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Decolonising the Curriculum in Theory and Practice

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Prof. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein (University of Washington-Seattle) Title: ‘ Undefining Black women scientists: Past, Present and Future’ To constitute a concept of “physics community,” physicists assume two foundational axioms. First, the laws of physics are independent of cognitive inference/interference, and, second, that they are unchanging or only evolving according to their own rules. This leads to the axion that the subaltern can be a subject of research, but it cannot itself research. Can science be objective when the language embedded in it works to “unconstruct” Black and Indigenous women (and more broadly other minoritized peoples) as physicists?

Dr. Arianne Shahvisi (University of Sussex) Title: ‘Misunderstanding as a Form of Resistance’

When we explain observed patterns in the world we sometimes draw on explanations which may seem innocuous, and even exemplify all the accepted heuristics for explanation, but are heavily loaded in favour of particular problematic ways of (mis)understanding the world. In this talk I describe how we might develop a heuristic for disrupting those explanations and thereby refusing to be complicit in them. I explore a method of anti-racist and anti-misogynist resistance to knowledge production: the refusal to understand, or the refusal to accept an explanation. Drawing on models of scientific explanation, I demonstrate how oppressive regimes and knowledge paradigms demand that people understand the racist or sexist assumptions which give exclusionary actions their sense, and ask what a refusal to understand looks like in practice.

This talk is part of the All POLIS Department Seminars and Events series.

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