Monday, March 7, 2016

Too Good To FactCheck: "Glaciers, Gender, and Science"

Oh please, please let this be a hoax paper.
If it's a prank, it is as brilliant as Sokal's 1996 "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity".  

Or it's an actual paper, in which case it is nonsense on stilts.

I so want it to be the perfect spoof that I'm afraid to check out the authors and the journal for fear I'll be disappointed.

From the journal Progress in Human Geography:

Glaciers, gender, and science
A feminist glaciology framework for global environmental change research
  1. Mark Carey
  2. M Jackson
  3. Alessandro Antonello
  4. Jaclyn Rushing
  1. University of Oregon, USA
  1. Mark Carey, Robert D. Clark Honors College, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403, USA. Email:


Glaciers are key icons of climate change and global environmental change. However, the relationships among gender, science, and glaciers – particularly related to epistemological questions about the production of glaciological knowledge – remain understudied. This paper thus proposes a feminist glaciology framework with four key components: 1) knowledge producers; (2) gendered science and knowledge; (3) systems of scientific domination; and (4) alternative representations of glaciers. Merging feminist postcolonial science studies and feminist political ecology, the feminist glaciology framework generates robust analysis of gender, power, and epistemologies in dynamic social-ecological systems, thereby leading to more just and equitable science and human-ice interactions.

I Introduction

Glaciers are icons of global climate change, with common representations stripping them of social and cultural contexts to portray ice as simplified climate change yardsticks and thermometers. In geophysicist Henry Pollack’s articulation, ‘Ice asks no questions, presents no arguments, reads no newspapers, listens to no debates. It is not burdened by ideology and carries no political baggage as it crosses the threshold from solid to liquid. It just melts’ (Pollack, 2009: 114). This perspective appears consistently in public discourse, from media to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But the ‘ice is just ice’ conceptualization contrasts sharply with conclusions by researchers such as Cruikshank (2005), who asks if glaciers listen, Orlove et al. (2008b), who analyze the cultural framing of glaciers, Carey (2007), who sees an endangered species narrative applied to glaciers, Jackson (2015), who exposes how glaciers are depicted as ruins, and Sörlin (2015), who refers to the present as a cryo-historical moment because ‘ice has become historical, i.e. that ice is an element of change and thus something that can be considered as part of society and of societal concern’ (Sörlin, 2015: 327).

Nüsser and Baghel (2014) also reject the ‘ice is just ice’ assertion. Glaciers, they argue, ‘have increasingly become contested and controversial objects of knowledge, susceptible to cultural framings as both dangerous and endangered landscapes’ (Nüsser and Baghel, 2014: 138). Glaciers, after all, affect people worldwide by influencing sea level, providing water for drinking and agriculture, generating hydroelectric energy from glacier runoff, triggering natural disasters, yielding rich climate data from ice cores, shaping religious beliefs and cultural values, constituting identities, inspiring art and literature, and driving tourist economies that affect local populations and travelers alike (e.g. Carey, 2010Cruikshank, 2005Gosnell, 2005;Hewitt, 2014cOrlove et al., 2008a). Despite their perceived remoteness, glaciers are central sites – often contested and multifaceted – experiencing the effects of global change, where science, policy, knowledge, and society interact in dynamic social-ecological systems. Today, there is a need for a much more profound analysis of societies living in and engaging with mountains and cold regions (Halvorson, 2002;Byers and Sainju, 1994Bloom et al., 2008), including the social, economic, political, cultural, epistemological, and religious aspects of glaciers (see e.g. Allison, 2015;Gagné et al., 2014).

A critical but overlooked aspect of the human dimensions of glaciers and global change research is the relationship between gender and glaciers. While there has been relatively little research on gender and global environmental change in general (Moosa and Tuana, 2014Arora-Jonsson, 2011), there is even less from a feminist perspective that focuses on gender (understood here not as a male/female binary, but as a range of personal and social possibilities) and also on power, justice, inequality, and knowledge production in the context of ice, glacier change, and glaciology (exceptions are Bloom et al., 2008Williams and Golovnev, 2015Hevly, 1996Hulbe et al., 2010Cruikshank, 2005). Feminist theories and critical epistemologies – especially feminist political ecology and feminist postcolonial science studies – open up new perspectives and analyses of the history of glaciological knowledge. Researchers in feminist political ecology and feminist geography (e.g. Sultana, 2014;Mollett and Faria, 2013Elmhirst, 2011Coddington, 2015) have also called for studies to move ‘beyond gender’, to include analyses of power, justice, and knowledge production as well as ‘to unsettle and challenge dominant assumptions’ that are often embedded in Eurocentric knowledges (Harris, 2015: xx). Given the prominent place of glaciers both within the social imaginary of climate change and in global environmental change research, a feminist approach has important present-day relevance for understanding the dynamic relationship between people and ice – what Nüsser and Baghel (2015) refer to as the cryoscape.

