Northwestern Events Calendar


"Sex Contextualism"

When: Monday, November 18, 2019
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM Central

Where: University Hall, Hagstrum - 201, 1897 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Cost: FREE

Contact: Janet Hundrieser   (847) 491-3525

Group: Science in Human Culture Program - Klopsteg Lecture Series

Category: Lectures & Meetings


Speaker - Sarah Richardson, Harvard University, History of Science,

Abstract - Do HeLa cells have a sex?  The past decade has seen the rise, under the slogan "Every Cell Has a Sex,” of new scientific disciplines – such as “sex-based biology” and “gender-specific medicine” – centered on the study of sex.  Much like “race,” scientific uses of “sex” also interact with the concept of sex in social ontology. As such, scientific uses carry implications for our 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 experimental research settings, I develop 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, I argue, carry ontological, epistemological, ethical, and political implications. This talk frames the broader stakes of claims that every level and component of biological organization has a sex, briefly outlines four stances with respect to the question of whether every cell has a sex, and argues for the merits of one of these approaches, which I call “sex contextualism."

Biography - Sarah Richardson, Professor of the History of Science and of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Harvard University, is a historian and philosopher of science who studies the sciences of sex, gender, sexuality, and reproduction. Richardson is the author of Sex Itself: The Search for Male and Female in the Human Genome (2013). She is currently completing a book, forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, on the history of theories of maternal-fetal effects in heredity.

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