests such as the GRE excludes students who could have otherwise succeeded (4). Once admitted, Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) face challenges when transitioning to college life (5) and are more likely to be nontraditional students. Innovative pedagogies (6) and programs (7) can overcome these challenges but are not widely applied in higher education. Evidence-based, institution-wide approaches focused on equity in student learning are foundational to eliminating structural racism in higher education. Once we abandon the view of “fixed” student ability, more BIPOC students will succeed (8).
Academic culture also fails BIPOC faculty, who receive fewer federal grants due to systemic bias (9) and topic area (10). BIPOC faculty are most likely to invest substantial time in activities that promote diversity, which are devalued in the tenure and promotion process (11). BIPOC faculty are further disadvantaged in tenure decisions through cultural taxation of unequal service and mentoring demands. Given these burdens, BIPOC faculty cannot be expected to be the primary agents of institutional change. Instead, those most empowered to make change—non-BIPOC faculty—must join BIPOC faculty in their efforts to prioritize recruiting, supporting, and championing diversity.
Finally, the false dichotomy of “excellence or diversity” must end. Diversity results in better, more impactful, and more innovative science (12), and it is essential to building novel solutions to challenges faced by marginalized and nonmarginalized communities. Catalyzing these culture shifts in the Academy, however, will require making tenure dependent on excellence in research, teaching, and service that centers on equity and inclusion.
Making STEM equitable and inclusive requires actively combating racism and bias. All faculty, staff, and students should commit to learning about racism, engaging in courageous conversations with non-BIPOC colleagues, and calling out unfair practices to prevent the normalization of discriminatory behavior. Faculty should examine courses for ethnicity and gender performance disparities, ask whether departmental and lab demographics reflect society at large, and actively remedy any disparities.
Breaking down the barriers of systemic racism in STEM and achieving the promise of diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM require unwavering dedication and real work. It is time to make the commitment to be an agent of change.
Some analogous examples to those from the social sciences can be found below. Let's take one from engineering:
Using a social justice approach to decolonize an engineering curriculum (IEEE, Winberg & Winberg, 2017) wrote:Abstract:
Globally there have been many changes in the roles of universities, in particular the increasing complexity of the university's relationship with the state and society; it is thus unsurprising that there is a growing pressure on engineering programs to become more inclusive, innovative and `relevant' to social needs. This study arises out of a call in South Africa, for the `decolonization' of higher education. There is considerable debate and controversy about what a decolonized curriculum might comprise, and this paper sought to identify elements of a decolonized computer engineering curriculum through interviews with academic and practicing engineers, as well as a student survey. The findings suggest that there are different ways in which a curriculum might be understood as being decolonized (or progressing towards such a state). In this paper we argue that decolonizing a curriculum requires a systematic approach, such as understanding of curriculum development as an activity system in order to identify the elements that require change. We further argue that an appropriate framework, such as Nancy Fraser's tripartite understanding of `social justice' would ensure that the decolonized curriculum is also a socially just one. We use `fictive scripting' to forecast a variety of possible scenarios for a socially just decolonized computer engineering curriculum, based on the data obtained from participants. We then presented these scenarios to faculty to gain their views towards further development. Results of our case study indicate that a socially just decolonized engineering curriculum may need more resources and staffing to achieve its purpose, compared to a more traditional curriculum. The case study suggests further that a decolonized curriculum has benefits, such as improving student motivation, enhancing relevance to the local context and helping to inspire innovative solutions for local needs.
How to Decolonize South African Physics (Physics by the American Physics Society, 2020) wrote:...
What do you mean by “decolonization” of science?
“When I talk about decolonization of the physics curriculum, people immediately think we’re talking about the content, but it’s broader than that,” says Azwinndini Muronga. For him, it involves questioning multiple aspects. Who is teaching? Are they representative of the country’s diversity or interested in promoting it? Do they shape their teaching based on European models? Do they pick and deliver the content of their classes in a way that is relevant and understandable to South African students? “Once you think about that entire package you will be addressing decolonization,” he says.
For Justin Jonas, decolonizing physics also involves showing the relevance of the discipline to a democratic South Africa. He says, “you can’t make the assumption that just because you think physics is a good thing, everyone feels the same way. It needs to find its place in the world. It needs to justify itself. I think that physics is a vital part of culture and society,” but physicists have the burden of proving to society that they are relevant.
