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Interview with science journalist Angela Saini about decolonisation of STEM subjects

In this interview Angela Saini introduces ideas around why STEM subjects are colonised and need decolonising.
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[Music] [Music] [Music] welcome<00:00:15.759> to welcome to
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welcome to um<00:00:17.359> the<00:00:17.680> decolonizing<00:00:18.640> education um the decolonizing education
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um the decolonizing education course<00:00:20.160> um<00:00:20.640> i'm<00:00:20.880> going<00:00:21.039> to<00:00:21.119> be<00:00:21.279> talking<00:00:21.600> today course um i’m going to be talking today course um i’m going to be talking today to to
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to angela<00:00:23.199> sayani<00:00:24.000> and<00:00:24.080> we're<00:00:24.240> going<00:00:24.480> to<00:00:24.560> be angela sayani and we’re going to be
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angela sayani and we’re going to be talking<00:00:25.039> about<00:00:25.439> decolonizing<00:00:26.400> stem<00:00:26.800> science talking about decolonizing stem science
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talking about decolonizing stem science technology<00:00:27.840> engineering<00:00:28.400> mathematics technology engineering mathematics
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technology engineering mathematics so<00:00:29.920> welcome<00:00:30.320> angela<00:00:30.960> um<00:00:31.679> i'd<00:00:31.920> like<00:00:32.079> to<00:00:32.239> start so welcome angela um i’d like to start
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so welcome angela um i’d like to start by<00:00:32.800> asking<00:00:33.120> you by asking you
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by asking you what<00:00:33.840> does<00:00:34.079> it<00:00:34.160> mean<00:00:34.399> to<00:00:34.559> you<00:00:34.719> to<00:00:34.960> decolonize what does it mean to you to decolonize
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what does it mean to you to decolonize the<00:00:35.920> curriculum the curriculum
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the curriculum um<00:00:38.000> i<00:00:39.040> i<00:00:39.280> hesitate<00:00:39.840> because<00:00:40.079> decolonization um i i hesitate because decolonization
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um i i hesitate because decolonization is<00:00:41.280> such<00:00:41.520> a<00:00:41.680> loaded<00:00:42.160> word is such a loaded word
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is such a loaded word these<00:00:43.440> days<00:00:44.399> and<00:00:44.559> it's<00:00:44.800> one<00:00:45.120> that<00:00:45.360> feels these days and it’s one that feels
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these days and it’s one that feels culturally<00:00:46.239> divisive culturally divisive
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culturally divisive i<00:00:47.280> don't<00:00:47.440> think<00:00:47.600> it<00:00:47.760> necessarily<00:00:48.239> should<00:00:48.480> be i don’t think it necessarily should be
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i don’t think it necessarily should be because<00:00:48.879> really<00:00:49.120> when<00:00:49.280> you<00:00:49.360> get<00:00:49.520> down<00:00:49.680> to because really when you get down to
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because really when you get down to brass<00:00:50.320> tacks<00:00:50.559> what<00:00:50.719> it<00:00:50.879> essentially<00:00:51.440> means brass tacks what it essentially means
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brass tacks what it essentially means is<00:00:52.399> that<00:00:52.559> we<00:00:52.800> understand<00:00:53.360> knowledge<00:00:53.760> not<00:00:53.920> just is that we understand knowledge not just
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is that we understand knowledge not just in<00:00:54.239> a<00:00:54.320> one-dimensional<00:00:55.120> way<00:00:55.280> but<00:00:55.440> that<00:00:55.600> we in a one-dimensional way but that we
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in a one-dimensional way but that we give<00:00:55.840> it<00:00:56.079> context give it context
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give it context historical<00:00:57.600> context<00:00:58.079> social<00:00:58.480> context historical context social context
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historical context social context cultural<00:00:59.359> context cultural context
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cultural context and<00:01:00.800> that<00:01:00.960> we<00:01:01.199> understand<00:01:02.640> knowledge<00:01:03.280> exists and that we understand knowledge exists
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and that we understand knowledge exists um<00:01:05.199> within<00:01:05.600> cultures<00:01:06.159> it's<00:01:06.320> shaped<00:01:06.640> by<00:01:06.799> the um within cultures it’s shaped by the
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um within cultures it’s shaped by the cultures<00:01:07.439> that<00:01:07.760> it's cultures that it’s
