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Gender and Science: A Workshop

Mellon 23 Workshop on Feminism and Science
Interactive Session on Co-Teaching
Anne Dalke and Elizabeth McCormack
January 5, 2010


Stepping off from this morning

How to make a "genuinely feminist pedagogy"? (Ann Davis)

What is feminism?
How is emphasizing women's caretaking interests "feminist and not sexist"? (Judy Grisel)

What is science?
"Only looking @ the bad studies...or @ a paradigm that itself is not promising"? (Rebecca Jordan-Young)

"I try to be careful in how I make my arguments" (Barbara Whitten) -->
"It's important not to be too cautious" (Meryl Altman)

This early afternoon's project:
trying to get @ what's not too careful/cautious/"rational"...
by thinking/talking/writing metaphorically

We "want to go back to that lost forest where metaphors mix, rub shoulders with each other and everything turns into everything else." (Suniti Namjoshi, epigraph to Banu Subramaniam's "Moored Metamorphoses," Signs 2009)

Normal.dotm 0 0 1 14 80 Bryn Mawr College 1 1 98 12.0 0 false 18 pt 18 pt 0 0 false false false
Normal.dotm 0 0 1 8 47 Bryn Mawr College 1 1 57 12.0 0 false 18 pt 18 pt 0 0 false false false I. (Anne, 15 min): Take a few minutes to write: what is feminism (to you)?
What is science? What happens when feminism and science intersect?

Now: turn your thoughts into a metaphor; i.e.,
the intersection of feminism and science is....

Let's hear our metaphors
for the intersection of feminism and science.

IV. (Anne, 15 more min): What it means to think metaphorically

Susan Sontag, in her "Illness as Metaphor" (1978) wrote compellingly about the need for "an elucidation of ... metaphors, and a liberation from them", at least particular ones. What was on her mind was the problem of the constraints on the potentially doable which inevitably arise from the words we use to make sense of things, and the associated limited array of possible actions which the words represent and evoke.

--What is a metaphor?

--What does the word mean (literally)?

bear/with/carry across/

μετά (meta), “‘between’”) + φέρω (pherō), “‘I bear, carry’”)

What does it do (pragmatically?)?

Metaphor talks about a concept by describing something similar to it.

Metaphor & Simile--by Robert Lovejoy
A metaphor has a tenor and a vehicle,
is both abstract and concrete.

Luisana: A metaphor is a story...
incredibly useful because they provide the learner
with a “mental back-and-forth;”
requiring a compare and contrast between
two resembling ideas/things/etc....

Alison Cook-Sather: Finding New Metaphors for Education
(from "production" and "cure" to "translation")

Scott Gilbert (Swat Biology) on Science's "Fictions":
The way we think is channeled by the similes, metaphors and analogies we use.
A simile describes a "rational similarity,"
and an analogy states the similarity explicitly.
But a metaphor "hides the source of the identity,
and so heightens emotion and undercuts rationality."
The essence of a metaphor is understanding one kind of experience
in terms of another, and the fit is always going to be inexact....
Metaphor is important precisely because it hides the logic of association
(think of all the words which imply that "argument is warfare," or "argument is a path").

George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By:
foreground some aspects of an identity
between two items, while backgrounding others

All metaphors fall short
Where inquiry GETS serious is just where this happens,
where the image won’t “carry” the idea “across,”

where you start to see how the limits of our language can limit our world
(and vice versa: how limits of our world limit our language)

necessary feature of discourse whenever we try to cope with a new concept
(optional only after we achieve mastery?)
we make sense of all new experiences in terms of previous information
lack of directness makes metaphor effective:
allows students to express attitudes they could not express directly

Metaphors work when (and because)
they are incorrect, untrue, inaccurate, and subjective...
precisely because they are "wrong."
Once any metaphor becomes dominant, it influences, limits, and controls subsequent actions...
for that reason the metaphor needs to be negotiated by the group.
What happens when students and their teacher are
working from fundamentally different root metaphors?

