“Decolonizing Light”: A Canadian University Project Aims to Redefine “Physics as a Social Domain” |  The daily thread

“Decolonizing Light”: A Canadian University Project Aims to Redefine “Physics as a Social Domain” | The daily thread

A Canadian university is embarking on a project to fundamentally change physics as a science by “decolonizing light.”

A group of researchers from all disciplines at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, are working on the project, which aims to change the way the science of physics is viewed as an academic discipline, according to a report by The College Fix. . The project specifically targeted light because it is ubiquitous in all cultures and used in a number of scientific fields.

“The Decolonizing Light Project explores ways and approaches to decolonizing science, such as revitalizing and restoring Indigenous knowledge and building capacity,” the project’s website says. “The project aims to develop a culture of critical reflection and inquiry into the relationship between science and colonialism.”

Established in 2021, the project is led by Tanja Tajmel, Special Advisor on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion to the Dean of Concordia University and Associate Professor in the university’s Center for Engineering in Society. The project is also led by Associate Professor of “First Peoples Studies” Louellyn White and Associate Professor of Physics, Chemistry and Biochemistry Ingo Salzmann.

The project has a roster of 15 collaborators, including: Concordia “Indigenous Pedagogy Advisor” Donna Kahérakwas Goodleaf; environmental researcher and chemical researcher Gregor Kos; three representatives of the Kahnawà:ke Environment Protection Office (KEPO), an indigenous environmental group; Hilding Neilson, astronomer and Indigenous activist from the University of Toronto; and 9 graduate and undergraduate workers. The project also includes the collaboration of five researchers from leading universities around the world.

The project also benefits from the financial support of the New Frontiers in Research Fund. The NFRE is a research fund created by the Canadian government in 2018 to support “transformative, interdisciplinary, high-risk/high-reward research conducted by Canadian researchers working with Canadian and international partners.”

“This fund aims to inspire innovative research projects that push boundaries into exciting new areas and have the potential to have game-changing impacts,” the NFRE website states.

In a 2021 paper describing the project, Salzmann, White, Goodleaf, and Tajmel said the “unique scientific authority” of physics was why they targeted it. “Physics is generally considered the ‘most objective’ and ‘hardest’ science, it basically defines key scientific concepts such as energy, matter, force, light, space and time, for all other sciences,” the professors wrote. “For our purpose, it is important to understand physics as a social field rather than as “pure knowledge” independent of social values ​​and decisions.

The teachers specifically chose light “because light is ubiquitous in all societies, languages ​​and cultures. In everyday life, light is a key element that defines familiar aspects like color and warmth. In physics, light is exploited as the primary carrier of information about nature (e.g., in astronomy), used as the primary probe for the fundamental properties of matter (e.g., in spectroscopy)”, and is the subject of research at large facilities like the Canadian Light Source. in Saskatchewan, added the professors.

“The goal of our project is not to find new or better explanations of light; we are not trying to improve science
‘truth’,” they continued. “On the contrary, our project initiatives are driven by the marginalization of women, blacks and indigenous people, especially in physics. We see marginalization as a key issue for social equity as well as for scientific quality. Furthermore, we consider scientific knowledge that reproduces prejudices and colonial power relations to be unacceptable. »

The project is still active. According to their website, the last event was “An Evening of Native Star Stories with Cree Astronomer Wilfred Buck,” on October 26.

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