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testing file attachment by JAbbateJAbbate, 23 Dec 2008 20:28

First off, sorry about the very late entry, but overcome by events and an unscheduled trip to PA precluded responding earlier.

Gusterson’s Nuclear Rites: A Weapons Laboratory at the end of the Cold War had reminisce of Latour and Woolgar’s Laboratory Life, in that it was much more about the culture within the Laboratory than the work actually being conducted therein. I found it particularly interesting that a former anti-nuclear activist would be conducting an ethnography of those working within the nuclear weapons research arena. I did find it refreshing that he managed to stay somewhat neutral in his writings and found it very interesting that he found that quite a few of his pre-conceived notions were perhaps somewhat unfounded. For example, where he was expecting interviewees to be ashamed of their particular work, but found that they were somewhat proud.

Another area that I found particularly interesting was his discussion of the security clearance process, although he was somewhat “off the mark” on the relative weigh he placed on the so-called “red-badgers”. Those of us who have worked and continue to work in the classified world, know all too well the albatross known as the Federal Security clearance process and it is indeed an albatross. While he is technically accurate, that the vetting process to originally get fully cleared “Green-badged” is a long and arduous one and can indeed take a couple of years to complete, the stigma that he associates with it, is more in jest than an actual separation of cultures. While someone who has NOT completed the vetting process cannot have access to classified information, it is more of a rolling joke for those who are stuck in the “red-badge” cycle. I can recall being on both sides of the fence, being a “Red-badger” myself and being an escortor of “Red-badgers”. It ends becoming much more of a hindrance than a separation of folks in different cultures. What is more important than the actual color of one’s badge is the expertise and qualifications of the individual that separates them into sub-groups.

As a follow-on to this project, or perhaps as an adjunct to it, it would be interesting to have done a parallel study at Los Alamos. I believe too much time has passed for the comparison to be valid but it would have been interesting, and maybe informative.

I think you can get at some of what you're talking about by looking at the motives Gusterson attributes to the scientists. Some were interested in the physics, some in having a job, some in national security, etc.

Sorry for the late response, I just noticed my response from Tuesday wasn’t “saved.”

I definitely agree that the lack of "empirical evidence" for some of the claims was lacking. Although I'm sure it wasn't intentional, the lack of concrete evidence and use of unstated assumptions as evidence made the assertions less credible.

I like your point about optimal conditions. I think including the antinuclear activists in the story showed the multiple fronts on which science can be contested. What did you mean by "hidden agenda"?

Perhaps this is counter-productive to admit, but it was the fact that Gusterson's book was geared, in tone at least, at a wider audience that made it enjoyable to me. It didn't have the patronizing tone of some of the other books that are geared specifically towards STS students (or academcis). I didn't have concerns about the lack of detail in this book, because I found it to be more of a cultural study of the scientists and community around Livermore, so the anecdotes and quotes seemed like the requisite detail to me.

Stephanie, you mention about Gusterson's struggle in writing to not depict the scientists in a morale or judgmental way and that he makes a concerted effort to not judge them in his writing. I think he did a good job in accompishing this and this adds to his credibility and allows a reader to pass his or her own judgments about the scientists. To me, many of the class readings we have read include one form of bias or another. I think bias is always going to be a factor when writing about something but it was not obvious to me when reading this book. Perhaps we can talk about this in class.

In the excerpt of Truth and Power, Foucault discusses the shift to the “specific intellectual” in scientists post-World War II, and he discusses the relationship between the scientist and power and the scientist and truth. The rest of the article is on definition and implications of “truth” and how the concept of truth sits in society. As usual (for me), I think Foucault makes some generalizations and leaps that he doesn't back up, but he still brings up points worthy of consideration. My favorite line in this excerpt is the following, discussing the scientist / specific intellectual. “…he who, along with a handful of others, has at his disposal, whether in the service of the State or against it, powers which can either benefit or irrevocably destroy life. He is no longer the rhapsodist of the eternal, but the strategist of life and death.” (129)

In Gusterson's Nuclear Rites, we are introduced to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory by way of an ethnography. Gusterson lived among the scientists at the lab, and in the town of Livermore, which he describes as dominated by the lab. The book provides an enjoyable discussion of the lab and its scientists and the society that developed around the lab. I particularly enjoyed the section on secrecy in the book and the discussion of “scientists' wives” and how they were supposed to behave. Gusterson also chooses to include “the other side of the story” with a discussion of anti-nuclear protesters' impact on the lab, and the protesters' own culture.