However, Zeblon Vilakazi cautions against the use of the term decolonization. “Decolonization is a political term, and the minute you say decolonization of science, it is political, and we’ve seen what happens when science gets politicized. It’s not good,” he says. Instead of using that term, people should talk about inclusion and diversity, which are global challenges, not just South African ones, he says.
Undark (2018) wrote:In South Africa, ‘Decolonizing’ Mathematics
Student efforts to break free of colonial dogma embedded in education have now turned to math. Some academics are wary.
BY THOMAS LEWTON
TWICE A WEEK, Tiri Chinyoka holds extracurricular classes for mathematics undergraduates at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. One October evening, a predominantly black group of first-year students gathered around whiteboards as they grappled with the intricacies of vectors and matrices, while on the wall behind them some oppressive history looked on: a mural spanning some 30 feet portraying students past, dressed in black gowns and mortarboards — all of them white.
“Structurally, nothing has changed from the colonial era, whether you’re talking about human experience or you’re talking about the physical infrastructure,” says Chinyoka, sitting later in his office in one of the university’s classically inspired buildings that overlook the city. Sporting a black leather flat cap and dreadlocks, Chinyoka is not a stereotypical mathematician. “If you look at what we teach in the mathematics curriculum, it is almost irrelevant to the South African context,” he says.
Since apartheid ended in 1994, South Africa’s universities have struggled to transform themselves, leading to escalating student protests over the last three years — including the toppling of a prominent statue of Cecil Rhodes, an infamous colonizer who donated the land on which the University of Cape Town now stands. And as students and academics accelerate the process of decolonization across South African universities, the spotlight has fallen onto mathematics.
Exactly what decolonizing math would entail isn’t entirely clear: Curriculum revisions that promote non-Western contributions to the field, new teaching methods rooted in indigenous cultures, and greater openness to ideas outside the academic mainstream are all under discussion. Some want to go further, challenging the philosophical foundations of mathematics itself.
Note how the last paragraph emphasizes points 1) and 2) I mentioned earlier. And adds a point about mathematical education, which for mathematicians is of course relevant, but is applicable to STEM in general. And indeed, here's an example of that:
Oxford University wrote:Diversifying STEM Curriculum Project – new call for interns
The Diversifying STEM Curriculum project aims to bring the conversation and actions around decolonising and diversifying curriculum in higher education into the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines. While there have been some efforts in our departments in this area, this project aims to build upon and to coordinate activity in the Division and collaborate with others across the University.
This project is a collaboration between scientists/mathematicians and historians in the University of Oxford. The current participating STEM departments are: Chemistry, Engineering Science, Maths, Physics and Zoology. We have partnered with colleagues from the Faculty of History and the History of Science Museum. Funding has been received by the Vice Chancellor's Diversity Fund.
Undergraduate students in science will work with and be supervised by DPhil historians of science on a summer project to develop an online repository of materials available to professors/lecturers teaching undergraduate courses in maths and physical sciences subjects (within Oxford and externally). The material will include (1) a critical understanding of the historical context of key scientific concepts/theorems/research, and (2) highlight and discuss important contributions from a diverse range of people (with respect to ethnicity, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, disability, class, religion, etc.) and those who may have been sidelined or not given the recognition they deserve.
The specific aims are to:
Research material and collect approaches to diversifying the undergraduate science curriculum;
Broaden student learning in undergraduate science courses to have a better understanding of: the global historical and social context to scientific research; the diverse range of people who have contributed to scientific knowledge construction; colonial contexts in which ideas about whose knowledge is ‘scientific’ have been developed and deployed and their consequences for indigenous knowledge; and historical work revising older narratives of scientific progress;
Create collaborations between scientists and historians;
Develop an online repository of material for undergraduate lecturers within Oxford and across the sector to easily integrate into their lectures/courses, encouraging them to critically reflect on their curriculum content;
Ultimately to advocate for a cultural shift towards STEM curriculum that embraces an interconnected global view of sciences/maths (not just a euro-centric one) and includes a diverse range of people and historical context alongside the necessary technical content.
While this project was planned to launch in Summer 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been postponed until Summer 2021.
If you have any questions, please contact [email protected]
In Statistics, so far the only thing I've heard of is to somewhat demote RA Fisher and other major classical statisticians for supporting the eugenics movement and the racism that was typical of their time (late 19th century and early 20th century), particularly since racialist theories had not been debunked yet. Even then, this demotion is mostly about naming prizes rather than doing away with the field at large.
