“On a deeper level, it confirms basic premises of Pathan life: that wealth is not for amassing, but for use and is basically without importance, that only the weak man is attached to property and makes himself dependent on it, that the strong man bases his position on qualities within himself and people’s recognition of these qualities, and not on control of people by the control of objects.”

— Fredrik Barth, Pathan Identity and Its Maintenance


“Medicine is a social science, and politics is nothing else but medicine on a large scale. Medicine, as a social science, as the science of human beings, has the obligation to point out problems and to attempt their theoretical solution: the politician, the practical anthropologist, must find the means for their actual solution… The physicians are the natural attorneys of the poor, and social problems fall to a large extent within their jurisdiction.”

— Rudolph Virchow


“Part of the blame must lie with the practice of labelling the social sciences as soft, which too readily translates as meaning woolly or soft-headed. Because they deal with systems that are highly complex, adaptive and not rigorously rule-bound, the social sciences are among the most difficult of disciplines, both methodologically and intellectually… As Washington Post columnist Charles Lane wrote in a recent article that called for the NSF not to fund any social science: “The ‘larger’ the social or political issue, the more difficult it is to illuminate definitively through the methods of ‘hard science’.”. In part, this just restates the fact that political science is difficult. To conclude that hard problems are better solved by not studying them is ludicrous. Should we slash the physics budget if the problems of dark-matter and dark-energy are not solved? Lane’s statement falls for the very myth it wants to attack: that political science is ruled, like physics, by precise, unique, universal rules. In any case, we have little idea how successful political science has been — politicians rarely seem to pay much heed to evidence-based advice from the social sciences, unless of course that evidence suits them. And to constrain political scientists with utilitarian bean-counting undermines the free academic nature of the whole exercise.”

A different agenda : Nature


““Like others of my generation, for me a Ph.D. in the social sciences meant that results were only meaningful if full of numbers, chi squares, and cluster diagrams that had a statistical significance of .05. Although there was something very seductive about artfully uncovering elegant patterns in this matter, the relative trust in a scientific method and distrust of the ‘art’ of studying human behaviour never sat well with me. I watched my scientist housemate start an experiment by getting rid of the “noise.” Yet I found that the noise, the outliers that blew away my 0.05 level of confidence, was where some of the most interesting information lay. I felt an almost tangible beauty in the patterns, especially ones that outliers helped foreground; surely they were part of the story””

— Ellen Pader (p. 161) in Dvora Yannow and Peregrine Schwartz-Shea, eds. “Interpretation and Method: Emperical Research Methods and the Interpretive Turn.” Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe. 


“At present, women do not have the same access that men do to the pursuit of the profession of science. Women’s child-bearing years are from about age fourteen to age fifty; in our society, the average age for first birth is twenty-five and the average number of children per woman is under two. Thus, procreation and career come into conflict at the time when job mobility and job devotion are paramount in the “typical scientist’s” life cycle. The typical scientist’s academic career begins in kindergarten (for a child of four or five years of age) and runs straight through to a doctorate degree (age twenty-sex or thirty), with post-doctorate research (another five years) and a career path in industry, government or university that proceeds from one level to the next, year by year and job by job. This pattern is planned for men’s and not women’s life cycle. A more egalitarian society would have daycare, co-parenting, continuing education, parental leave, job-sharing, and many of the other changes sought by women who want or need to work outside the home.”

Finn, Geraldine. Voices of Women, Voices of Feminism: Limited Edition. Fernwood Publishing; Halifax. 1993. (pg. 183)


“The power of anthropology and the social sciences is found, at least for me, in the narratives we put forward about the social conditions of people living in the world. In the social sciences, the books with legs are those that create a connection between writers and a diverse audience of readers. Such a connection is established not through a jargon-laden esoteric language, but through narratives that evoke themes that constitute the human condition.”

Paul Stoller at The Huffington Post. Narrative and the Future of the Social Sciences


“Narcissism is a developmental stage, not a symptom of the times. Young adults have been condemned as the “Me Generation” since at least the turn of last century. Then they get older, get appalled by youngsters nowadays, and start the condemning themselves.”

Oliver Burkeman, This Column Will Change Your Life: Consistency BiasThe Guardian.

