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Talking Critical History With Sarah Pickman July 20, 2017

Posted by sarahnaramore in Blogroll, Early Career, Graduate Student, Uncategorized.
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Last February, graduate students at Yale University hosted a conference entitled “Critical Histories, Activist Futures: Science, Medicine, and Racial Violence.” To kick off our summer blog series I spoke with one of the organizers, Sarah Pickman. Sarah is a PhD student in History of Science at Yale. Her research centers on the history of exploration, anthropology, and natural history of polar regions in the long-nineteenth century. In our conversation, we discussed the goals and outcomes of the conference and continuing activism among Yale graduate students in history of science. Below is an edited portion of our interview followed by links to resource and communities Sarah recommended for further reading.

Sarah Naramore: Could you give us a quick introduction about the conference?

Sarah Pickman: The full title was, “Critical Histories, Activist Futures: Science, Medicine, and Racial Violence, Critical Histories” as shorthand, which took place February 24 and 25 at Yale. Most of the conference occurred at the School of Medicine at Yale in the Medical Historical Library, our unofficial home of the history of science and medicine program (HSHM). The speakers were a mix of current graduate students, faculty, and healthcare providers and the moderators were all Yale faculty. There were a mix of history of science and medicine professors and also instructors and clinicians from the medical school. And in addition to the five panels, we also had a lunch session that focused on combining scholarship and activism, moderated by one of my colleagues in HSHM, Maya Sandler. The discussants were current medical students and PhD students in history and history of science and medicine.

We found that one of the perks of putting out a wide call for papers and asking for people from different backgrounds was that the attendance was really mixed as well. We had about 150 people over the course of the weekend. Yale has a medical school, a public health school, and a nursing school, so there were people who registered from all of those schools. There were also some undergrads. And we had a lot of non-Yale attendees. So that was one benefit. And in terms of how it actually went off, we tried to put people together thematically, rather than based on what field they represented.

SN: Did the conference foster cross-discipline dialogue and what was the value of such dialogue?

SP: Yeah. One of the things that we found out in the process of organizing this conference—and I should also say that the official conference organizations are a group of HSHM grad students who are doing something called the History of Science and Justice Collective. The HSJC website has a section for the conference, but we’re a group of students in the program who want to bring social justice into our work and what we do as young scholars. That was the official organizing body for the conference. One of the things that we found when we were putting together our CFP, we really wanted to get a broad spectrum of people and we wanted to bring people in from outside of academia. But once we had to do that, it was more challenging than we had naively assumed, because as an academic program, we don’t have a lot of links to the immediate community outside of Yale’s walls. In fact, Yale has historically had a really bad relationship with the larger New Haven community, based on things that have come out of the medical research that Yale has done and services that it has provided to the community, which is not a story that is unique to Yale. So one of the challenges for us, thinking about our role, is that we’re graduate students at this very privileged university. How do we go about doing something that has social justice in the name? What’s our position in that? We really had to do some soul searching in the process of putting this conference together

The whole idea started about a year ago, this past spring. There were a group of us in HSHM who were inspired by the activism that came out of the undergrad community at Yale. Things like Next Yale and people may be familiar with the protests around Calhoun College and the imagery around campus and certain aspects of Yale that undergrads really led the charge in trying to change. We were inspired by that, and a group of us sat down together and said, “What can we do as grad students in this institution?” So that’s where the History of Science and Justice Collective came from. The first thing that we did was call the Fall Forum, which is a group of speakers that we brought to campus this past fall semester, and then the conference. So now that the conference is over, we’re trying to figure out what our next steps are and ways that we can kind of carry those conversations on.

There was a group of us within the Collective who signed on specifically to handle some of the logistics. I did local arrangements. My colleagues, Tess Lanzarotta and Marco Ramos, headed up the programming committee,  and we wrote a CFP together. They read all the abstracts with some of our other colleagues and put the program together. And then we’re very fortunate here that we have wonderful program administrators who helped me pull together the logistics of a conference for 150 people.

SN: Yeah! It’s no joke!

