Provocations for the Journal Catalyst’s 5th Anniversary

I was invited to be on a panel with some really wonderful feminist STS colleagues to offer provocations in celebration of the 5th Anniversary of the journal, Catalyst. Here are my remarks, part poem, part prose, part pathos.

Yesterday I Tweeted “Ma’Khia is such a beautiful name. I hate how I learned it. #SayHerName

This tweet has more than 30,000 likes. I don’t know what to make of this. is this an outpouring of support for a dead Black girl? For her name? A shared hate for why we know it? What remains of this beautiful girl beyond her name and tiktok hair tutorials?

That 20 minutes after Ma’Khia Bryant became a hashtag, the man who made George Floyd one was found guilty does not move me. I did not breathe any easier knowing that this man would go to prison. A cop in prison is not justice nor is it accountability when the system that put him there remains. And what remains of George Floyd? A hashtag? A hashtag I might study as part of a digital humanities STS project to show that hashtags do some work, create some openings and fissures in a system that would bury us not knowing we were seeds.

What remains. What, remains. What, remains?!

Did you hear about Tree and Delisha Africa?

No one seems to be sure what happened to a set of remains thought to be two children killed in the 1985 MOVE bombing.”

What remains to bury? No remains to bury but remains for a co-ed to learn forensic pathology on. Science built on the literal bones of those most marginalized. Does forensic science bring them back? Make the bombing that that made them bone any less devastating? 

It feels not enough. Not enough for George Floyd and not enough for Ma’khia Bryant. Not enough for Tree and Delisha and those who survive them.

Scholarship cannot undo extrajudicial killings.

I wonder sometimes if the academy is busy work for those who might otherwise get to the business of creating something different. As I was told by an indigenous elder, your land acknowledgement is cute or whatever but don’t do it if it let’s white supremacy relax. What remains if the naming of the Wampanoag, the Pawtuckett, the Massachusett, doesn’t result in concrete care or collateral for another way of relating to those who survived colonization and are still here?

How do we move from performing solidarity at the top of a talk to embodying it in the type of research we do?  How much of my energy should go into jumping through the hoops of academia, even if we figure out how to do our research in a more just way, when we know that ultimately capitalism is not sustainable? At what point do we abandon our computers for lives off grid?

Can STS answer this question? At what point do we know enough to say that new scholarship, research, new words and terms, have not slowed the march towards the end of the anthropocene? That some of us are getting there faster than others? What remains?

Delivered 4/22/2021

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