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cultures that it’s it<00:01:09.040> comes<00:01:09.360> out<00:01:09.600> of<00:01:10.320> and<00:01:10.720> if<00:01:10.880> we're<00:01:11.119> going<00:01:11.360> to it comes out of and if we’re going to
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it comes out of and if we’re going to appreciate<00:01:12.400> that appreciate that
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appreciate that then<00:01:13.600> we<00:01:13.840> need<00:01:14.560> a<00:01:14.720> broader<00:01:15.200> understanding<00:01:16.000> of then we need a broader understanding of
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then we need a broader understanding of where<00:01:17.040> ideas<00:01:17.360> come<00:01:17.600> from<00:01:19.280> so where ideas come from so
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where ideas come from so why<00:01:20.000> do<00:01:20.080> you<00:01:20.159> think<00:01:20.400> it's<00:01:20.640> important<00:01:21.040> to why do you think it’s important to
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why do you think it’s important to decolonize<00:01:22.000> stem<00:01:22.320> subjects decolonize stem subjects
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decolonize stem subjects well<00:01:24.560> i<00:01:24.720> think<00:01:24.960> it's<00:01:25.200> important<00:01:26.240> to well i think it’s important to
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well i think it’s important to understand<00:01:27.680> where<00:01:28.000> ideas<00:01:28.400> come<00:01:28.640> from understand where ideas come from
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understand where ideas come from um<00:01:29.920> and<00:01:30.000> this<00:01:30.479> isn't<00:01:30.640> just<00:01:30.880> about um and this isn’t just about
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um and this isn’t just about decolonization<00:01:32.000> it's<00:01:32.159> about<00:01:32.560> it's<00:01:32.799> more decolonization it’s about it’s more
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decolonization it’s about it’s more broadly<00:01:33.520> about broadly about
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broadly about recognizing<00:01:35.600> that<00:01:36.640> scientific<00:01:37.360> questions recognizing that scientific questions
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recognizing that scientific questions and<00:01:38.320> ideas<00:01:38.799> don't<00:01:39.040> pop<00:01:39.360> out<00:01:39.520> of<00:01:39.600> nowhere<00:01:40.240> they and ideas don’t pop out of nowhere they and ideas don’t pop out of nowhere they come come
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come from<00:01:42.159> human<00:01:42.479> beings<00:01:42.960> who<00:01:43.200> are<00:01:43.280> raised<00:01:43.680> with from human beings who are raised with
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from human beings who are raised with certain<00:01:44.240> sets<00:01:44.560> of<00:01:44.720> assumptions<00:01:45.280> and<00:01:45.439> biases certain sets of assumptions and biases
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certain sets of assumptions and biases and<00:01:46.640> if<00:01:46.799> we<00:01:47.040> know<00:01:48.479> where<00:01:48.880> an<00:01:49.040> idea<00:01:49.360> comes<00:01:49.680> from and if we know where an idea comes from
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and if we know where an idea comes from and<00:01:50.159> this<00:01:50.320> is<00:01:50.399> something<00:01:50.640> i've<00:01:50.799> been<00:01:51.040> calling and this is something i’ve been calling and this is something i’ve been calling for for
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for since<00:01:52.960> my<00:01:53.360> books<00:01:53.600> came<00:01:53.920> out<00:01:54.240> is<00:01:55.119> what<00:01:55.280> i<00:01:55.360> would since my books came out is what i would
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since my books came out is what i would love<00:01:55.840> is<00:01:56.000> that<00:01:56.240> every<00:01:56.399> time<00:01:56.640> you<00:01:56.719> learn<00:01:56.960> a love is that every time you learn a love is that every time you learn a scientific scientific
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scientific medical<00:01:58.320> or<00:01:58.479> engineering<00:01:58.960> concept<00:01:59.759> that<00:02:00.000> you medical or engineering concept that you medical or engineering concept that you know know
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know where<00:02:02.000> it<00:02:02.079> was<00:02:02.320> developed<00:02:02.880> how<00:02:03.200> it<00:02:03.280> was where it was developed how it was
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where it was developed how it was developed<00:02:04.079> why<00:02:04.320> it<00:02:04.399> was<00:02:04.640> developed<00:02:05.119> all<00:02:05.200> those developed why it was developed all those developed why it was developed all those questions questions
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questions and<00:02:06.880> that<00:02:07.200> in<00:02:07.360> turn<00:02:07.680> i<00:02:07.840> think<00:02:08.239> would<00:02:09.119> um and that in turn i think would um