TL;DR: We change too; it’s not just the times, the world, or the others.

I’ll be co-hosting #ScienceChat on Twitter on the 9th of April, 2pm PDT USA/ Thursday 10th April, 7am Aussie time. Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe and I will be tweeting from our account @STEMWomen and our amazing colleague Profesor Rajini Rao will be one of our distinguished guests. We’ll discuss how we can improve women’s participation in Science Technology Engineering & Math. We’ll also talk about how we can address intersections of discrimination in STEM. 
The discussion includes 10 scientists from various fields, including sociologist Jessie Daniels, science presenter Julia Wilde (thatssoscience) Modzilla Science Lab Director Kaitlin Thaney, academic blogger Dr Isis, amongst other guests.
Join us using #sciencechat High-res

I’ll be co-hosting #ScienceChat on Twitter on the 9th of April, 2pm PDT USA/ Thursday 10th April, 7am Aussie time. Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe and I will be tweeting from our account @STEMWomen and our amazing colleague Profesor Rajini Rao will be one of our distinguished guests. We’ll discuss how we can improve women’s participation in Science Technology Engineering & Math. We’ll also talk about how we can address intersections of discrimination in STEM. 

The discussion includes 10 scientists from various fields, including sociologist Jessie Daniels, science presenter Julia Wilde (thatssoscience) Modzilla Science Lab Director Kaitlin Thaney, academic blogger Dr Isis, amongst other guests.

Join us using #sciencechat

Allie Stone - Collections Assistant and Imaging Specialist in Insects, holding a cotton woven tunic from Guatemala, an item from the Economic Botany Collections. Jim Boone - Collections Manager, Insects, holding two paradise birdwing butterflies. Constance Van Beek - Preparator, Fossil Invertebrates, holding the bronze cast replica of Sue’s tooth, one of a dozen especially made for the preparators who worked on her. Laura Briscoe - Collections/Research Assistant, Botany, holding a piece of lace knit from Agave americana fibers from the Azores. Kevin H. - Collections Assistant, Botany, holding an original Schuster botanical illustration. Robert Lücking - Collections Manager and Adjunct Curator, Botany, holding a plastic sign covered with lichens collected in a rain forest in Costa Rica. Matthew Lavoie - Collections Assistant, Botany, holding the model of a cane toad from the imaging lab.


My friend Daniel - photographer, biologist, artist, friendliest person ever - is working on a photo project that highlights staff and volunteers of The Field Museum along with their favorite collections items.

Posing with artifacts and specimens brings a certain ingenuity to the object; perhaps it would otherwise be something easily overlooked in a drawer, its history buried in comparative numbers. Singling out individual articles stresses their inherent uniqueness, and we’re drawn in with a curiosity trying to puzzle out why, out of 27 million items in this museum, these particular people chose the specimens in their hands.

There’s a visceral connection between Laura’s gaze and that agave lace: she’s looking at it so lovingly and holding it so carefully, as if she’s imagining herself sitting in awe at the foot of the person who painstakingly knit the fibers together and watching the entire process come together. Having seen her knit her own scarves on our way home one evening I can fathom the respect she has for not only the collections but also the people responsible for their creation and care.

Throughout Daniel’s portraits he’s been able to capture so well a humbling sense of gratification and pride, a mood that reflects our joy of being here because of the love we have for this world and its achievements. We’re all bursting with the same sense of wonder. 

Check out more portraits in his series, including questions answered by the featured scientists.

Everyday Sexism in Academia
Earlier today, I co-hosted a panel discussion by STEM Women on Everyday Sexism in Academia, along with Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe a Molecular Biologist from the UK. Our guests were Professor Rajini Rao PhD  in Biochemistry who runs her own lab at Johns Hopkins University USA, and Dr Tommy Leung, Evolutionary Biologist with the University of New England, Australia. 

