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Thread: Making Black Women Scientists under White Empiricism: The Racialization of Epistemology in Phy

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    Making Black Women Scientists under White Empiricism: The Racialization of Epistemology in Phy

    Making Black Women Scientists under White Empiricism: The Racialization of Epistemology in Physics

    Chanda Prescod-Weinstein
    Department of Physics and Astronomy and Department of Women’s and Gender Studies
    University of New Hampshire, Durham

    Abstract
    Go to
    In this article I take on the question of how the exclusion of Black American women from physics impacts physics epistemologies, and I highlight the dynamic relationship between this exclusion and the struggle for women to reconcile “Black woman” with “physicist.” I describe the phenomenon where white epistemic claims about science—which are not rooted in empirical evidence—receive more credence and attention than Black women’s epistemic claims about their own lives. To develop this idea, I apply an intersectional analysis to Joseph Martin’s concept of prestige asymmetry in physics, developing the concept of white empiricism to discuss the impact that Black women’s exclusion has had on physics epistemology. By considering the essentialization of racism and sexism alongside the social construction of ascribed identities, I assess the way Black women physicists self-construct as scientists and the subsequent impact of epistemic outcomes on the science itself.

    Who is allowed to be an observer in physics, and who is fundamentally denied the possibility? In this article, I propose that race and ethnicity impact epistemic outcomes in physics, despite the universality of the laws that undergird physics, and I introduce the concept of white empiricism to provide one explanation for why. White empiricism is the phenomenon through which only white people (particularly white men) are read has having a fundamental capacity for objectivity and Black people (particularly Black women) are produced as an ontological other. This phenomenon is stabilized through the production and retention of what Joseph Martin calls prestige asymmetry, which explains how social resources in physics are distributed based on prestige. In American society, Black women are on the losing end of an ontic prestige asymmetry whereby different scientists “garner unequal public approbation” in their everyday lives due to ascribed identities such as gender and race (Martin 2017, 475). White empiricism is one of the mechanisms by which this asymmetry follows Black women physicists into their professional lives. Because white empiricism contravenes core tenets of modern physics (e.g., covariance and relativity), it negatively impacts scientific outcomes and harms the people who are othered.

    White empiricism comes to dominate empirical discourse in physics because whiteness powerfully shapes the predominant arbiters of who is a valid observer of physical and social phenomena. Based primarily on their own experiences, white men, who are the dominant demographic in physics, construct the figure of the observer to exclude anyone who does not share the attending social and intellectual identities and beliefs. These beliefs can limit investigations of what constitutes a reasonable physical theory, whether the scientific method should be brought to bear on this physical theory, and the capacity to understand how incidents of racism disrupt the potential for objective discourse. Essentially, white empiricism involves a predominantly white, predominantly male professional community selectively failing to apply the scientific method to themselves while using “scientific” evaluation to strengthen the barriers to Black women’s entry into physics. White empiricism is therefore a form of antiempiricism masquerading as an empirical approach to the natural world. By denying agency to Black women in discussions of racism, white empiricism predetermines the experiences of Black women in physics.

    To provide an example of the role that white empiricism plays in physics, I discuss the current debate in string theory about postempiricism, motivated in part by a question: why are string theorists calling for an end to empiricism rather than an end to racial hegemony? I believe the answer is that knowledge production in physics is contingent on the ascribed identities of the physicists. Contingentists focus on top-down social forces, or the contingency associated with laboratory instrumentation; in this way, they challenge any assumption that scientific decision making is purely objective.1 Scientists are also typically monists—believers in the idea that there is only one science—who, rather than feeling burdened to prove there is only one science, expect contingentists to prove that there can be more than one (Soler 2015b). This monist approach to science typically forecloses a closer investigation of how identity and epistemic outcomes intermix.

    Yet white empiricism undermines a significant theory of twentieth-century physics: General Relativity (Johnson 1983). Albert Einstein’s monumental contribution to our empirical understanding of gravity is rooted in the principle of covariance, which is the simple idea that there is no single objective frame of reference that is more objective than any other (Sachs 1993). All frames of reference, all observers, are equally competent and capable of observing the universal laws that underlie the workings of our physical universe. Yet the number of women in physics remains low, especially those of African descent (Ong 2005; Hodari et al. 2011; Ong, Smith, and Ko 2018). The gender imbalance between Black women and Black men is less severe than in many professions, but the disparity remains (National Science Foundation 2018). Given that Black women must, according to Einstein’s principle of covariance, have an equal claim to objectivity regardless of their simultaneously experiencing intersecting axes of oppression, we can dispense with any suggestion that the low number of Black women in science indicates any lack of validity on their part as observers. It is instead important to examine the way the social forces at work shape Black women’s standpoint as observers—scientists—with a specific interest in how scientific knowledge is dependent on this specific standpoint. As Jarita Holbrook notes, Black students have their capacity for objectivity questioned simply because their standpoint on racism is different from that of white students and scientists who don’t have to experience its consequences.2

    Read the whole thing, you'll be enlightened...or something...https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/do...10.1086/704991
    "The Patriarch"



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  3. #2
    Lol. If that ain’t one of those fake nonsense papers I’ll be surprised. Did it get published and pass peer review?
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  4. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Brian4Liberty View Post
    Lol. If that ain’t one of those fake nonsense papers I’ll be surprised. Did it get published and pass peer review?
    It was published there, that's all I know. It's real though, I know it's hard to tell sometimes.
    "The Patriarch"

  5. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Origanalist View Post
    It was published there, that's all I know. It's real though, I know it's hard to tell sometimes.
    Well, I’ll be waiting for the punchline on this joke...
    "Foreign aid is taking money from the poor people of a rich country, and giving it to the rich people of a poor country." - Ron Paul
    "Beware the Military-Industrial-Financial-Corporate-Internet-Media-Government Complex." - B4L update of General Dwight D. Eisenhower
    "Debt is the drug, Wall St. Banksters are the dealers, and politicians are the addicts." - B4L
    "Totally free immigration? I've never taken that position. I believe in national sovereignty." - Ron Paul
    They are what they hate.” - B4L


    The views and opinions expressed here are solely my own, and do not represent this forum or any other entities or persons.

  6. #5
    And here we have Shaneequa, studying the composition of a new version of crack cocaine

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  7. #6
    I'm dropping out soon. PM me if you want to join me. Looking at South Dakota presently.
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  8. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Brian4Liberty View Post
    Well, I’ll be waiting for the punchline on this joke...
    There's no punchline...it's for real.

    To provide an example of the role that white empiricism plays in physics, I discuss the current debate in string theory about postempiricism, motivated in part by a question: why are string theorists calling for an end to empiricism rather than an end to racial hegemony? I believe the answer is that knowledge production in physics is contingent on the ascribed identities of the physicists. Contingentists focus on top-down social forces, or the contingency associated with laboratory instrumentation; in this way, they challenge any assumption that scientific decision making is purely objective.1 Scientists are also typically monists—believers in the idea that there is only one science—who, rather than feeling burdened to prove there is only one science, expect contingentists to prove that there can be more than one (Soler 2015b). This monist approach to science typically forecloses a closer investigation of how identity and epistemic outcomes intermix.

  9. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Anti Federalist View Post
    There's no punchline...it's for real.
    That IS the punchline.
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  11. #9
    When an article is so bad you can't tell if its real or fake.
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