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and that in turn i think would um help<00:02:10.000> us<00:02:10.640> not<00:02:10.879> fall<00:02:11.200> into<00:02:11.440> the<00:02:11.599> kind<00:02:11.760> of help us not fall into the kind of
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help us not fall into the kind of mistakes<00:02:12.239> that<00:02:12.400> scientists<00:02:12.800> have<00:02:12.879> fallen mistakes that scientists have fallen mistakes that scientists have fallen into into
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into in<00:02:14.239> the<00:02:14.400> past<00:02:16.239> and<00:02:16.480> uh<00:02:16.720> following<00:02:17.120> on<00:02:17.200> from in the past and uh following on from in the past and uh following on from that that
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that what<00:02:17.920> historical<00:02:18.640> evidence<00:02:19.200> is<00:02:19.440> there<00:02:19.760> of<00:02:20.000> a what historical evidence is there of a
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what historical evidence is there of a colonization<00:02:20.879> of colonization of
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colonization of science<00:02:21.680> subjects<00:02:23.760> all<00:02:24.080> scientific science subjects all scientific
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science subjects all scientific knowledge<00:02:25.120> i<00:02:25.200> would<00:02:25.440> say knowledge i would say
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knowledge i would say um<00:02:26.560> is<00:02:26.800> embedded<00:02:27.680> in<00:02:27.840> a<00:02:27.920> certain<00:02:28.319> set<00:02:28.480> of um is embedded in a certain set of
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um is embedded in a certain set of assumptions<00:02:29.280> and<00:02:29.440> western assumptions and western
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assumptions and western european<00:02:31.120> scientific<00:02:31.599> traditions<00:02:32.080> are<00:02:32.239> no european scientific traditions are no european scientific traditions are no exception exception
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exception they<00:02:34.080> feel<00:02:34.480> different<00:02:34.959> because<00:02:36.080> science they feel different because science
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they feel different because science believes<00:02:38.000> itself<00:02:38.319> to<00:02:38.560> always<00:02:38.800> be<00:02:38.959> objective believes itself to always be objective
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believes itself to always be objective and<00:02:39.680> i<00:02:39.760> think<00:02:40.239> objectivity<00:02:40.879> is<00:02:41.040> possible and i think objectivity is possible
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and i think objectivity is possible it’s<00:02:42.080> only<00:02:42.319> really<00:02:42.640> possible<00:02:43.040> though<00:02:43.280> if<00:02:43.360> you it’s only really possible though if you
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it’s only really possible though if you examine<00:02:44.480> and<00:02:44.720> interrogate examine and interrogate
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examine and interrogate how<00:02:46.480> ideas<00:02:47.360> were<00:02:47.599> shaped<00:02:48.000> by<00:02:48.160> the<00:02:48.319> cultures how ideas were shaped by the cultures
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how ideas were shaped by the cultures they<00:02:48.879> were<00:02:49.120> in they were in
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they were in and<00:02:49.599> try<00:02:49.840> to<00:02:50.000> mitigate<00:02:50.480> for<00:02:50.640> that<00:02:51.840> so and try to mitigate for that so
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and try to mitigate for that so at<00:02:52.800> the<00:02:52.959> birth<00:02:53.200> of<00:02:53.280> modern<00:02:53.599> western<00:02:54.000> science at the birth of modern western science
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at the birth of modern western science there<00:02:54.720> were<00:02:54.959> a<00:02:55.120> certain there were a certain
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there were a certain set<00:02:56.080> of<00:02:56.239> cultural<00:02:56.959> assumptions<00:02:58.239> in<00:02:58.480> europe set of cultural assumptions in europe
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set of cultural assumptions in europe that<00:03:00.080> came<00:03:00.319> to<00:03:00.480> underpin<00:03:00.959> for<00:03:01.120> example<00:03:01.440> the that came to underpin for example the
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that came to underpin for example the science<00:03:01.840> of<00:03:01.920> human<00:03:02.239> difference science of human difference
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science of human difference one<00:03:03.280> of<00:03:03.440> those<00:03:03.840> was<00:03:04.000> that<00:03:04.319> there<00:03:04.480> was<00:03:04.879> um<00:03:05.440> a one of those was that there was um a
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one of those was that there was um a sexual<00:03:06.000> and<00:03:06.159> gender<00:03:06.560> binary sexual and gender binary
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sexual and gender binary that<00:03:07.360> there<00:03:07.440> was<00:03:07.599> nothing<00:03:08.000> beyond<00:03:08.319> that that there was nothing beyond that
