STEM of Desire: Queer Theories in Science Education
Editors: Will Letts, Charles Sturt University & Steve Fifield, The Franklin Institute
This edited volume will investigate and incite the tangled relations of STEM education, sexuality, and manifold desires using queer theories to advance constructive critique, creative world-making, and (com)passionate advocacy. Science (by which we mean STEM) education encompasses disparate settings, relationships, and activities that enfold persons, nature, and science in ever-shifting cultural re-productions. Institutionalized processes of normalization like science education necessarily induce transgressions via contradictions, slippages, and perversions that simultaneously define and undermine normality. Queer theorizing uncovers and instigates the paradoxical relations of the normal and the strange in ways of knowing, acting, and feeling as they manifest in and through sexes, sexualities, genders, and desires. Queering attends to desires and the odd (im)possibilities that are the necessary companions of cultural processes of normalization and naturalization. Queer theorizing, too, has re-produced normalizations by settling comfortably into abrading dominant cultural discourses around sexualities. We invite potential contributors to queer queering by leavening skeptical critiques of science education with wonder, improvisation, hope, and renewal.
This will be the first published collection to bring queer theories to bear on science education in diverse settings, including schooling from early childhood to postgraduate studies, and learning associated with museums, science centers, zoos, and other out-of-school time sites and activities. The proposed volume will be submitted to the Sense Publishers series “Cultural and Historical Perspectives on Science Education: Research Dialogs.” Proposed chapters should aim to be accessible—and strangely alluring—to readers who are new to queer theories in science education, including advanced undergraduates, graduate students, teachers, researchers, policy makers, and concerned citizens with feral curiosities. The volume will offer syntheses of past work, conjure fresh approaches, and advocate provocative next steps for thinking, research, and practice. Empirical and conceptual/theoretical approaches are welcome, as is writing that troubles (un)tidy binary formulations like formal/informal learning, school/out-of-school, empirical/theoretical, research/practice, normal/strange, nature/culture, LGBTQQI/straight, teacher/learner, science/non-science/pseudoscience, etc.
Over the last 15 years, work on queer theories in science education has appeared in scattered venues at disciplinary margins—neither recognizable as addressing the normal concerns of science education nor as typical grist for queer theorizing. By assembling a spirited volume of original manuscripts, our goal is to incite broader awareness of and innovation around a host of abnormal concerns that are among the “indispensible interior exclusion[s]” (Fuss, 1991, p. 3) of science education and queer theories as they are normally construed and constrained. In this vein, we have recently addressed several issues concerning queer theories and science education that deserve further investigation and elaboration (Fifield & Letts, 2014). The following thoughts illustrate and by no means exhaust the possibilities that potential contributors to this volume may pursue:
- Queer critiques of science curricula have revealed heteronormativity in accounts of human biology, including anatomy and physiology, reproduction, genetics, hormones, and behavior. These subjects remain important targets for critique and renewal, but queering analyses must extend to other STEM content areas and practices in schools, universities, and beyond.
- Queer analyses of school science have focused on contemporary primary and (mostly) secondary education. Early childhood, undergraduate, and (post)graduate science education also need attention, as do historical analyses of science learning in formal and informal/free-choice/self-directed settings.
- Reflecting what Sedgwick (2003) called queer theory’s habitually “paranoid readings,” past studies have focused on a “critique of what is there (and what is not there)” (Lemke, 2011, p. 289) in the science curriculum. To advance Sedgwick’s call for reparative readings (Love, 2010), it is time to also envision and enact intellectually, affectively, and aesthetically refreshing alternatives to heteronormativity and other normative desires in science curricula.
- Since queer analyses of science education first appeared nearly 15 years ago, policy discussions in the US have shifted to new initiatives, including the Common Core State Standards, and Next Generation Science Standards. What does queering reveal about historical trends in science education policy (inter)nationally, and how can queering disrupt and re-mediate the angst-ridden, corporatist, and nationalistic policy mandates of contemporary science education?
- Queering science education need not be limited to disrupting the normalizing regimes of sexuality in science education. By attending to manifold desires, queer analyses access far-reaching and ill-behaved relations that conventional notions of sexuality may vaguely contact but cannot acknowledge or embrace. What becomes of science education when we trace its animating and deadening desires/aversions wherever they lead?
- What normalizing and strange desires circulate in apparently ordinary classroom practices, including lectures, labs, group projects, field work, excursions, and classroom and standardized assessments?
- A dominant impulse in LGBTQI, feminist, and (trans)gender politics is to normalize, naturalize, and essentialize identities to secure broader visibility, inclusion, and opportunity. What should queer analyses make of equity and multicultural concerns that are premised on such normalizing moves? Further, queering science education is about more than queers in science education. How can queering respond to longstanding, yet still marginalized, concerns in science education about promoting opportunities for groups of learners that are marked by essentialized gender, sex, ethnic/‘racial’, and other identity categories?
- People spend most of their lives and do most of their learning outside of schools. Work in informal/free-choice learning and public pedagogies could leverage queer analyses to reimagine and recreate science education in museums and other cultural institutions, out-of-school time programs, the home, the Internet and other electronic media, the arts, workplaces, public policy and politics, healthcare, the corporatized marketplace, activism, edutainment, recreation, travel, etc.
Submitting to the volume
We look forward to working closely with potential contributors. Our aim is to offer tailored assistance to all contributors to elicit fresh perspectives that elaborate and exceed the concerns sketched above in ways we cannot anticipate. Whether you have a well-developed concept or the first stirrings of an idea, please contact us at QueeringSciEd@gmail.com by 30 November 2014 with a brief description. Following conversations about these preliminary ideas, we will invite the development of formal chapter proposals and full manuscripts on deadlines to be negotiated with each potential contributor. All chapters must be completed by 15 March 2015.
Fifield, S., & Letts, W. (2014). [Re]considering queer theories in science education. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 9, 393-407.
Fuss, D. (1991). Inside/out. In D. Fuss (Ed.), InsideOut: Lesbian theories, gay theories (pp. 1–13). New York: Routledge.
Lemke, J. (2011). The secret identity of science education: masculine and politically conservative? Cultural Studies of Science Education, 6, 287-292.
Love, H. (2010). Truth and consequences: On paranoid reading and reparative reading. Criticism, 52(2), 235-241.
Sedgwick, E. (2003). “Paranoid reading and reparative reading, or, You’re so paranoid, you probably think this essay is about you.” In Touching feeling: Affect, pedagogy, performativity, pp. 123-152. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
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