What unique experiences or challenges do queer people encounter in STEM disciplines? How have ecological sciences discussed queerness in nature, or variously sought to write it out? What might it mean for scientists to ‘queer’ our research practices?
These are the questions asked by the Queer Science Reading Group, a multidisciplinary group of researchers that are seeking to examine the ways in which sciences and queerness intersect. As researchers interested in equity and justice, the group aims to make science a safer space for queer people, while challenging assumptions about heterosexuality embedded in scientific practices. In doing so, we aim to develop a science that promotes queer ethics within our technologies and methods. We also have a living queer science reading list, available here.
A first example of a ‘queer technology’ used for monitoring marine plastic pollution. This modified sieve was developed from a former pipette tip container and could be used when counting plastics in beach surveys. A central tenet of queer theory is that people and things are constantly changing in the context of their relations. How might our science change if instead of reporting numbers of ‘isolated’ plastics, we reported them as concentration of plastics/ number of organisms or type of shoreline material (e.g. Thinking of possibilities towards measuring risks for contaminant absorption or towards place in science)? To do so, this sieve doubles as a container to hold organic materials for later analysis while plastics float to the top. Flower tape included for purposes of camp.
The Queer Science Reading Group ran from September 2017 to August 2018 and was initially operated out of Civic Lab for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR), a feminist and anti-colonial marine science lab in the Department of Geography at Memorial University. The group included undergraduate students, staff, and faculty, from a variety of disciplines and institutions. Members have included those with backgrounds in biology, medicine, Science and Technology Studies, urban planning, philosophy and more. If you are interested in running the Queer Science Listserv, please contact Alex Zahara at firstname.lastname@example.org. All genders and sexualities are welcome.
For more on queer science, see:
- Our interview with Lady Science for their Queer Science series: Elise Earles and Alex Zahara with KJ Shepherd (2018). ‘Categories aren’t these things that are just there”: An interview with the CLEAR Lab’s Queer Science Reading Group’ Lady Science, July 16.
- A rundown of why we need to queer how scientists and publics discuss potentially toxic and queer-making chemicals: Alex Zahara (2019). Queering chemicals (EDCs): A bibliography. Discard Studies. April 15.
- Our living queer science reading list
Fall 2017 Reading list:
- Week 1: Brian Lobel, Caroline Ward, & Erinma Ochu. ‘Make Your Personal Queer Science Manifesto!’ Science: Not Just for Scientists.
- Week 2: Queered Science Blog posts by Vivian Underhill via Autostraddle
- Week 3: Catherine J. Nash and Kath Brown (2010). ‘Introduction’ in Queer Methods and Methodologies: Intersecting Queer Theories and Social Science Research. London, UK: Routledge.
- Week 4: Giovana Di Chiro (2010) ‘Polluted Politics? Confronting Toxic Discourse, Sex Panic, and Eco-Normativity.’ in Catrioa Mortimor-Sandilands and Bruce Erickson (eds) Queer Ecologies: Sex, Nature, Politics, Desire. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
- Week 5: Stephen Molldrem and Mitali Thakor (2017). Genealogies and Futures of Queer STS: Issues in Theory, Method, and Institutionalization. Catalyst 3: 1-15.
- Week 6: Emily Martin (1991). The Egg and the Sperm: How Science Has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-Female Roles. Signs 16: 485-501.
- Week 7: Annemarie Mol (1985, translated 2015) Who knows what a woman is…On the differences and the relations between the sciences. Medical Anthropology Theory 2: 57-75.
Winter 2018 Reading list:
- Week 1: Agenda setting meeting. Read through our Queer Science Reading List
- Week 2: Qwo-Li Driskill (2010). Doubleweaving Two-Spirit Critiques: Building Alliances between Native and Queer Studies. GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 16: 69-92.
- Week 3: Debateable (2016). Radiolab Podcast. Published 15 March 2016.
- Week 4: Guest lab facilitation on ‘Queer Science in Practice’ for Civic Lab for Environmental Action Research.
- Week 5: ‘LGBTQ’ posts by Dr. Alex Bond on The Lab and Field blog.
- Week 6: Hugh Raffles (2010). ‘The Category of Queerness is Not Strange Enough’. Insectopedia. New York: US Vintage Books.