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that there was nothing beyond that another<00:03:09.599> one<00:03:09.840> was<00:03:10.159> that another one was that
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another one was that um<00:03:11.360> that<00:03:11.519> the<00:03:11.680> human<00:03:12.400> race<00:03:13.360> or<00:03:13.519> human<00:03:13.840> species um that the human race or human species
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um that the human race or human species could<00:03:14.400> be<00:03:14.560> divided<00:03:15.040> into<00:03:15.280> discrete<00:03:15.840> groups could be divided into discrete groups
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could be divided into discrete groups and<00:03:17.040> both<00:03:17.280> of<00:03:17.440> those<00:03:17.680> things<00:03:18.800> both<00:03:19.040> of<00:03:19.200> those and both of those things both of those
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and both of those things both of those ideas<00:03:20.000> however<00:03:20.319> you<00:03:20.480> feel<00:03:20.640> about<00:03:20.879> them<00:03:21.040> do<00:03:21.200> not ideas however you feel about them do not
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ideas however you feel about them do not exist<00:03:21.840> in<00:03:22.000> all<00:03:22.159> scientific exist in all scientific
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exist in all scientific knowledge<00:03:23.200> cultures<00:03:24.080> so<00:03:24.239> in<00:03:24.400> different<00:03:24.640> parts knowledge cultures so in different parts
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knowledge cultures so in different parts of<00:03:24.959> the<00:03:25.040> world<00:03:25.200> people<00:03:25.440> think<00:03:25.680> very of the world people think very
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of the world people think very differently<00:03:26.239> about<00:03:26.480> those<00:03:26.720> things differently about those things
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differently about those things and<00:03:27.599> i<00:03:27.760> think<00:03:28.159> um<00:03:28.799> that<00:03:28.959> is<00:03:29.120> one<00:03:29.360> example<00:03:30.080> of and i think um that is one example of
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and i think um that is one example of how<00:03:31.840> just<00:03:32.000> one<00:03:32.239> example<00:03:32.720> there<00:03:32.879> are<00:03:32.959> many how just one example there are many
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how just one example there are many millions<00:03:33.760> more millions more
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millions more of<00:03:34.560> house<00:03:35.280> how<00:03:35.680> history<00:03:37.040> and<00:03:37.360> culture<00:03:37.760> has of house how history and culture has
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of house how history and culture has shaped<00:03:38.400> scientific shaped scientific
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shaped scientific understanding<00:03:40.480> so<00:03:40.879> how<00:03:41.120> do<00:03:41.280> you<00:03:41.440> think<00:03:41.680> that understanding so how do you think that understanding so how do you think that decolonization decolonization
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decolonization with<00:03:43.680> particular<00:03:44.319> emphasis<00:03:44.959> on<00:03:45.120> stem<00:03:45.519> can with particular emphasis on stem can
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with particular emphasis on stem can help<00:03:46.000> society um<00:03:48.959> i<00:03:49.120> think<00:03:49.519> all<00:03:50.319> knowledge<00:03:51.120> should<00:03:51.280> be um i think all knowledge should be
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um i think all knowledge should be understood<00:03:52.080> in<00:03:52.159> the<00:03:52.319> round<00:03:52.720> we<00:03:52.879> need<00:03:53.040> a understood in the round we need a understood in the round we need a holistic holistic
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holistic understanding<00:03:54.640> of<00:03:55.040> um<00:03:56.319> of understanding of um of
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understanding of um of everything<00:03:57.519> that<00:03:57.680> we<00:03:57.840> learn<00:03:58.640> because<00:03:59.040> to<00:03:59.200> not everything that we learn because to not
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everything that we learn because to not have<00:03:59.680> that have that
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have that we<00:04:00.480> get<00:04:00.640> the<00:04:00.799> kind<00:04:00.959> of<00:04:01.040> problems<00:04:01.360> that<00:04:01.439> we<00:04:01.599> have we get the kind of problems that we have
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we get the kind of problems that we have now<00:04:02.080> which<00:04:02.319> is<00:04:02.879> students<00:04:03.519> and<00:04:03.680> academics<00:04:04.480> look now which is students and academics look