In this excerpt from "Truth and Power", Foucault discusses the historical shift from the "universal" intellectual, one who opposed power and spoke for truth, to the new intellectual, the "strategist of life and death". Foucault identifies the atomic scientist as the figure of this new intellectual, who works within the political and ideological apparatuses. These new intellectuals work with truth, a concept which Foucault sees as centered around its production rather than its content.

A theme that I found recurring in Nuclear Rites by Hugh Gusterson was that of compartmentalization: weapons designers who compartmentalized their work based on inside and outside the laboratory or on security clearances, compartmentalization of the laboratory and domestic spheres, compartmentalization of ethical quandaries and practical considerations, compartmentalization of the body and mind. Gusterson inserted interviews with weapons scientists in his account with his time among them, using cultural and feminist theory as a background for the patterns of behavior he saw in the laboratory as an anthropologist.

I wish Gusterson had touched more completely on the existing notions that scientists had before coming to Livermore. He made it sound as if scientists were charged with privately working through their conception of nuclear weapons upon being hired and starting their work. Conflicting impressions of nuclear weapons, however, pervaded American society at this point, and it seems that scientists' ethical positions on these issues would have been well-formed throughout their education and engagement with the media and society before their work began.

Power/Knowledge by Michel Foucault discusses the recognition of the position of the atomic expert in the order of knowledge and the political pressures, intellectual encounters and certain obstacles he or she might have to face. Obstacles can include manipulation, unable to pursue work in a certain direction and ideological struggles to name a few. I agree with Foucault’s assertions that the regime of truth or power of truth is based on the influences/policies of the atomic expert’s work institution. It is these institutional influences which drive the regime of truth.

The book Nuclear Rites A Weapons Laboratory At The End Of The Cold War, by Hugh Gusterson provides a well rounded view of the cultural perspectives surrounding nuclear development. Gusterson includes views from nuclear scientists, antinuclear activists and from those in between. He explains how the institution and culture act on individuals. Taboos were established and were to be followed both when working at the laboratory and outside the laboratory. A badge system was used to categorize the level of classified materials a person had access to and what type of information could be discussed. This separated some employees and grouped others. The book includes scientific competitions between the laboratories Los Alamos and Livermore. This is similar to football teams and provides motivation and team spirit. I like that Guterson included write ups from interviews in the book about the scientists perspectives of why they do the work they do and what made them seek a position at Livermore (i.e. money, judgment based on merit, etc). Gusterson further discusses how the scientists separate personal feelings by using scientific language such as numbers in statistics rather than referring to individuals when conducting the success rate of the nuclear bomb blast to better determine ways of improvement.

Gusterson provides a time line of social change and includes United States and abroad societal influences that influenced the perceptions of the laboratory workers, the local community and those people who live outside the area. Gusterson did a well job in showing how science and technology are stimulated and guided by social institutions and values and how these institutions are also influences by society.

In the brief excerpt from “Truth and Power,” by Michel Foucault addresses the “intellectual,” of the atomic scientists that came about from World War II. He finds that it was a tipping point from where the scientist no longer is under the control of the “knowledge at his disposal” but of other pressures, specifically, political. His assertions bring up many philosophical questions, (which I will not even try to answer here) like the origins of truth. I think it was a really good accompaniment to the following book.

In Nuclear Rites, Hugh Gusterson provides the reader with an anthropological look at the Californian Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Much like another anthropology, the Lords of the Fly, Gusterson examines the work done by nuclear scientists. However, in a departure from other anthropologies, I felt that he provided an interesting look at “two sides” of the story. He addressed both the nuclear and anti-nuclear players in science and he showed how the motivators for nuclear scientists were just as logical as those for anti-nuclear protestors. I feel that typically these histories portray a somewhat played out under “optimal” conditions regulated by science, but Gusterson provided a refreshing look at how this was not the case. At the same time, unlike other books on the nuclear issue, I did not feel as if there was a “hidden agenda” for or against nuclear research. This gave a lot more “credibility” for me since the book seemed unbiased. Furthermore, Gusterson provided a good background explanation on realism, the physiological perspective, and other nuclear issues. I also liked how it specifically addresses the role of security clearances and its impact on science. The one thing I hope he would have addressed in better clarity was the differences between men and women’s work in the nuclear arena.

I believe that Andy picked up on the same struggle from Gusterson's writing that I did—his struggle to not depict the scientists is a morale or judgmental way. Although his approach was to understand how the scientists could rationale building these destructive technological weapons, he makes a concerted effort to not judge them in his writing. On Foucault, I agree with Andy on this one although I have enjoyed other work by him that I've found very relevant and insightful. I'm not sure if it's because it was a part of a chapter or something else, that his thoughts in this piece fell a bit short for me and I don't think I got it. :-) I assume that Foucault would argue that the scientists need to consider what knowledge they are producing and its potential impact on mankind-does it justify their truth?

