“I’m Not a Bigot, It’s Just Science”

You have probably 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 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

Book Summaries Cont’d: 20th-Century Sexuality and Sexology

The items below do a fantastic job in connecting the “private” with the “public” spheres—and show that they’re not actually separate spheres whatsoever. Many of these works, I already utilized during a research project on a statistical review of the Kinsey Report. I haven’t had time to revise the research paper that grew out of this project in order to get it accepted at a journal, but I’m positive that this will be easier as soon as I don’t have to read 13 books per week anymore. Just like the reading list on post-WWII US science and second-wave feminism, from which the following items are a part, I worked with Susan Lindee on this research paper. Continue reading

More Book Summaries on European History—and How These Relate to My Proposed Dissertation

The book summaries below are from my European History list with Heidi Voskuhl, a subsection titled “Bodies and Sexuality.” Since reading towards oral exams is not (only) an initiation rite, but also supposed to prepare me for my dissertation, I thought I’d post my current dissertation abstract before I provide the reading summaries. After all, hypotheses.org is for project-related blogs, not blogs of individual scholars. And this IS a project! Five to six years in grad school in preparation for this dissertation:

My dissertation traces and compares handedness and sex/gender as categories in the mind and brain sciences in Europe and the United States since the late nineteenth century. I inquire into the extent to which sex/gender and handedness were treated as unchangeable, innate qualities that originate from and impact the brain and mind. I also examine the interaction of changing conceptualizations of handedness and sex/gender on views of brains, selves, and groups of individuals sharing these characteristics. Particular attention is paid to the ways in which changes in scientific institutions and in society at large altered the understanding of the two categories. My work thus contributes to the historical scholarship on scientific classifications in different contexts: scientific laboratories, public policies, as well as social and cultural life more broadly. Since handedness has been largely neglected by historians, scientific publications as well as archival collections are crucial to this project. Combining close reading with large-scale digital text analyses will illuminate the practice and impact of scientific classifications. The dissertation will thus draw awareness to the continuities and ruptures in the meanings of two of the most pervasive categories in contemporary societies and to the relations between them.

Now you know what I’m talking about when I make statements about the ways in which these readings relate to my prospective dissertation topic (as I try to do more and more, as you will see even better in later and not-yet-posted essays). Continue reading

Book Summaries: Cold War Social Science, Gender Roles, and Reproduction

I have done many more readings. The following essay from my Cold War science and feminism list with Susan Lindee is already 1.5 months old and I can read faster and type more efficiently by now. As a colleague of mine, one year ahead of me in the same program, tells the grad student applicants who come in every Monday these days: If we were able to start over grad school with the knowledge and strategies we have now, we would need to get a hobby! We’d be so bored reading only four books a week. Continue reading

More Book Summaries: Sex/Gender and Race in Genetics + Animals in the Lab and in the ‘Wild’

I just finished another set of readings for my orals list on “History of American Post-War Science and Feminism” with Susan Lindee. Read my summaries below and make sure to check out Etienne Benson’s site with many more resources on “wilderness” and STS. Continue reading

Book Summaries: The First 3^3 Items from My Brain List

Today, I’m posting my first summarizing essay for my “History of the Skull, Mind, and Brain Sciences” list for you. I’m reading the items from this list with John Tresch, who is my main advisor. Be warned: it’s 14 single-spaced pages in Palatino Linotype 11p with 1-inch margins. Continue reading

Review Paper: The Neuroscience of Pedophilia

The sad days are over! I just submitted the final paper for the last psychology class towards my SCAN certificate. The seminar, instructed by Teresa Pegors, is titled “Neuroscience of Human Motivation and Behavior,” and I had the more or less fabulous idea to write about pedophilia research—since it investigates into the shoreline between criminality and sexuality. That was tough, though. Not only because of the topic per se, but also since I had forgotten how hard neuroscientific(-ish) writing is. I had to correct myself over and over because it is simply too easy to write about “normal” and “abnormal” brains and desires! But, luckily, I had Georges Canguilhem watching me.

The abstract of the paper is below, and you can get a pdf of it here. Continue reading

“A Critical Moment”: Sex/Gender and Brain Science Conference @ UCLA, 10/23–24

Here is a conference announcement I should have shared with you months ago: the Foundation for Psychocultural Research at the University of Californa in Los Angeles (FPR-UCLA) is hosting a conference titled “A Critical Moment: Sex/Gender Research at the Intersection of Culture, Brain, & Behavior” this October, Friday 23rd and Saturday 24th.

Here is the announcement: Continue reading

There WAS Plasticity in Brain Sex Difference Research! (Part I)

JAS-Med 2014 at Baltimore was a fantastic conference. The papers were of really high quality, the talks engaging, and the attendees kind and curious. I hope to be able to provide pictures soon.

As you may have assumed already, I presented parts of my research project on the intersection of adult neurogenesis (ANG) research and the neuroscientific quest for sex/gender differences in brains. As mentioned earlier, it is puzzling to read the standard account of ANG history—or, more broadly, of brain plasticity—and then realize that none of these ideas of malleable brains have had influence on rigid neural and social sex/gender classifications, as Rebecca Jordan-Young, Catherine Vidal, Cordelia Fine et al., and others argue. Continue reading