The key is to contextualize rather than simply categorize or evaluate these metaphors:
what are they telling us about the students' conception of and attitude
towards the process of doing feminist science (as well as the students' conception of and
attitude toward the teachers' role in that process)?
What are we doing to contribute, positively or negatively, to that conception and attitude?

Metaphors are a starting point for dialogue about these issues....

they can help us learn what we need to teach, and how to teach it...

--our co-teaching:
syllabus for Gender and Science: Re-envisioning and Revising the Relation (2007)
syllabus for GIST: Gender, Information, Science and Technology
(in draft; upcoming!)

--our co-writing:
Metaphor and Metonym
Synedoche and Surprise

Banu's essay, pp. 963-4: "The metaphor of the pipeline has endured as the metaphor in discussions of the recruitment and retention of girls and women in science....metaphors and language are powerful and evocative; they embody dreams and visions. But feminist analysis can also develop an alternate analysis of this metaphor. We could argue that the pipeline metaphor is [not] a good one to describe the ... thrill of discovery and exploration. We could also describe the pipes as long, dark, dingy, impenetrable tubes and masses of metal crisscrossing the terrain of industrial capital. We could describe the pipe as one that contains, constrains, limits, and cuts off the oxygen of the travelers within. Imagining the regimented travels in pipes that give the travelers no agency in their journey, we might start rooting for the leaks and for those who escape the drudgery of of pipe travel. And this, I believe, has been the crux of the difference between the literatures on women in and women/gender and sciences. In one the leaks are seen as a problem, and in the other the problem is the pipe itself...why do we want to encourage young girls and women who find the pipes inhospitable to enter them? Instead, why do we not rejoice at the leaks...? (emphasis added)

UCSC Science and Justice Training Program

VI. Another example: Karen Barad's metaphor "all the way down"
@ SLSA, Indianapolis, Thursday, October 28, 2010, after Karen's talk,
“When Time is Out of Joint,” where she said that
--"we are part of nature we seek to understand"
--"quantum queerness"; "Q=queer=undoing identity"

she got a question about her "negotiating between microscopic and macroscopic scales:
"is it just a metaphor?? or something more?? Why is it???"
the questioner was "troubled by the convergence of metaphysical and physical ideas"

this made her furious:
"people are continually trying to enclose what I’m speaking about
w/in the microscopic: a containment of the queerness of it all
(okay for atom to be queer, not the cat)"

“just a metaphor” calls up a conventional understanding of language,
dependent on a belief on “something over there,” separate
textuality doesn’t work that way
Barad's work is another way of thinking about connectivities and disjunctions,
one that problematizes easy inheritances, mixes them up

1) as far as physicists know, there are not two domains, micro- and macro-

Newton’s equations are a good approximation to Schroedinger’s;
but nothing in the universe says the laws change from one domain to the other

2) lots of stuff we thought was too big is now
included in quantum entanglement phenomenon:

birds perceive fields of radiation, etc.
part of difficulty is tracing the entanglement
notion of convergence presumes prior separation;
physics now tell us about what mystical traditions have long known,
about the metaphysics of presence
Bohr: not about disturbance, but entanglement...

Read Chapter 7 of Meeting the Universe Halfway, where
entanglement is a way of thinking about ethics and social justice

VII. (Liz, 30 min): Let's go back to distill and
reflect on our own list of metaphors:

what do they say about our sense of our shared project?

What presumptions underlie the metaphors
we use for the intra-action of feminism and science?

How might those metaphors and presumptions
differ from those of our students?

What can we do w/ what we've discovered together?

What we want to come home with
* collegiality: an expanded network
* concrete resources
* what else?????

VIII. (Liz, 15 min): Reviewing what happened (and why, and what went into this)

Edgar Schein, Dialogue, Culture and Organizational Learning
(Organizational Dynamics
, Winter 1993, 40-51)
Stringfellow Barr, Notes on Dialogue (St. John's College, January 1968)

IX. (Liz, 15 more min): Go 'round: final comments on this process...


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