Synthesis

By Cienna Slattery





During the first two weeks in the program, we explored the meaning of

community. Community is something that takes on different meanings for different

people. For some of us in the program, community meant a group of people sharing

similar interests or a common goal, for others it meant working together on a project.

For me, community means a group of people who have eachothers backs, regardless of

their differences. For me, community is all about support and trust. Community also

does not have to be all together, one’s community can be made up of people whom one

trusts from different groups. During these weeks, we also went on to explore identity.

Identity describes who someone is, though the way in which identity is formed is

incredibly complex. Identity is layered— that is, it has many different facets.

Additionally, identity is constructed through someone’s individual experiences.

Identity also overlaps with community because one’s community influences how they

identify. This could be through the experiences that the community creates, through

influences from the community, or simply because of the structure of the community.

People’s identity also changes in light of the things they learn from their community

members. For example, advisors and mentors can have a large influence on people

that affects their identity. During this module, we also learned to represent concepts

visually by representing our own identities through an art piece. Furthemore, we built

on this knowledge by learning about and using color theory to create shapes with color

schemes to represent concepts.


During the second two weeks of the program, we explored how scientific truth

is constructed. Scientific truth has long been influenced by social factors. Though

many scientists try their best not to be parial, it is impossible to separate human desire

from the scientific process. This can result in differences in the way that scientists

interpret data, present information, process information, or even conduct research

that distorts certain information. The construction of race within the collection of

skulls is a perfect example of this. The collection of skulls has deep social connections.

Skulls were frequently gifts or donations to museums, and along with these gifts or

donations, letters outlining the history of the skulls were sent. This allowed the sender

to easily construct or distort the history of the skull and relied on the sender to have

an accurate account of the skull’s history. The process to rank how accurate these

histories were was also incredibly faulted. The museums would judge the credibility of

the histories by looking at the status of the people who sent the skull. The people with

higher social standing were considered more trustworthy. This process made it easy

for senders to shape the history of the skulls and thus how race was constructed. As

the credibility of the story was based on the social status of the sender, this also barred

many people of color from sharing their stories. Due to racism, it was much less likely

for people of color to be in positions of power. As such, even if a person of color ws to

send in a skull with an attached history outlining the cultural context of the skull, their

truth was less likely to be considered factual. In accurately, constructing race,

however, it is crucial that other cultures are allowed to participate. This way of

collecting scientific data has led to an incredibly white-washed view of race within

anthropology, that is unfortunately now accepted as truth. Today, these practices

remain a part of the study of skulls, though the extent to which these practices are

used is uncertain.


In exploring the construction of scientific truth, we also looked at how pictures

of the cosmos by nasa are constructed. Nasa uses the hubble telescope to capture

pictures from space. This telescope captures data from space— and based on that data

constructs a picture of the scene. The image is then sent down to earth. Once the data

arrives at nasa, photo editing similar to photoshop is done by space scientists to make

the picture “more accurate.” The people working at nasa who manipulate these photos

claim that they use their own mathematical expertise to modify these scenes so that

they are more accurate. This can include revealing things that are invisible to the

naked eye but are still present in the scene, motifying lighting or colors, etc.

Additionally, another organization within Nasa that works on making information

about space accessible to the public is known to modify these scenes even further so

that they also look visually appealing for audiences. During these weeks, we also

expanded on our artistic ability by learning to use adobe spark. We used this platform

to create graphics about concepts we discussed in class.


On the surface, these topics are very different. The first includes talk about

community and identity, while the second includes talk about the social history of

truth. The first seems much more based in psychology and individuality while the

second seems much more scientifically grounded. Additionally, the cosmos is

incredibly different from one’s identity. Despite the differences, I think these topics are

very interconnected. One's culture is incredibly tied to their identity. As we stated

during the first module, community shapes identity. If a child was to learn something

negative about their own community, it could easily have drastic effects on their view

of themselves. This view can cause one to develop a negative or positive association

with their identity. As a hypothetical example, if a child who connects deeply with their

indigious roots finds out that science says that indiginous skulls are smaller and

therefor indiginous people are not as smart, the child may internalize feelings of not

being good enough or smart enough. While this includes how the community one

grows up in affects them, it also includes how one’s culture and community is

perceived by outsiders. The scientific construction of race deeply influences how

outsiders view a community. Scientific findings could easily lead people to view a

certain race or culture as inferior. As a result people may treat that race or individuals

associated with that race as inferior. Once again, this could lead to internalizing

stereotypes. On the other hand, it could also lead to someone becoming incredibly

protective of their community. Regardless, this would deeply affect the way one views

their identity. Finally, as we learned in module one, one’s identity is also incredibly

connected to their experiences and therefore, how people treat them and their

community. If a child were to experience a lot of negative events due to racism— such

as riots or harassment— the way in which the kid forms their identity is likely to be

influenced.


As the articles about the construction of scientific truth outlined, scientific

“truth” is faulty and in many ways has been shaped by elites. This has almost certainly

led to inaccuracies in the classification of race and in discoveries about different races,

especially non-white races. Additionally, as it was mostly white people making the

decisions about scientific truth and there is a long history of xenophobia and racism, it

is probable that many people had the agenda of keeping other races scientifically

inferior and therefore constructed histories that made those races look inferior to

white races. Likewise, outside of anthropology, science has heavy social influences.

Together, these false histories and the false construction of race has led to the

reinforcement of stereotypes. As a result, people of color and their cultures continue to

be treated as inferior by some and in other contexts, they continue to be labeled by

stereotypes. For some, these labels and stereotypes likely lead to people internalizing

the bad things people say about them. For me, I don’t think that I have internalized

stereotypes, but knowing about the stereotypes and being treated as if I am one has

caused me to become protective of the black community. Having grown up plagued by

stereotypes, I am more driven to learn about diverse cultures, systemic racism, and to

advocate against racism. For me, this has become a core part of my identity and

self-concept.


Module one is also deeply connected to module two because the scientific

construction of race and the construction of scientific truth is deeply connected with

racism. In the collection of skulls, people of color were thought to be less credible and

were barred from positions of power due to racism. For the longest time, people of

color were barred from positions of power due to slavery, Jim Crow, then systemic

racism, and more. As a result, white people were able to construct truth in the way

they desired. As one of the articles concerning scientific truth outlined, each person

also has their own agenda. This certainly existed within the social histories sent in

with skulls. As many white people at the time were deeply racist and viewed people of

color as inferior, it is probabilite that they either had the agenda of keeping people of

color scientifically inferior, or their account of the history of the skull was influenced

by their racist beliefs about the people of that race or culture.

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