SP: Yeah. I’m happy to talk individually about the steps of putting together something like that. In fact, one of our pieces of follow-up, we’ve been putting together a document to help others. We had this idea that we would like to take this Critical Histories, Activist Futures lens on the road and maybe use it as a template that other universities can use when they’re hosting conferences. We could have Critical Histories, Activist Futures 2 hosted by another school, so one of the things that we’re doing is putting together a document with everybody’s experiences that we hope will be useful for whoever takes this up next, and we hope that somebody does.

SN: So much of what we do as historians is solitary, each in our own little box. It is so singular, and it seems like what a lot of this is doing, the idea of groups like this and collaboration, is really sort of breaking down some of those walls as well.

SP: One of the things that came out of this conference, and which for a lot of us was one of the most exciting parts was the lunch panel on combining scholarship and activism. We had two discussants from Yale medical school—Maya Sandler, my colleague who is in my cohort kind of moderated. We had two of our colleagues from the broader history department, Viet Trinh and Amanda Joyce Hall, and a student from the medical school at Brown. Also it should be mentioned that Viet wrote an open letter published on the blog Conversation X. And that was one of our inspirations. He talked about a high-ranking Yale administrator who at an open house that happened about two years ago and made a dismissive comment basically saying that, “Diversity awareness is the purview of people in the humanities and social sciences, but that it’s not really relevant or easy to teach it to people in the sciences or the medical fields.”

The idea was to get them talking and then get the whole room talking about how we could combine scholarship and activism, because a lot of the pushback that people who are passionate about these things have gotten is that activism is the sort of activity that you could do on the side. But really, as a graduate student, the focus needs to be on your work. It’s like the activism part is separate from the scholarship, and so we wanted to get people to think about the really practical ideas about how they see combining this things, whether it’s—somebody brought up a great idea, a great insight, that if you are working on a particular community, but you don’t produce work that that community is familiar with, if you only write in English, and let’s say you’re working on populations that aren’t majority English-speaking, that is one way that your work is isolated from those people and kind of replicates some of the power dynamics that we don’t want to replicate.

But you don’t have to have as dramatic examples of that in your work to bring, to have a justice-minded scholarship, whether it is acknowledging where the absences are in your work, that you’re only working on certain communities while other voices haven’t been recorded in the historical record or things like that. I mean, I, on a personal level, I work on dead white men. In the nineteenth centuries, and they’re American and British white men. So this is something that I have been trying to think about a lot and sort of you know, not just saying, “Oh, my historical actors are all white dudes, so my project can’t be activist in some way,” and trying to think through how to challenge that.

SN: To start wrapping up, do you have anything coming up in the pipeline that you would like to share?

SP: Definitely the listserv. We’re going to start with the Google listserv and then see where that goes, so that is historyofsciencejustice@gmail.com. We’re [the History of Science and Justice Collective] also on Facebook and Twitter, and we’re also thinking about more traditional academic ways to follow up the conference, so we’re pitching conference reports. That will be good to have a permanent record of that weekend. What we’re most interested in doing is following up the conversations that happened with actual further steps and not just saying, “Oh, this was a great academic event. Let’s memorialize it in text somewhere and do something else.” But that part is going to take a little bit of figuring out. Again, that’s part of the process of trying to integrate scholarship and activism, figuring out exactly how we’re going to do that in a way that people find useful and how we’re going to connect with our colleagues at other academic institutions and outside academic institutions.

Want to learn more about social justice and scholarship? Check out the following:

Contact the History of Science and Justice Collective:
Email: historyofsciencejustice@gmail.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/historysciencejustice
Twitter: @shjcollective 

Summer Blog Series Launch July 13, 2017

Posted by sarahnaramore in Blogroll, Early Career, Graduate Student.
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Happy summer GECC members and readers! With temperatures rising and most classes taking a hiatus it’s time to add something to your reading list in the form of our summer blog series. Last year, under the direction of Emmie Miller (now GECC co-chair), the blog profiled early career scholars working in fields outside academia. If you haven’t read the interviews, check them out here. In taking up the mantle as communications co-chair I wanted to continue in a similar vein and use the blog to highlight some of the excellent work being done by historians of science as graduate students, traditional academics, and those branching out in new directions.