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now which is students and academics look at<00:04:04.720> their<00:04:04.959> fields<00:04:05.519> and<00:04:05.680> say<00:04:05.920> why<00:04:06.080> did<00:04:06.319> i<00:04:06.480> not at their fields and say why did i not
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at their fields and say why did i not know<00:04:06.959> this know this
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know this about<00:04:07.599> this<00:04:08.159> why<00:04:08.319> did<00:04:08.560> i<00:04:08.640> not<00:04:08.879> know<00:04:09.120> for about this why did i not know for
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about this why did i not know for instance<00:04:09.680> that<00:04:09.840> the<00:04:09.920> field<00:04:10.239> of<00:04:10.400> statistics instance that the field of statistics
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instance that the field of statistics emerged<00:04:12.400> out<00:04:12.560> of<00:04:12.640> the<00:04:12.720> british<00:04:13.040> eugenics emerged out of the british eugenics
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emerged out of the british eugenics movement<00:04:14.000> and<00:04:14.080> the<00:04:14.239> reason<00:04:14.480> that<00:04:14.640> we<00:04:14.720> have movement and the reason that we have
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movement and the reason that we have these<00:04:15.120> concepts<00:04:15.680> is<00:04:15.840> because<00:04:16.079> people<00:04:16.320> wanted these concepts is because people wanted
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these concepts is because people wanted to<00:04:16.880> understand to understand
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to understand how<00:04:18.239> to<00:04:19.759> map<00:04:20.079> human<00:04:20.479> difference how to map human difference
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how to map human difference in<00:04:21.680> order<00:04:21.919> to<00:04:22.240> carry<00:04:22.560> out<00:04:22.720> these<00:04:22.960> kind<00:04:23.120> of in order to carry out these kind of in order to carry out these kind of ideological ideological
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ideological policies<00:04:27.120> if<00:04:27.360> we<00:04:27.600> don't policies if we don’t
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policies if we don’t have<00:04:29.440> that<00:04:30.320> broader<00:04:30.800> holistic<00:04:31.440> understanding have that broader holistic understanding
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have that broader holistic understanding even<00:04:32.479> within<00:04:32.960> fields<00:04:33.520> stem<00:04:33.840> fields<00:04:34.080> like even within fields stem fields like
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even within fields stem fields like mathematics<00:04:34.880> and<00:04:34.960> statistics mathematics and statistics
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mathematics and statistics which<00:04:36.000> feel<00:04:36.320> so<00:04:36.560> removed<00:04:37.120> from<00:04:37.759> politics<00:04:38.479> that which feel so removed from politics that
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which feel so removed from politics that feel<00:04:38.800> that<00:04:38.960> they're<00:04:39.199> completely<00:04:39.600> unconnected feel that they’re completely unconnected
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feel that they’re completely unconnected to<00:04:41.199> culture<00:04:41.600> and<00:04:41.680> to<00:04:41.840> society<00:04:42.479> that<00:04:42.800> you<00:04:42.960> know to culture and to society that you know
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to culture and to society that you know they<00:04:43.199> sit<00:04:43.440> apart they sit apart
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they sit apart even<00:04:44.320> they<00:04:44.560> do<00:04:44.720> not<00:04:44.880> sit<00:04:45.120> apart<00:04:45.600> everything even they do not sit apart everything
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even they do not sit apart everything has<00:04:46.960> its<00:04:47.199> roots has its roots
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has its roots in<00:04:48.320> something<00:04:48.800> real<00:04:49.199> in<00:04:49.280> the<00:04:49.440> world<00:04:50.240> and<00:04:50.400> what in something real in the world and what
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in something real in the world and what i<00:04:50.720> would<00:04:50.880> love i would love
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Amid widespread calls to decolonise STEM subjects, science journalist and author Angela Saini reflects on why this is important, and how future research and technology can benefit from expanded perspectives that draw in diverse histories and appreciate how scientific knowledge is constructed. She reminds that even fields that appear to be politically neutral, such as mathematics and statistics, employ key concepts originally developed by eugenicists and race scientists.

References

Superior: The Return of Race Science (4th Estate, 2019)

Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong and the New Research That’s Rewriting the Story (4th Estate, 2017)

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Decolonising Education: From Theory to Practice

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