Rapturous Research

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Jan 072013

You may pity me, if you wish, but my compulsion is relatively mild. As a longtime publisher of scholarly and scientific reference works, I am addicted to looking things up.

I first heard the formal name of my condition at a panel discussion on the topic of historical fiction and its challenges. When somebody at the top table confessed to a case of research rapture, the smirks and knowing looks shared among the panelists made it abundantly clear that all of them had direct experience of this writerly phenomenon. And I, too, though unfamiliar with the term itself, knew immediately what it meant.

~ Sean Pigeon @ New York Times

Silencing the Science on Gun Research

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Dec 232012

The nation might be in a better position to act if medical and public health researchers had continued to study these issues as diligently as some of us did between 1985 and 1997. But in 1996, pro-gun members of Congress mounted an all-out effort to eliminate the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although they failed to defund the center, the House of Representatives removed $2.6 million from the CDC’s budget—precisely the amount the agency had spent on firearm injury research the previous year. Funding was restored in joint conference committee, but the money was earmarked for traumatic brain injury. The effect was sharply reduced support for firearm injury research.


A teachable but tragic case study of how research and its presentation are never “pure” but occur within social contexts (economics, politics, etc.), something I hope my students take to heart by the conclusion of a semester in WR121.

The Science of Racism: Radiolab’s Treatment of Hmong Experience

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Oct 282012

On September 24, NPR show Radiolab aired a 25-minute segment on Yellow Rain. In the 1960s, most Hmong had sided with America in a secret war against the Pathet Lao and its allies. More than 100,000 Hmong died in this conflict, and when American troops pulled out, the rest were left to face brutal repercussions. Those who survived the perilous journey to Thailand carried horrific stories of an ongoing genocide, among them accounts of chemical warfare. Their stories provoked a scientific controversy that still hasn’t been resolved. In its podcast, Radiolab set out to find the “fact of the matter.” Yet its relentless badgering of Hmong refugee Eng Yang and his niece, award-winning author and activist Kao Kalia Yang, provoked an outcry among its listeners, and its ongoing callous, racist handling of the issue has since been criticized in several places, including Hyphen. When Hyphen’s R.J. Lozada reached out to Kao Kalia Yang, she graciously agreed to share her side of the story for the first time. What follows are her words, and those of her uncle.

@ Hyphen

I’ve been following the ongoing discussion of and reaction to this controversy for a few weeks now, after it was brought to my attention by former WLPer Matthew Salesses. The episode and ensuing conversation raise any number of questions about race, ethics, and representation, and could be powerful in our classes in any number of ways.

Against Open Access

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Feb 022012
On January 12th, 2012, the American Anthropological Association took a firm stance against any further expansion of public access to research. In a letter submitted to the White House, and signed by Executive Director William Davis III on behalf of the Association, the AAA argues that there is already broad scholarly access to published research, and that a move to an open-access model would cripple the Association’s ability to publish its journals. Hence, “no federal government intervention is currently necessary.” @ Neuroanthropology

As we talk about audience with out WR121 students, an important part of that conversation is access — who has the ability to be an audience member, particularly when we talk about academic research and texts. Tamera has spoken in practicum and elsewhere about exercises to highlight these complications in her students’ research on Medellin (and perhaps she’ll something about that in the comments?), but if folks have found other ways to get students thinking about access to research and its results, please share those, too.

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