Hugh Gusterson's Nuclear Rites: A Weapons Laboratory at the End of the Cold War seeks to understand the cultural world of nuclear weapons scientists in their habitat, so to speak, zeroing in on Lawrence Livermore National Lab in California in the late 1980s. National Labs are struggling to maintain their way of life and adapt as the Cold War comes to an end. He then contrasts that with anti-nuclear activists in the latter part of the book-. Rather than examine the technology and open up that black box, he instead choses to examine the worker in an attempt to understand their moral, political and ethical underpinnings. Because he is against the technology that has the potential to destroy massive amounts of life, he seeks to gain an understanding of how these scientists function and justify the work they do. His aim is to provide insight without passing judgement on the scientists. Gusterson

By focusing on the people, Gusterson looks at laboratory life, testing and the socialization and "rituals" that take place in the work environment. He studies the society as an observer and also interviews the participants. He opens the black box of this elite club that is defined by its classification, its clearances and its secrecy, of which few are a part. Working somewhat in this type of environment (although not on the research side) it is interesting to read his thoughts on the stratification that develops in the lab based on classification levels. His view is that culture plays just as important of a role as institutional power, which might be limited to the laboratory environment.

One thing that I found lacking in his book is lack of details, reminiscent of Rosenberg, as he seeks to make his case with very little supporting facts (or at least without them provided in the book). I feel that this book seems more geared to a bookstore browser rather than students in the field of STS, anthropology or other subject. Gusterson, an anthropologist, is an anti-nuclear activist, which is clear in his work and something he seems to struggle to balance in his writing. This is surprising in that the second half of the book examining the anti-weapons activists seems a bit more disjointedness that the first part focusing on the scientists. It is interesting though to examine the juxtaposing worlds in the same text although it feels that each could have had their own full examination. Certainly the detail and the anthropological examination of the activists is missing.

In the excerpt from Power/Knowledge on Truth and Power, Michael Foucault considers the atomic scientist intellectual that has emerged since WW II. The scientist is the one with the knowledge and institution, but his development impacts a broader audience, the world. He notes that as in the development of any specific knowledge, the scientist or researcher must be concerned about their manipulation by politics and political power. Truth must be produced (not constructed) within the boundaries of politics, economics and institutions.

Gusterson’s account brings to mind a column Meg Greenberg wrote years ago when Strategic Air Command was still a going concern. She and others had been invited to Omaha for briefings on the Single Integrated Operations Plan. She was struck by the juxtaposition of an armada capable of making large parts of the planet uninhabitable with the singing of a children’s choir from the base school. Greenberg concluded that the people tasked with the nuclear mission were ordinary Americans doing their best to have an ordinary life.

Gusterson found that the nuclear scientists he studied were as eclectic a crowd as one might want, but in fact not that different in many ways from the protesters that he knew. While the scientists had differing skills and motives, they identified with a system tied to rites of passage defined by weapons tests and security clearances. He is clearly against weapons in general and nuclear weapons in particular but careful to note and refute criticisms of the scientists as second-class physicists or as political neanderthals.

Other books that one might consult in this same field are Gusterson’s 2004 work, People of the Bomb: Portraits of America’s Nuclear Complex, or Paul Boyer’s cultural history, By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age.

Regarding the reading from Power/Knowledge, Foucault says we must “think of the political problems of intellectuals not in terms of ‘science’ and ‘ideology’, but in terms of ‘truth’ and ‘power’.” He appears to define truth as a fluid, positional, and even contextual thing, something society agrees on, which gives influence to its bearer. I’ve been told Foucault is profound; I find him obtuse.

This week's reading reminded me of an interview I conducted with Paula Hawthorn, a computer scientist and successful entrepreneur. Below are a few excerpts from her life story that illustrate some of the issues in this week's readings.

[Her experience interviewing for computing jobs in 1965:] “Interview time came around, and people from various companies were interviewing people to see if they could be programmers. Bell Labs was also there, and Bell Labs was interviewing people to see if they could go into their program—which they had for years—where they would send you to school for a Master’s degree and then you would agree to work with Bell. They talked with me, and they told me I would have gotten it, except I was a married woman, and they expected that I would drop out and have children. … Texaco was there, and Texaco was hiring math majors: women who had A’s in math, and men who had B’s and above! That was very explicit. You know, nobody thought anything about that.”

