Must Read: Article in The CUT on Science and Sexual Stereotyping

When I was still sleeping this morning, Melinda Wenner Moyer published a spot-on article in The CUT, “These Ideas About Sexual Attraction May Be Based on Shoddy Science.” Moyer traced the controversy around French psychologist Nicolas Guéguen’s questionable research on social interactions between men and women. She did an excellent job at connecting evolutionary biologists’ tendency to sexual stereotyping with the current conversation around sexual harassment and other forms of sexualized violence. You should definitely read for yourself, but here’s a little teaser:

We are finally, as a country, publicly acknowledging that men have been treating women like shit for ages. Now, even the science that lends support to our iconic gender stereotypes—the science that reinforces the idea that men are biologically programmed to be sex-crazed and that women are basically sex objects—is coming crashing down, too.

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How to Sell a Dissertation, Or: The Hand as a Proxy for the Brain

[I wrote this post for the Osler Library of the History of Medicine, where I spent four weeks over the summer as a recipient of the Mary Louise Nickerson Award in Neuro History. I added hyperlinks and minor changes.]

When asked about my dissertation topic as an early ABD (“all but dissertation”), I used to tell people that I work on the history of handedness research. A very common response was: “Handedness in what sense? Does it have something to do with molecules?” I usually explained that I’m researching manual preference, and that my project has nothing to do with chirality or any other fancy physical phenomenon.

After half a year of explaining what I mean by “handedness,” I came up with a more efficient strategy for answering the dissertation question. I started waving my hands in the air whenever I said “handedness.” This was somewhat effective. My conversation partners usually understood that I write a history of left- and right-handedness, but this also made them give me a look that said: “Oh my, what a boring thing to do.” Continue reading

The Brain ‘Is’ the Mind as Much as History ‘Is’ the Future

I can’t stop thinking about Neuroskeptic’s post “You Are Your Brain, So Don’t Blame Your Brain,” which I read over a year ago. The idea that the brain is the cause and essence of all things human resonates with my research on growing neuro-centrism(s) in the past 150 years. Here’s a short overview of the debate that Neuroskeptic intervened in.

In October 2016, Neil Garrett et al. published a paper titled “The Brain Adapts to Dishonesty” in Nature Neuroscsience. The abstract reads as follows: Continue reading

How Testosterone Allowed Norman Geschwind to Bridge an Intellectual Century

The Center for the History of Medicine at the Francis A. Countway Library in Boston is magnificent! But very cold. I guess I brought the wrong clothes, being spoiled by Philly summers (or what shall I call it?).

I have been here for three weeks now, and will stay for one more. I am slowly making way through Norman Geschwind’s papers. Geschwind and his colleagues’ theory from the early 1980s is quite (in)famous among science critics.

Frankly, Geschwind and his colleagues almost designed a Grand Unified Theory of humanity there. The level of testosterone in prenatal life, so they suggested, affects the asymmetrical maturation of a human brain, and by extension one’s immune system, sexual orientation, language abilities, handedness and much more. Continue reading

Meet Me for 4S 2017 in Boston and Hear Me Talk about Intersectionalities

The second conference I signed up for this year is 4S in Boston, August 30 through September 2. I organized what should be an excellent panel on: “Working with/against the Politics of Benevolent Neuroscience.”

Giulia Anichini, Marisa Brandt, Victoria Pitts-Taylor, Oliver Rollins, and myself will give talks. Check out the panel abstract:

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Meet Me at Cheiron 2017 and Learn about the Multiplicity of Neuro-Centrisms in Handedness Research around 1900

My paper “Left-Handed Complements: Forging Connections between Handedness, Speech Ability, and Brain Asymmetry around 1900” was recently admitted for presentation at Cheiron 2017, to be held at Mississippi State University in Starkville, MS, June 22 to 25.

The program is absolutely terrific!

Check out the (long) abstract of my own talk, to be recycled for Chapter 1 of my dissertation on anatomical theories of handedness in the late 19th and early 20th centuries: Continue reading

“I’m Not a Bigot, It’s Just Science”

You might have already heard of Grace Pokela’s pointed facebook post that dismantles the “science” of transphobia. But just in case you haven’t—and chances are you haven’t, because I myself only learned about it through my brother—you should totally check it out.

It’s important to remind ourselves that “science” can be used quite easily to essentialize socio-economic injustice and culturally specific stereotypes. But it’s not only the misrepresentation of scientific “facts” that is the problem (e.g., denying that there’s more than XX and XY). Sometimes it is the bare attempt of scientifically classifying individuals that is already problematic. Typing humans secures the basis for discrimination, regardless of how fine-grained the categories are. Continue reading

FINAL Set of Summaries: German Colonialism and the Great War—Europe between the Wars—Nazi-Germany and the Second World War

This is the last of my book summaries. Ergo, I’ll have to come up with “real” posts again from now on. Shouldn’t be too hard as I’ll embark on my dissertation research on May 7. Or maybe May 13, after the grades will be submitted for this semester (which is at the same time my last semester of obligatory teaching).

The following set of summaries deals a lot with German empires—during colonialism and Hitler’s rule in Germany. In particular the histories of colonialism contain some exceptionally well-executed and creative works. I must say, as a German, these histories touched me very personally and literally made me cry one time. It’s strange how war seems so far away from my US-American peers. Sure, they haven’t had it on their own continent for many, many decades. Not so the Germans. To this day, my grandmother starts crying when she talks about her escape from Silesia. Continue reading

Second-to-Last Set of Book Summaries: Romanticism and Europe 1848 to the Great War

My oral exams are scheduled for this Friday. I still have two more essays full of European history that I don’t want to withhold from you. My essays for Heidi Voskuhl got increasingly longer and I felt a bit bad about it, but now that I’m studying for exams from my notes, I feel better about it. Guess why. Continue reading

Final Summaries on 20th-Century Science: Feminism and Science

The below essay was at the same time my favorite to write and my last one for my list with Susan Lindee. Concluding my readings in Cold-War Science and Feminism also brings me one step closer to my oral exams on May 6: this was the first one out of three lists that I completed reading. As of yesterday, I have finished all my lists (more essays to follow on this weblog soon).

I have some training in Gender Studies, most importantly through taking classes with Anelis Kaiser, Sabine Hark, and following the NeuroGenderings network, but taking time to (re)read and discuss the below works gave me a new perspective on my own work. I used to have problems calling myself a “feminist,” because I’ve seen a lot of unproductive deconstructivism in the public discourse. The below scholarship, however, together with my teachers and the NeuroGenderings network, offers a glimpse into the development towards productive feminist science critique that does not forget intersectionality—a scholarly project that I want to contribute to. Continue reading