The first half of 2017 has brought current events into the forefront of many of our academic as well as non-academic lives. On the national and international stage coping with the fallout from the US election and Brexit, immigration, and activism including the Women’s March, Science March, and ongoing social justice advocacy by groups like #blacklivesmatter fill headlines and twitter feeds. Within the community of higher ed campus activism, funding concerns, and local politics continue to draw deserved attention. Personally, I have found myself asking what graduate and early career historians of science can bring to the table at this time. What platforms are there to express our concerns? How can our work reflect the times we live in? What is the role of historical criticism and how does it escape the academic bubble? These questions pre-date 2017, but with increased awareness and active commentary from organizations as large as the AHA and National Parks Service the time seemed right to look at the opportunities within our own house.

To that end, we will post three interviews over the next month (look for them on Thursdays!) addressing projects intended to break history of science out of a narrow academic box. In short, how historians of science are making a difference. Sarah Pickman co-organized a conference at Yale University on social justice issues which reached out to medical practitioners aw well as historians. The digital magazine Lady Science, co-edited by Lelia McNeill and Anna Reser brings critical historical assessments of science and gender to a broader audience. Finally, I spoke with co-editors-in-chief of the journal Endeavour, Richard Bellon and Joseph D. Martin, about its “In vivo” section, a dedicated space for historians to write about history and public policy. Each discussion is edited, but even with editing they are quite lengthy so please be patient. I hope they serves as both useful and entertaining reading over the weeks to come.

Happy Reading,
Sarah Naramore, GECC communications co-chair

About the author/editor- Sarah Naramore is a PhD candidate in the History and Philosophy of Science Program at the University of Notre Dame. Her research looks at the development of the American medical profession and medical theory from the American Revolution to the early nineteenth century.

HSS 2016 Business Meeting Minutes November 17, 2016

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HSS16 Business Meeting Minutes

12:00 PM-1:15 PM, Chastain F (6th floor), Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, Georgia

Officers in attendance:

Co-Chairs: Bridget Collins (University of Wisconsin-Madison) and Courtney Thompson (Mississippi State University)

Mentorship Officer: Thomas Darragh (Central Michigan University)

Information Officers: Emmie Miller (University of Minnesota) and Kele Cable (University of Minnesota)

  1. Stephen Weldon from the ISIS Bibiliography (http://isiscb.org/) introduced himself seeking input from graduate students and early careerists to the bibliography. This would consist of occasional emails seeking the perspective of our members and, if available, a free breakfast at the annual meeting. If interested in being an advisor or have any input in general please contact spweldon@ou.edu.
  2. Tania Munz of the Linda Hall Library told the caucus about existing pre- and post- doctoral fellowships, and travel fellowships, including a new “80/20” fellowship. This new fellowship would consist of 80% research and 20% training in curating an exhibit. See more at: http://www.lindahall.org/fellowships/
  3. Jessica Barron from the HSS@WORK HSS caucus introduced herself and the goal of the caucus (to represent HSS members who do not work in tenure track faculty positions). HSS@WORK will have a greater role in our mentorship program in the future. This began a conversation about future co-sponsored programming.
  4. Discussion of future programming resulted in consensus for a co-sponsored roundtable at HSS 2017 in Toronto focused on alt-ac careers, with each panel member presenting a concrete skill demonstration (example: how to turn a CV into a resume).
    1. HSS@WORK voiced willingness to contribute toward ALSO holding a workshop at HSS 2017 on an alt-ac topic (example: Jen Polk)
  5. Volunteers for officer positions expressed willingness to stay after meeting to discuss roles.
    1. New officer position introduced: Diversity Officer.
  6. Discussion of issues regarding and potential resolution of Women’s Tea problem.
    1. Issues:
      1. GECC funds cannot pay for Women’s Tea because only women can attend, not all GECC members. The Tea has a $500 anonymous donation but that does not cover costs.
      2. HSS has received complaints about the gendered nature of naming the event a “Tea.” This year it was called a “roundtable,” but this is potentially confusing since there are other roundtables on the program. Potential new names are welcome. Some discussed: “event,” “salon,” “coffee.” “Coven” and “cabal” dismissed as also too gendered.
    2. Solutions:
      1. Co-sponsorship with Women’s Caucus has already begun with HSS 2016. We plan on continuing this by holding the Women’s Mentorship Event immediately after the Women’s Caucus Breakfast and using their leftover food and beverages.
      2. If this does not solve the financial issues, asking HSS to include a line on the registration form to donate to Women’s Mentorship Event.
      3. Members overwhelmingly feel the event should be kept, be small, and be a safe place for women to discuss issues they face.
  7. Floor open to members with one comment/suggestion to look at how NARST deals with issues of diversity.