[She was forced to leave her job at Texaco when she got pregnant:] “I got huge when I got pregnant—he was almost ten pounds—and there was a guy who refused to ride on the elevator with me, I was just so huge. He was afraid I would have that baby right then! … I was going to stay home, and then I just got so bored, I wanted to go back to work part time, but they wouldn’t let me. They did not allow part-time workers. In spite of the fact that I had been outstanding and would have been outstanding as a part-time worker, they wouldn’t let me.”

[People with children were not considered “serious students” at Berkeley:] “I walked in to my Major Field Advisor that first day, and I said something about my kids, and he said, ‘You have children?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ And he said, ‘Well, what does your husband do?’ And I said, ‘It doesn’t matter, because he’s back in Texas.’ And he said, ‘Well, I would highly recommend that you drop out, because you aren’t a serious student. You cannot be a serious student if you have children. You have to understand, to be a graduate student at UC Berkeley, you have to give up everything. This has to be your whole life. There is no time for anything else.’ … He said, ‘If we had known that you had children, we would not have accepted you—because you cannot possibly be a serious student.’”

[Need for women to have credentials to overcome biased assumptions:] “Getting the Ph.D., for a woman, is a wonderful thing to do. It is instant credibility … And especially someone like me. You know, I’ve always been this little round person, and I had a Southern accent for a long time… I was often mistaken as the janitor! I’m not kidding. I’d be in [the computer center] in the middle of the night; I’d be walking around, carrying my keys in my hands, in blue jeans; and someone would say, ‘Well, have you looked at that bathroom over here?’”

[Ignoring discrimination as a useful strategy:] It is true that the women that are the most successful are those who absolutely do not believe that they are discriminated against. Barbara and I used to call them the “My Daddy Was An Engineer” women. That was why we never wanted to join SWE, the Society of Women Engineers: there were so many engineers in SWE whose daddies were engineers, who felt that there was absolutely no issue with them being a woman in engineering, and that anyone who talked about anyone being discriminated against was just making it up! … In the women’s groups, when you get together, you talk about it. The ones who hear it are saying, “Those women are not doing themselves a service by refusing to agree that this exists, because it does exist.” And you say, “Well, maybe; maybe not! Maybe it’s a good thing to ignore it.”

[Why she thinks computer science is great for women:] I still think, of all the fields open to women, computer science is the most wonderful one. First of all, as a programmer, no one knows what sex you are, what color you are, what your gender preferences are; they just know: Does it work or not? Did you get it done? Is it fast enough? And therefore, it is the field where you are judged by the output—that’s it. That’s all. It’s not someone’s subjective anything. It’s very objective: Did it work? Does it do what it’s supposed to do? So I love it for women.

Several of you were interested in more recent data on women in science. This wiki page has the executive summary of a recent NAS report on women in academic science and engineering. If I have time to make copies I'll bring some to class tonight.

NAS Report on Women in Science by JAbbateJAbbate, 30 Oct 2008 21:02


Title IX of the Educational Amendments Act, signed into law by Richard Nixon in June of 1972, effectively curtailed sex discrimination in employment at federally-funded educational institutions. This may have greatly influenced the shift in attitude, at least on the educational side of things.

Based on the class posts, this is a hot sensitive topic. I found it difficult to fully place myself in a woman’s shoes and try and imagine all the experiences, obstacles and discrimination that these women had to overcome. Granted, Rossiter provides many examples of women in science in the 1940-1970s, yet I think if she described in greater detail (as other posts suggest) the experiences these women had in their careers I would have been more able to better understand what these women went through. I look around today and there are more women in college than men. At my work, up until a year ago a women Director was in charge and for the past 6 years we have more women science reviewers than men. In addition, since being in the government since 1998, gender equality has always been present to influence my views.

Title IX, Education Amendments of 1972
(Title 20 U.S.C. Sections 1681-1688)

— Privacy and Security Statement

Section 1681. Sex
(a) Prohibition against discrimination; exceptions. No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance, except that:
(1) Classes of educational institutions subject to prohibition
in regard to admissions to educational institutions, this section shall apply only to institutions of vocational education, professional education, and graduate higher education, and to public institutions of undergraduate higher education;

I think your comment is well-put, Frenchie. In fact, there are circumstances where men are treated with a lack of equity as well, and those situations need addressing in the same way. For example, men are often considered incapable of parental nurturing in the same way that women can provide it. (For years, this swayed courts in custody battles.) I think there is troubling gender-inequity in both directions, and each direction needs addressing.

I think that one of the points of a project like Women Scientists in America is to make sure that there are statistics and a (very) comprehensive accounting of the discrimination and exclusion of women in science during this time period. When people say "women are underrepresented," a common answer is "show me the statistics - with this book, the answer can be "here they are."

Re: Week 10: Kerr and Rossiter by lmawlerlmawler, 30 Oct 2008 12:20
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