Reader Query: Feminist Philosophy of Physics.

From a reader:

I have a graduate student in my Feminist Philosophy course who would like to write his paper in Philosophy of Physics — specifically, he is interested in exploring how the exclusion of women in the field of Physics has resulted in ignoring particular questions within Physics. I referred him to Evelyn Fox Keller’s work in this area, as well as some articles by Helen Longino, Donna Haraway and Nancy Tuana (though the latter focused more on problems of privileging certain types of knowledge). Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Any thoughts?

12 thoughts on “Reader Query: Feminist Philosophy of Physics.

  1. Like Eric in #1, Barad’s name is the first one I’d recommend. I’d also check out Joseph Rouse’s discussion of Barad (I know he has one article called “Barad’s Feminist Naturalism,” and possibly others).

  2. There’s a particular instance that comes to mind, which may be useful as a case study. Grete Hermann published a paper in 1935 pointing out a flaw in von Neumann’s “proof” of the impossibility of a hidden variable theory in quantum mechanics. Her result was basically ignored, though. John Bell independently made the same discovery in 1966, and it had a huge impact on the debates about the foundations of QM. If Hermann’s result had been widely known from the time it was published, our understanding of quantum mechanics could have evolved very differently.

  3. If I remember correctly, Stephen Kellert argued in his book on chaos theory that a masculine prejudice for linear thinking held physicists back from working on chaos theory.

  4. Check Lee Smolin, 2006, The Trouble with Physics, especially part IV. Smolin is a very fancy physicist. He does some interesting social epistemology, that is interestingly similar to Longino. I have thought for a while now that there might be a fun paper to write there.

  5. I second Karen Barad as a great starting point, her concept of agential realism and how measuring apparatuses and the observed are entangled might be very helpful for his research when considering gendered notions of knowledge production and objectivity. I would also add Patricia Clough’s work on technoscience/feminism, Victoria Pitts-Taylor and possibly Luciana Parisi as well.

    This video of Clough: Feminist Theory, Bodies, Technoscience discusses Barad and Parisi.

    And here’s a lecture by Victoria.

  6. Sharon Traweek, Beamtimes and Lifetimes: The World of High Energy Physicists (Harvard, 1992). Traweek looks at physicists as a “tribe” describing initiation rites, rites of passage, etc., including many instances of gender discrimination. The other salient point is that she contrasts group relations and work among the Japanese physics community to the more individualistic, competitive approach of Western physicists.

  7. Perhaps not general enough but still important:

    Elizabeth Potter,

    Gender and Boyle’s Law of Gases, Indiana University Press, 2001

  8. Thank you to all for the references & the video! I will pass these along to my student

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