EASTS participates in History of Science Society (HSS) events in Taiwan

Professor Fa-ti Fan, EASTS' associate editor and the incumbent president of the History of Science Society (HSS), led a series of events in Taiwan this June. It was a wonderful opportunity for the EASTS community to gather and hold a conversation on STS related topics.

On 19 June 2023, Professor Evelynn Hammonds, the former chair of the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University and incoming president of the History of Science Society (HSS), gave a public lecture at National Chengchi University (NCCU) in Taipei, Taiwan. In the talk, Professor Hammonds shared her insights on “Building Equity into Higher Education Institutions,” which derived from her experience of being an African American female scientist and her career as faculty and dean at elite higher education institutions. The event was cohosted by NCCU’s International College of Innovation (ICI) and College of Social Sciences (CSS), and EASTS. EASTS editor-in-chief and dean of the ICI, Professor Wen-Ling Tu, along with the dean of the CSS, Professor Wan-Ying Yang, moderated the lively Q&A session following the talk.

The lecture took place in an interesting political climate, when college campuses across Taiwan were caught in a heated debate after a series of discriminatory incidents transpired targeting ethnicity, gender, and minorities on university campuses. There had also been a surge in the #MeToo movement in Taiwan, where notable cases of sexual offenses had surfaced one after another. Social media sites were flooded with campaigns that raised awareness of microaggressions that minority and female students face.

EASTS’ editor-in-chief Wen-Ling Tu opened the discussion on the impact of technology in the educational environment. Issues of online harassment and hate speech were brought up, with students voicing their concerns regarding the anonymity of the internet and its negative effects. Professor Hammonds agreed that social media do have the tendency to allow individuals to post their thoughts and feelings unrestrained, and stressed the importance of learning to hold a civil conversation on college campuses. Dean Yang pointed out how technology is also a key factor in fourth-wave feminism, where internet tools have helped empower women, as represented by the #MeToo movement. A huge wave of protest that arrived in Taiwan recently shows that we are at a tipping point for change, and we must continue to observe how this will pan out, not merely in Taiwan, but in Asia at large.

Meanwhile, multiple incidents in the United States had also sparked public debates on racialized and gendered history in the fields of higher education and medicine. A court case on affirmative action was ongoing, and many were keenly awaiting the decision that was about to be announced by the US Supreme Court. We also saw the news of Tori Bowie, a former Olympic athlete, dying of complications from childbirth, highlighting the risks for Black American women, who face a higher risk of pregnancy-related death. As one student in the audience pointed out, it was rather symbolic that the lecture happened to fall on the American federal holiday Juneteenth.

Being a scholar with a background in engineering, Professor Hammonds emphasized that data disaggregation that applies the concept of “intersectionality” is critical in achieving equity. When data is only available in larger categories, such as “women,” without further context, it will not accurately reflect the reality of women’s experience. Further data collection, broken down and annotated with details­—race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, marriage, and family status—becomes a vital tool in identifying forms of discrimination that were previously hidden. For example, disaggregated data can paint a picture that shows many female scholars do not feel safe having children until they have gotten tenure, pushing back the age of reproduction and putting their bodies at higher risk. This data-driven approach enables administrators to identify and rectify institutional inequalities, fostering necessary reforms to the learning and working environments. At EASTS, we see research potential in exploring this topic in the context of East Asian STS.

Image 1 EASTS' editor-in-chief, Wen-Ling Tu (left), and Dean Wan-Ying Yang from CSS (right) presented gifts to the speaker, Professor Evelynn Hammonds (center).

Following Professor Hammonds’ lecture, on 20–21 June a two-day conference titled “Beyond the Global: Transregionalism in Histories of Science” was held at Academia Sinica, co-sponsored by HSS. Many of EASTS’ board members were among the participants, with EASTS’ associate editor Fa-ti Fan present as the incumbent president of HSS. In the four panels, “Medicine & Indigeneity,” “Climate & Environment,” “Knowledge, Race & Religion,” and “Multispecies Histories,” presenters gave position papers on transregionalism, and Professor Evelynn Hammonds gave the keynote speech, entitled “One History of Science or Many? Reckoning with the Many Historie(s) of the Science(s).”

EASTS’ associate editor Hsin-Hsing Chen participated in a roundtable, entitled “The Role of Specialized Journals in Shaping Histories of Science and STS,” alongside two other journals, Isisand Historia Scientiarum. The roundtable was followed by a lively discussion moderated by EASTS’ founding editor-in-chief, Daiwie Fu. Scholars in the audience shared their experiences of working with journals and their pedagogical usage as assigned readings in the classroom. In discussing how each journal approaches the concept of “transregionalism,” Professor Chen brought up the topic of imperial/colonial experiences of the twentieth century, adding complexity to the crude “East”–“West” binary. EASTS reiterated how we need to continue asking the question “What is East Asian STS?” in defining both the geographic and thematic scope of the journal.

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