Ep 01: Why Are We Going? – Making New Worlds

Making New Worlds

I’m featured in the first episode of Making New Worlds, a podcast inviting experts from different fields to discuss the ethics of colonising other planets.

The issue we discuss is not about scientific space exploration (collecting data about other planets), but whether it is ethical for humans to settle Mars or other planets. My responses represent sociological considerations about the inequality that is inherent in colonialism. The quotes below are excerpts from me; listen to the entire podcast in the link.

Zuleyka Zevallos: And there is something profoundly unethical about the idea that we just discard our planet after we’ve done so much damage and then go without having learnt anything and think that we’re going to overcome the problems we weren’t willing to do on our own planet.”

That’s Dr. Zuleyka Zevallos, an applied sociologist with Swinburne University in Australia. Her research specialties include race, gender, and intersectionality, and she has a lot of experience running programs that work to increase diversity in science.

“So there’s a lot of problems in these discussions that really stem from the fact that many people who are enthusiastic about colonizing other planets don’t understand the history, they aren’t willing to do the work to fix the systems that they are already a part of here.”

“…while I can see why there’s a lot of excitement around the idea of so-called discovering new worlds and thinking about life in other places, I think some of that enthusiasm does come from a lack of awareness about the issues that we’ve faced regarding colonialism in different societies across time. And in fact, a lot of those conversations ignore the current issues that we have about colonisation. I think many people who have not been on the receiving end of colonialism don’t understand that colonialisation is still happening on Earth as we speak.”

“So, colonialism is a process that is rooted in historical and political processes. It’s really about how various nation-states have been able to enrich themselves through the economic and social control of other countries and other subgroups. And in particular, colonialism is the use of violence and state force as well as ideology that legitimises taking over the land and resources and cultures of other groups in order to further colonial powers…”

Zuleyka pointed out that we don’t know for certain that there is no life on Mars, for example, that we might damage with our colonies. This is something I’ll be talking about in more detail in a later episode of the podcast. But Zuleyka also pointed out that colonialism can hurt other groups of people, too, not just the indigenous beings:

Zuleyka Zevallos: “The other aspect is really about the efforts of what it would take for human beings to colonise other lands. And that effort, we know, from history, is one of inherent inequality. The people who finance the colonial efforts are not the people who do the hard work, who will have to build the machines, who will have to, you know, build the structures that would facilitate colonialisation. And certainly the people who do that labour, that manual labour, will not be the ones who benefit from any space settlements that might be set up…”

I asked my guests whether they had any suggestions for what space settlement enthusiasts could do now to try to avoid repeating the mistakes from our past. Zuleyka Zevallos pointed to conversations like the one we’re having now.

Zuleyka Zevallos: “I think, you know, that one of the fundamental things that has to happen is for conversations to be happening with the r— between the right groups. So, for the groups that are advocating space exploration, to actually connect with, you know, scientists and community leaders from groups that have a keen understanding of the history and current impacts of colonialism. So that means listening to the leadership and the wisdom and the scientific knowledges that come from from various Indigenous groups, you know, speaking to groups that have experienced enslavement, including various Black communities from different parts of the world.”

Read and listen: https://makingnewworlds.com/2017/11/15/episode-1-why-are-we-going/


Image: Picture of terrain on Mars in the background, showing an aerial view of what appears to be sea, land and clouds. A quote from me is overlaid over the top as above, “And there is something profoundly unethical … on our own planet.”

Ep 01: Why Are We Going? – Making New Worlds

Tech Inclusion

On 13 February 2018, I participated in the Tech Inclusion Melbourne conference. Bill Nicholson, Wurundjeri elder gave the Welcome to Country (below). He talked about using treaty to build economic capacity and sovereignty amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

My overview of the conference starts with the panel discussion that I took part in. I then reflect on the other presentations. (Note: click on images for further detail)

Continue reading Tech Inclusion

I was one of the speakers at our Harmony Day event today! I spoke about how being a migrant woman influences my research and sense of social justice in my work to the present day. I also talked about the diversity of Australian society. I noted that despite our multiculturalism, racism is a daily occurrence for many migrants. I gave some tips on how to overcome bystander bias in the face of racism (this is a concept showing how most people don’t take action if they’re in an emergency in public because they think other people well do something). I also raised some questions about how we can increase racial inclusion through co-designing policy with minority communities. The other speakers were wonderful – courageous personal stories and thought-provoking. They also had Bollywood & African dancers!