Through a review and synthesis of a multi-disciplinary and wide-ranging literature on human-ice relations, this paper proposes a feminist glaciology framework to analyze human-glacier dynamics, glacier narratives and discourse, and claims to credibility and authority of glaciological knowledge through the lens of feminist studies. As a point of departure, we use ‘glaciology’ in an encompassing sense that exceeds the immediate scientific meanings of the label, much as feminist critiques of geography, for example, have expanded what it is that ‘geography’ might mean vis-à-vis geographic knowledge (Domosh, 1991Rose, 1993). As such, feminist glaciology has four aspects: (1) knowledge producers, to decipher how gender affects the individuals producing glacier-related knowledges; (2) gendered science and knowledge, to address how glacier science, perceptions, and claims to credibility are gendered; (3)systems of scientific domination, to analyze how power, domination, colonialism, and control – undergirded by and coincident with masculinist ideologies – have shaped glacier-related sciences and knowledges over time; and (4) alternative representations, to illustrate diverse methods and ways – beyond the natural sciences and including what we refer to as ‘folk glaciologies’ – to portray glaciers and integrate counter-narratives into broader conceptions of the cryosphere. These four components of feminist glaciology not only help to critically uncover the under-examined history of glaciological knowledge and glacier-related sciences prominent in today’s climate change discussions. The framework also has important implications for understanding vulnerability, adaptation, and resilience – all central themes in global environmental change research and decision-making that have lacked such robust analysis of epistemologies and knowledge production (Conway et al., 2014Castree et al., 2014).

II Why feminist glaciology?

Feminist glaciology asks how knowledge related to glaciers is produced, circulated, and gains credibility and authority across time and space. It simultaneously brings to the forefront glacier knowledge that has been marginalized or deemed ‘outside’ of traditional glaciology. It asks how glaciers came to be meaningful and significant (through what ontological and epistemological process), as well as trying to destabilize underlying assumptions about ice and environment through the dismantling of a host of boundaries and binaries. The feminist lens is crucial given the historical marginalization of women, the importance of gender in glacier-related knowledges, and the ways in which systems of colonialism, imperialism, and patriarchy co-constituted gendered science. Additionally, the feminist perspective seeks to uncover and embrace marginalized knowledges and alternative narratives, which are increasingly needed for effective global environmental change research, including glaciology (Castree et al., 2014Hulme, 2011). A combination of feminist postcolonial science studies and feminist political ecology provide the intellectual foundation for feminist glaciology....SO MUCH MORE

And the SagePub editors tag it in such a straightforward manner.

HT: Reddit where one of the commenters mentions Sokal which we have linked to a few times.

Here's last August's "Maybe the Social Sciences Aren't Really Science":

...As noted in UPDATED--Tyler Cowen on Izabella Kaminska's "Counterintuitive Model of the Modern World":
...Combined with being at the market for pretty much my entire adult life, focusing on energy and ag, and thinking that Alan Sokal's "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity" was hilarious, I end up with plenty of solitude at parties....
I tease my Sociology/Anthro/Psych friends with the Sokal paper.

Alan Sokal is a professor of mathematics at University College London and professor of physics at New York University. Back in 1996 he submitted "Trangressing the Boundaries..." to the journal  Social Text and got it accepted by said learned Journal. His paper argued that quantum gravity is a social and linguistic construct and was, of course, complete gibberish. The paper is among the most cited in the field with some 900 cites at last count. It's also created a cottage industry of critiques and commentary.

Good yuks at the expense of the humanities folks, right?


In August the peer-reviewed (which Social Text was not) Journal, Advances in Pure Mathematics, accepted for publication “Independent, Negative, Canonically Turing Arrows of Equations and Problems in Applied Formal PDE”.

The paper was computer generated and was, of course, gibberish.**
If the journal of an academic discipline can't figure this stuff out, how the heck am I supposed to?