By Sophie Wang
Why did “modern” science arise in Europe? And if other sciences were once so powerful, what happened to them?
February 22, 2017
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(1) Examples of this include rice cultivation technology from Africa that leading to the proliferation of rice as a South Carolina plantation crop (Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas, Judith A. Carney), or the borrowing and further research into quinine as a malaria treatment which allowed Europeans to gain a stronger foothold in Africa and therefore the ability to better exploit and enslave African peoples (A People’s History of Science: Miners, Midwives, and ‘Low Mechanicks,’ Clifford D. Conner 2005)
As such, many of the scientific projects intended and resulted in more death and less freedom – not something we usually associate with “successful” science.
(2) Examples of de-development include:
- Extraction of raw materials like metals and agriculture that served as currency/sustenance/cash crop/raw material as well as resources for scientific enterprise.
- Extraction of labor, either moving raw materials to labor or labor to raw materials, but either way taking labor away from further development of local scientific and technological projects.
- Extraction of local scientific knowledge that was used by the colonizers to support European projects, many that were intended to decrease the economic/political/cultural power of the people who the knowledge came from (plantation agriculture, anyone?)
- Devaluation of indigenous cultural traditions and destruction of local industries and trades, whether actively to create room in the market for European replacements or passively as a result of the colonial process. Industry and trade are generally universal drivers of scientific progress, so their absence impedes scientific progress.
- Decimation of populations, both actively and passively through enslavement, conquest, and introduction of disease. No people = no scientists. (Is Science Multicultural?: Postcolonialisms, Feminisms, and Epistemologies (Race, Gender, and Science), Sandra Harding 1998)
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Sophie Wang is a first-time comic artist, chronic garlic craver, and believer in a better science. You can find her on Twitter at @wangshuf.