We discussed the sociological definition of everyday sexism, which demonstrates how everyday social exchanges between individuals are connected to institutional discrimination. Specifically, how conversations between academic colleagues that are sometimes called “benevolent" or "unintentional" sexism, are actually the outcome of systemic issues of gender inequality. This includes “jokes” that play on a woman’s gender and sexuality (“You’re a cheap date”); complimenting a woman on her looks and propositioning a junior colleague at a conference; and critiquing a woman scientist for the way she speaks, such as saying she’s “too aggressive” in negotiations or “not nice enough” when addressing sexism (this is often known as “tone policing”). We also noted that everyday sexism intersects with other forms of discrimination, such as race, though overt forms of racial discrimination are more heavily sanctioned in academia. (Even still, institutional racism persists.) White male academics do not experience the same additional pressures in university careers.

We also covered the recent case where the Journal of Proteomics published a photo of a bare chested woman in an abstract to promote a scientific paper (more on this later but you can read our article on our STEM Woman website). Finally we discussed how, even in professional contexts, people often discuss women scientists as mothers and wives first, rather than focusing on their professional achievements. For example in The New York Times obituary of rocket scientist Yvonne Brill.

Everyday sexism shows that women’s gender is a both a barrier to professional recognition, as well as a heavily policed focal point of scrutiny.

People think these seemingly innocuous examples of sexism are subjective - that women should just take a joke and not be “so sensitive.” We showed how social science actually connects these everyday comments to the professional barriers that women face in their scientific careers. This includes women’s pay, their career progression and professional esteem, their publications, women’s contribution and participation in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), and other more overt forms of workplace discrimination and sexual harassment.

So you wish you were Asian.



My parents came to the United States with a suitcase filled with things from their previous lives. They worked two jobs, seven days a week, while studying as full-time students to complete their education. My dad tells me stories about how he waited tables late into the night, while my mom sold shoes at flea markets on her days off to earn spare  cash to buy a car. They built the privilege affirmative action says we have from nothing but hard work.

I was given the gift of being able to be born into a family that defined the American Dream. My parents taught me English and Chinese simultaneously, spent hours reading me stories of Snow White and Cinderella, and the Monkey adventures in Journey to the West. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that they had learned English from memorizing vocabulary cards and reading old textbooks on grammar.

And though my parents taught me English, they ask me to deal with scheduling doctor appointments for them; they ask me to proofread emails for them, out of embarrassment that they feel their English isn’t sufficient to be taken seriously, it sickens me when I realize that while their mastery of the English language is more than proficient, it doesn’t matter, because the rest of the world doesn’t care.

But you wish you were Asian.

I grew up, hearing the words of boys whose only “standard” for the girls they were interested in was “Asian,” realizing that the disgustingly scary fetish of Asian women is actually a reality. I grew up, watching the world’s understanding of my cultural heritage be reduced to ching chong’s and ling long’s, kimonos, and fortune cookies. I grew up, being asked if my parents belonged to the communist party, when I held in me the stories they told me of labor camps they were sent to at the age of 13, of how one day, they couldn’t go to school anymore, of how my grandparents tried desperately later on, long after Mao’s regime ended, to force their children, now adults, to eat copious amounts of food, as if to make up for times when there was nothing to eat.

But you want to be Asian. 

I live in a country that has yet to realize that yellow face is not appropriate on mainstream television, a world that somehow doesn’t realize that statements like, “Kill the Chinese!!” are not acceptable to be aired on talk shows. I live in the 21st century, where the only understanding I can get about the story behind my heritage comes from my own parents, where the only times I can see people who look like me on screen is on Youtube.

I grew up as an Asian American, an individual in a group of people that never really belonged anywhere. Because in the United States, we’re nothing more than descendants of the people who invented orange chicken, and in China, we’re foreigners who fail to adopt the careful nuance of the dialect spoken there. We grew up, holding our ethnicity as something of great pride, and at the same time, of great burden. 

Our representation in the United States government practically is nonexistent. There is no proof that we as a group of human beings existed beyond the pages of Amy Tan novels. The caricatures on television taught us that we were nerds, deficient at English and social skills, bound by our supposed tiger parents to live out their dreams.

And because we apparently don’t exist to the rest of the United States, the inherent racism my “fascinating” ethnicity faces also ceases to exist.

But still. You enjoy your green tea and kungfu movies and paper lanterns. You love your Chinese 1 class and your Japanese Civilizations course and Wang Leehom. And my goodness, what you would give, if only you could be Asian.

This is exactly what I’ve been struggling to put into words, thank you.

(via racialicious)