New officers:

Co-chairs: Emmie Miller and Thomas Darragh

Information/Communications Officers: Kele Cable and Sarah Naramore

Mentorship Officers – Kris Palmieri and Emilie Raymer

Diversity Officers: Luis Felipe Eguiarte-Souza and Reba Juetten

Professionalization Officer?

CV Review Preparation: Things to Avoid November 2, 2016

Posted by emmiemiller in Uncategorized.
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Dot your I’s and cross your T’s! Here’s the last post from our professionalization officer, Thomas Darragh, just in time for you to show off that CV at HSS 2016!


One of the hardest things to do when crafting a CV is to figure out what information you should not include on it. Often, this happens when writing a CV for a program that is in a different country—often such programs have different standards for what you should include on a CV. In this blog, we will be going over what you should not include on a CV crafted for the American marketed. If your CV is for another market, you should spend some time online researching what the standards are for that market.

One of the hardest things to avoid is jargon and abbreviations. Make sure that you avoided language that may be unclear to the reader. For example, write out the full names of programs, conferences, and other items instead of using abbreviations. While you may know what HSS 2016 is, those reviewing your CV may not understand that HSS is the History of Science Society.

You also should avoid providing personal information on your CV. What counts as personal information varies; however, a good rule is not to include anything that it is illegal for potential employers to ask you during an interview. Such information includes your age, marital status, if you have children, your political affiliations, your race, and your religion.

While avoiding personal information on a CV may seem simple, remember that some of the committees, organizations, and other activities you may include on your CV may offer hints towards such information. For example, holding the chair of a LBGTQ (Lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, queer/question) organization will—rightly or wrongly—suggest something about your sexual orientation. In such cases, you need to ask yourself if including this information on a CV is necessary, or if it is information that is best kept off an application.

Finally, while it is expected in some cultures to include a headshot on your CV, avoid adding photos on a CV for the American market.


Words to live by.

Fellowship Announcement: Linda Hall Library 80/20 Fellowship October 31, 2016

Posted by emmiemiller in Uncategorized.
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The Linda Hall Library is pleased to announce its fellowship program for the academic year 2017/18. Fellowships, lasting anywhere from one week to a full academic year, are awarded to outstanding projects in history of science and related science and technology studies fields that make use of the Library’s collections. Awards range from up to $3,000 per month for pre-doctoral fellows to $4,200 per month for post-doctoral fellows.

For the academic year 2017/18, the Linda Hall Library will also launch its innovative 80/20 Fellowship. To prepare graduate students for diverse career possibilities, 80/20 pre-doctoral fellows will spend 80% of their time pursuing dissertation-related research in the Library’s collections and 20% gaining valuable career-related skills as they plan, curate, and mount an exhibition based on their research and Library’s holdings. Check us out at http://www.lindahall.org/fellowships/

The Linda Hall Library, located next to the University of Missouri-Kansas City in Kansas City, Mo., is  among the world’s leading independent research libraries, boasting extensive primary and secondary sources related to environmental sciences, physical sciences, mathematics, earth sciences, engineering, astronomy, meteorology, and the life sciences. The Library holds more than 10,000 rare books dating from the 15th century to the present, as well as 500,000 monograph volumes and more than 48,000 journal titles from around the world, with especially strong holdings in Soviet and East Asian science. Its collections also contain conference proceedings, government publications, technical reports, and over 200,000 industrial standards. Fellows at the Linda Hall Library participate in a vibrant intellectual community alongside in-house scholars and colleagues from nearby research institutions.

All applications are due 1/16/2017.