Racial Preferences in Dating

A White man leans into the ear of a Black woman who is laughing with he eyes closed

In October 2017, I was interviewed about racial preferences in dating for the Triple J show, “The Hook Up,” along with Dr Denton Callender, a research fellow at the Kirby Institute, and Dr Ian Stephen.

The podcast included calls from listeners who shared what it’s like to be fetishised on dating apps, as well as the racial biases that White people exercise.

I am featured at the beginning, when host Hannah Reilly asks me to comment on ethnic preferences. (Note that ethnicity is about culture, and race is about physical traits. To illustrate this distinction: there are Black Latin people – they’re classified as Black in terms of race, and Latin in terms of culture.)

Below is my transcription of the segment that features me.


[From 2.19 mins] Hannah: I asked sociologist, Zuleyka Zevallos, where these ethnic preferences might be coming from.

Zuleyka: It goes back to the way we think about beauty. We’re socialised from a really young age to be looking out for certain types of physical traits – and a lot of them are associated with Whiteness. It’s about: having very light skin; having a particular type of nose – various types of features that are more common amongst people who are White.

Hannah: So you think beauty is a cultural idea, not a physical one?

Zuleyka: It is very much shaped by culture. We know that because there are patterns. You talked about the patterns on dating apps. There are patterns in which people couple more generally, in marriage – those types of patterns. If it wasn’t culturally shaped, there wouldn’t be patterns because everyone would have an equal chance of hooking up with people, and having relationships with, people outside of their own racial group. Continue reading Racial Preferences in Dating

https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/394176906/stream?client_id=N2eHz8D7GtXSl6fTtcGHdSJiS74xqOUI?plead=please-dont-download-this-or-our-lawyers-wont-let-us-host-audio

(The Other Sociologist)

I was interviewed about racial preferences in dating for the Triple J show, “The Hook Up,” along with Dr Denton Callender, a research fellow at the Kirby Institute, and psychologist Dr Ian Stephen.

The podcast included calls from listeners who shared what it’s like to be fetishised on dating apps, as well as the racial biases that White people exercise.

I am featured at the beginning, when host Hannah Reilly asks me to comment on ethnic preferences. (Note that ethnicity is about culture, and race is about physical traits. To illustrate this distinction: there are Black Latin people – they’re classified as Black in terms of race, and Latin in terms of culture.)

Amongst other things, I discussed how “racial preferences” in dating are not just individual choices – they have consequences that contribute to structural and everyday racism.

Well, people certainly think that it’s their right [to state their racial preferences], because they think they can’t help who they’re attracted to. But the fact is, as soon as you start to exclude people, then you’re participating in the broader pattern of exclusion that people from minority backgrounds face. That’s what people from White backgrounds don’t understand – that “I don’t have a preference towards X, Y, and Z groups,” they are contributing to the daily experiences of racism that those groups already face at work, at school, when they’re walking down the street. So this is just another form of discrimination that minorities are facing that White people don’t have to deal with.

Listen on the link above. Read a transcription on my blog, The Other Sociologist.

Tech Inclusion Melbourne

I’ll be speaking on a panel at the first Tech Inclusion conference in Australia, in Melbourne, on 13 February 2018. Tech Inclusion is aimed at various practitioners from the tech industry to discuss issues of diversity. This includes: executives, hiring managers, human resources, data scientists, educators, entrepreneurs, investors, policymakers and diversity and inclusion advocates.

I’ll be on the panel hosted by Cory-Ann Joseph, UX Lead at ANZ. The panel is called: We’ve got a time machine, now what are we going to do with it?

