Introduction to Decolonisation

Lesson Plans: Week 7

Science and medicine

ILOs for the convener and students this week:

  • Trace the roots of the scientific method and analyse its relationship with colonialism
  • Question whether science and medicine can be decolonised
  • Problematise the concept of objective scientific knowledge

Lesson Structure

Activity 1: Introduction to Science and Medicine (allocated time: 20 minutes)

Students read the this short article on J. Marion Sims and discuss it in class (with reference to additional required readings).

Potential discussion questions:

  • What are some of the ways in which Empire has influenced the history of medicine?
  • Have Indigenous knowledges and medicinal practices been appropriated by the coloniser? If so, how? Are any of these practices still in use today?
  • Is there such a thing as objective scientific knowledge?

Activity 2: Research activity (allocated time: 40 minutes) 

The convener should divide students into smaller groups to research other examples of colonialism within the fields of science and medicine. Potential case studies include:

  • maternal care
  • racial sciences
  • morphine production
  • anti-fatness
  • attitudes towards MSG

When considering each example, students should reflect upon the colonial origins of science, as well as its ongoing legacy.

Students can present the findings of their research to their classmates. The convener should invite them to collectively reflect on the implications for decolonising science and medicine.

Supporting information for this lesson can be found here.