Sex Contextualism

January 16, 2020 -
12:30pm to 2:00pm

Abstract: The past decade has seen the rise of new scientific disciplines, such as “sex-based biology” and “gender-specific medicine,” that center on the study of sex. This project brings the critical tools of history, philosophy, and feminist studies of science to theorizing the concept of “sex” in the biomedical sciences. “Sex” in biology, like “planet” in astronomy or “species” in evolutionary theory, is a pragmatic human construct. Much like “race,” however, scientific uses of “sex” also interact with the concept of sex in social ontology. As such, scientific uses carry implications for everyday assumptions about sex and gender roles and for normative projects to bring about gender justice. Through historically and philosophically sensitive analyses of the concept of sex as it is operationalized in particular biological research programs, this presentation develops an account of sex as a contested theoretical construct pinned to research context and open to conceptual debate. Choices about how to operationalize the concept of sex in scientific research carry ontological, epistemological, ethical, and political implications. Offering a clear account of the concept of sex as it is diversely deployed in scientific theories and explanations in the twentieth and twenty-first century biomedical sciences, this presentation seeks to open terrain for arguing for more apt and reflective uses of it.

Co-sponsored by Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program and the Humanities Center

Location and Address

602 Cathedral of Learning