From the event website:

Growing up in Australia came with a sense that we were lagging behind our bigger, ‘cooler’ brother of the USA – movies, pop music, concert tours all took weeks or months to get to us – if at all. But Silicon Valley doesn’t always lead the way. Mistakes were made in the ‘early’ days of diversity and inclusion: centering men at Women in Tech events, a focus on women first instead of race, and the victim-blamey rhetoric of women needing to change their behaviour. And perhaps the biggest mistake of all is that despite a decade since the first D&I efforts – not much has changed.

How can the tech industry in Australia avoid the same and chart a different course for the future?

Book on the event website.

Date: 13 February, doors open 8.30 am.

Address: Whitehouse Institute Of Design, 672 Bourke St, Melbourne.

Tech Inclusion Melbourne

Interview: Intersectionality and Identity Politics

In September 2017, writer and social justice coordinator with the American Humanist Association, Sincere Kirabo, interviewed me about misunderstandings of intersectionality and the problems with the term “identity politics.” He writes:

…White identity politics go “undetected,” as we’re socialised to regard the sustaining of dominant culture as “what is expected” or “the way things ought to be.”

Dr. Zuleyka Zevallos, sociologist with Swinburne University, echoes this sentiment, stating:

‘If the phrase has any value at all — and it really doesn’t — “identity politics” calls attention to the ways that people from majority groups, especially White people, do not “see” how their identities are governed by politics.
This is how Whiteness works: White culture is embedded into all fields of public life, from education, to the media, to science, to religion and beyond. White culture is constructed as the norm, so it becomes the taken-for-granted ideal with which other cultures are judged against by White people.

‘Hence, White people do not recognise how their race shapes their understanding of politics, and their relationships with minority groups.’ Continue reading Interview: Intersectionality and Identity Politics

Here’s Why Your Criticisms of Intersectionality and “Identity Politics” Sound Ridiculous

I was interviewed by writer and social justice coordinator with the American Humanist Association, Sincere Kirabo, about misunderstandings of intersectionality and the problems with the term “identity politics.” He writes:

…White identity politics go “undetected,” as we’re socialised to regard the sustaining of dominant culture as “what is expected” or “the way things ought to be.”

Dr. Zuleyka Zevallos, sociologist with Swinburne University, echoes this sentiment, stating:

‘If the phrase has any value at all — and it really doesn’t — “identity politics” calls attention to the ways that people from majority groups, especially White people, do not “see” how their identities are governed by politics.

This is how Whiteness works: White culture is embedded into all fields of public life, from education, to the media, to science, to religion and beyond. White culture is constructed as the norm, so it becomes the taken-for-granted ideal with which other cultures are judged against by White people.

‘Hence, White people do not recognise how their race shapes their understanding of politics, and their relationships with minority groups.’

Read more on Medium.

Here’s Why Your Criticisms of Intersectionality and “Identity Politics” Sound Ridiculous

Racist Moral Panic

I’ve seen a few “progressive” White people sharing a newstory about the newly established African-Australian community taskforce, without recognising that this is giving in to scaremongering. Yet White people feel comforted by the idea that “African community leaders” are doing “the right thing” to keep people safe (read: White people). The nation must critically examine how Whiteness drives these responses. There’s increased policing of South Sudanese-Australian groups not because there’s a specific problem – data show that the majority of youth crime is committed by White youth. The motivation to criminalise African-Australians coincides with the election year. 

Migrants are forced to publicly comply with racist agendas because of the increased stigma to their communities. There are many videos, accounts and police reports of people from various African backgrounds being attacked by White people for simply being Black, emboldened by politicians and the moral panic of “good” White people. So where’s the White crime taskforce?  Continue reading Racist Moral Panic

How Baby Names of POCs are Being Culturally Appropriated

Popular White-dominated website, Popsugar, published an article calling non-Anglo names “quirky.” This is one example among many where Anglo-Saxon languages and Western cultures are seen as the universal norm used to judge all other cultures (in #sociology, this is known as “ethnocentrism”). “By removing the racial and sociocultural context of these names, slapping them on a list, and labeling them as ‘quirky,’ Popsugar Moms fails to acknowledge that they belong to the people and cultures from which these names originate.”

How Baby Names of POCs are Being Culturally Appropriated