Is science political? + Hidden Japanese settlement found in forests of BC

Is Science Political?

EXCERPT: . . . In her new book Freedom’s Laboratory, Audra Wolfe tells the story of how U.S. politicians and diplomats during the Cold War sought to mobilize apolitical science for ideological ends. As she shows, while there may have been roots of this twinned political/apolitical story going back to the age of Galileo and Newton, the confrontation with Communism sent the process into overdrive.

Through careful reading of reams of Anglophone materials culled from federal records, private correspondence, and newly declassified intelligence briefings, Wolfe unravels the distinctive meanings science took on within an American political and scientific elite at pains to distinguish “the West,” symbolically as well as substantially, from the Soviet Union. As Wolfe chronicles, the insistence that scientists must enjoy the freedom to pursue knowledge without political interference came to be deployed as an anti-communist weapon, winning so much support that it was able to underwrite (the concept “political interference” was deliberately silent on funding) much of the infrastructure of science as we know it—including the National Science Foundation (NSF). The separation many take for granted between science and politics, Wolfe thus shows, has a political history: it is partly “constructed and maintained through a series of political choices.”

Wolfe’s book is not a history of science filled with equations, detailed accounts of laboratory research, or gee-whiz discoveries. It is about the erection of a scientific infrastructure in the Cold War and the many ways that scientists were embedded in the apparatus of that frigid confrontation. By focusing on how the Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department expended a lot of attention and treasure on promoting a particular view of science both at home and abroad, she shows how our understanding of science today was built on the back of Cold War cultural diplomacy. Today, when both science and academic freedom have resurfaced as flashpoints in U.S. politics, Wolfe helps us think more clearly about how the inevitably political institution of science is not necessarily at odds with its intellectual integrity. (MORE - details)

Hidden Japanese settlement found in forests of British Columbia

EXCERPT: . . . The settlement sits within an area now known as the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve, located around 12 miles northeast of Vancouver. [...] “There was very likely a small community of Japanese who were living here on the margins of an urban area,” Muckle tells Richter. “I think they were living here kind of in secret.”

In approximately 1918, a Japanese businessman named Eikichi Kagetsu secured logging rights to a patch of land next to where the village once stood, making it likely that the site was once inhabited by a logging community. [...] “The impression that I get, generally speaking, is it would have been a nice life for these people, especially in the context of all the racism in Vancouver in the 1920s and ’30s,” he tells Richter.

The first major wave of Japanese immigration to Canada began in 1877, with many of the new arrivals settling in the coastal province of British Columbia. From the start, they were met with hostility and discrimination [...] Anti-Japanese prejudices boiled over during the Second World War ... Japanese troops invaded Hong Kong, killing and wounding hundreds of Canadian soldiers who were stationed there. Back in Canada, authorities began arresting suspected Japanese operatives, impounding Japanese-owned fishing boats and shutting down Japanese newspapers and schools. By the winter of 1942, a 100-mile strip of the Pacific Coast had been designated a “protected area,” and people of Japanese descent were told to pack a single suitcase and leave. Families were separated—men sent to work on road gangs, women and children to isolated ghost towns in the wilderness of British Columbia. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, more than 90 percent of Japanese Canadians were uprooted during the war, most of them citizens by birth.

No records survive of the people who lived in the North Shore camp, and Muckle has yet to find an artifact that can be reliably dated to after 1920. But given that the inhabitants of the village seem to have departed in a hurry, leaving precious belongings behind, he tells Smithsonian that he suspects they stayed in their little enclave in the woods until 1942, when “they were incarcerated or sent to road camps.” (MORE)

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