Critical Histories and Activist Futures: Science, Medicine, and Racial Violence
Call for Submissions
February 24-25, 2017
The graduate students of Yale University’s Program in History of Science and Medicine are excited to invite submissions for a conference entitled “Critical Histories and Activist Futures: Science, Medicine, and Racial Violence,” taking place at Yale on the February 24–25, 2017. Submissions are due by November 15, 2016.
We have been inspired by recent conversations at Yale and other campuses on how to address histories of racial violence, inequality, and erasure at colleges and universities, and how these histories continue to impact our learning environments today. The activism led by undergraduates in the NextYale movement created new spaces and momentum within our university for organizing around issues of racial violence and social justice. However, last fall, at an open forum for graduate students to discuss issues of race, racism, and diversity, we were disappointed when Yale Dean Lynn Cooley suggested that teaching future scientists about subjects such as race and ethnicity would not only be impractical but also unnecessary, dismissively stating “How would you teach race and ethnicity studies in a science course?”
There is a long history of scientists and doctors perpetuating violence and inequality through their work. Yale administration’s failure to acknowledge—or perhaps, even ignorance of—this history is a telling reminder of the injustice that continues to permeate our universities. In this case, it was graduate students who responded, including our colleague Viet N. Trinh who wrote “Is it so ridiculous for future doctors to recognize that groundbreaking medical advances were often only possible through experimentation on enslaved people? For public health experts to know that their predecessors in California and Texas not only regarded the myth of the ‘dirty, unhygienic Mexican’ as scientific fact, but also used said myth to concoct medical justifications for segregating, regulating, and controlling nonwhite bodies?…Racism is not a problem exclusively for historians and sociologists…As inheritors of its painful legacy, we must all reckon with racism not just as a matter of personal principle, but of professional ethics.” 
Historians of science and medicine are well-positioned to examine these issues, and not only because of our own disciplinary record of documenting violence in scientific and medical practice. We are, ultimately, concerned with issues of how knowledge is produced, whose knowledge is valued, and who has access to knowledge, issues that underlie histories of racism in science and medicine. We believe that we have unique expertise to address systemic inequality and critique structures of power and authority. Yet we also recognize that if we want to address discrimination in the broader academy, we need to look for injustice within our own discipline who has access to our field? And in turn, what knowledge and forms of scholarship have been privileged?
Finally, conversations within our scholarly community alone can only take us so far. This is a critical moment to build bridges with activists, organizers, and the communities beyond our campuses. We hope that this conference will begin conversations and help build alliances and strategies for addressing systematic violence and inequality, inside and outside of academia.
We call for submissions that address three broad themes:
1. History of Science and Medicine as a platform for change in the larger world: what can academics do to effect change, and how can scholars build equitable and productive relationships with outside communities?
2. Social justice and racial violence itself as an object of academic study
3. Issues of social justice, inequality, and violence within History of Science and Medicine as a discipline.
We are looking for submissions that address any of these topics. We are interested in traditional academic papers, as well as discussions of activist work, artistic projects, archival and museum initiatives, and other presentations that address the themes of science, medicine and racial violence in some way. We are particularly interested in hearing from individuals who have made activism a crucial part of their scholarly work. The conference committee will group presentations into panels on related themes. Rather than a series of discrete presentations, though, we envision structuring this conference as a series of panel conversations between participants. We want to encourage dialogue, partnerships, and idea-sharing that will continue after the conference is over.
Participants should submit a brief (300 words max.) proposal to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than November 15, 2016. The conference committee will review all proposals and respond to all submissions by December 15, 2016. Please circulate to anyone you think would be interested.
 Viet N. Trinh, “On Science and Racial Violence: A Letter to Lynn Cooley,” ed. Amanda Joyce Hall, Conversation X , December 1, 2015. Retrieved from http://www.conversationx.com/2015/12/01/onscienceandracialviolence/