Are these enough for establishing a trend? Since @Pants-of-dog asked for examples from several fields, I would say so.
Now, some people actually think the genetic fallacy should be the law of the land and the fact that much of our knowledge and institutions comes from an era where racism was commonplace and racialism was a legitimate scientific paradigm would thus be problematic. But, if we took it seriously we would need to do away with quite a bit of our scientific knowledge. For instance, since I'm a statistician, let's take classical statistics: If we followed this reasoning, we would need to abolish experimental design (RA Fisher invented the field) and much of contemporary statistics since as I said earlier the other two major classical statisticians (Pearson and Galton) also held racialist/racist beliefs and these actually motivated their research on statistical methods and concepts that are ubiquitous in statistics, empirical research in general and even regular discussion, including PoFo. Do you agree with this idea, @Pants-of-dog? I recall you were claiming elsewhere that the police should be abolished in the US, since professional policing in the country had been motivated by, among some things, catching slaves in the American South and many Police Departments in large Northern US cities had been established before slavery had been abolished at the Federal level (hence, they had to comply with Federal law) and thus this unholy origin made it inherently racist. This reasoning also seems to be partly what motivates your agreement with Dan-el Padilla regarding Classics (correct me if I'm wrong here, but he also engaged in the genetic fallacy as quoted by Dr. Williams). But if we followed this reasoning and applied to statistics, how would we make any causal claims using stochastic data and how would science progress by renouncing the use of any data that necessitates the use of statistical methods for its analysis and collection? For instance, how would we know COVID vaccines work and, in consequence, get vaccinated to finally end the current pandemic and the restrictions in place to deal with it if we refuse to use what is known about inference and experimental design?
As I mentioned earlier, this is intimately tied to the idea of deconstruction of science. After all, if science can be deconstructed, if applying this concept from philosophy of language means scientific research has no essence and is simply a construction with no bearing to reality (or if reality itself doesn't actually exist, another theme among the postmodern people), then of course these ideas of decolonization make a lot of sense - after all, it would mean science is simply a means to letting some people acquire and keep their privileges. And if we move onto analyzing the history of deconstruction of science, then one should simply read about the Science Wars of the 1990s, a fight the postmodernists lost in my opinion (the epic trolling by Alan Sokal is particularly noteworthy here), in fact, they were basically destroyed on the merits.
If one believes science can or should be deconstructed, that it has no essential meaning nor the scientific method helps to discover anything, then I will assume the same person would have no problem with anti-vaxxers (particularly in light of the current pandemic) since the whole case for vaccines was, in fact, based on the use of the scientific method.
At last, this whole trend of introducing identity politics in academia, and particularly in science, is not new at all. As I mentioned earlier, there's the example of Deutsche Physik of the first half of the 20th century:
Wiki wrote:Deutsche Physik (German: [ˈdɔʏtʃə fyˈziːk], lit. "German Physics") or Aryan Physics (German: Arische Physik) was a nationalist movement in the German physics community in the early 1930s. A pseudoscientific movement, it nonetheless won the support of many eminent physicists in Germany. The term was taken from the title of a four-volume physics textbook by Nobel Laureate Philipp Lenard in the 1930s.
Deutsche Physik was opposed to the work of Albert Einstein and other modern theoretically based physics, which was disparagingly labeled "Jewish physics" (German: Jüdische Physik).
...Which of course did not end too well, even though it was supported not just by Nazi Germany (in fact, it predates Nazism as the movement began in WWI) but, more importantly, by several top German physicists, including Nobel Prize laureates.
So, going back to the OP of this thread, another reason why the current strain of postmodern identity politics is a problem is that it is likely to hurt scientific development and academia at some point, by using concepts such as deconstruction and decolonization as means to justify introducing the belonging of certain identity categories as a criterion to evaluate research and researchers, even if it conflicts with whether the research is actually accurate (helps us understand reality) and useful (can actually improve our quality of life). Or, in other words, by politicizing science in such a way that the identity of the researcher may actually trump the researcher's actual work when it comes to academia's incentive system. And even if it doesn't, it serves as a distraction from the more pressing problems science is indeed facing, such as the replication crisis - a problem that may well be worth discussing in a different thread. A science in crisis is bad news for the future, as the Industrial Revolution we're still living in should have shown us already.