Abstracts and Authors: Last names N to S

Authors: Nickoo | Noll | Payongayong | Penny-Light (Parry) | Pham | Pohlhaus | Porter | Przybylo (RodriguesNovoselova, Bell) | Rodier | Russell | Sample | Scheman | Schmitz | Schueneman | Schwartz | Sewell | Shapiro | Shotwell | Sisko | Sreedhar

Nickoo, NajandThe Failure of Causal Accounts of Parental Obligations

The traditional concept of families and parenthood consists of one man and one woman who each supply half of the genetic material for their offspring. However, given the increasing variety of non-traditional family arrangements, together with reproductive technologies and adoption practices, assumptions about what constitutes a family and what constitutes a parent have been called into question. Understanding the evolving concept of families requires an analysis of how parental obligations are generated. Some argue that parental obligations are generated by causing the fetus to come into existence in the first place, whereas others argue that parental obligations are best understood as generated through consensually and voluntarily taking on the role of parent with the intent, rights and obligations of raising a child.

In this paper, I argue that causal accounts fail to provide an adequate explanation of the source of obligations because a) causation is not a sufficient condition and not always necessary to ground obligation, b) causal accounts lead to troubling restrictions on women’s reproductive autonomy, c) causal accounts cannot justify why other factors such as intent are irrelevant, and d) causal accounts have difficulty non-arbitrarily limiting the number of people involved in a causal chain. Moreover, I explain why, on the whole, a voluntarist account is preferable. Voluntarism with regard to parental obligations has the following advantages: a) making sense of different meanings of the term “parent”, b) avoiding the pitfalls of causal accounts, and c) explaining the significance of the parent-child relationship. I conclude with some criticisms of voluntarist accounts and although I do not defend the thesis against these criticisms in this paper, I do think that an adequate rebuttal can be provided and I will make preliminary remarks as to the direction such a defense could go.

Noll, SamanthaMethod, Methodology, and Diversity in Philosophy

Several critiques of philosophy have problematized current methods and methodologies within the discipline. For example, Dotson (2011) argues that it is generally accepted within the field that the main method of philosophizing should be critique. However, this method often cuts off diverse peoples from examining their own questions. In this paper, I argue that these critiques attempt to undermine prominent and largely invisible methodologies and epistemological assumptions within the discipline; assumptions that contribute to the development of hostile environments for diverse practitioners in the field. These predominant methodologies and assumptions perform a policing function, dismissing and relegating “branches” of philosophy informed by fundamentally different or opposed norms of justification and epistemologies to the fringes of the discipline (also see Dotson 2012). I end by arguing that, while this may paint a bleak picture of the discipline, forms of philosophy grounded in diverse epistemologies are not simply “branches” of philosophy but can be understood as transformative movements that bring new methods, methodologies, and epistemologies into the field. Thus there is hope but only if we embrace methodological pluralism within the discipline.

Payongayong, Ma TheresaHer-story of a Feminist Philosop-her

Excluded, denied, inferior, invisible, insignificant – these are adjectives that describe women in philosophy before. These descriptions had kept the author puzzled from her undergraduate years as a philosophy major to the time she decided to take interest in and work on feminist philosophy, until she earned her graduate and post-graduate degrees. It was a big question for her before how women had been excluded from various forms of inquiry and epistemology. It was a puzzle for her why there had been outright denial of women’s rights and authority when it comes to knowledge formation. It was unacceptable for her how women’s value remained invisible and their work insignificant over a long period of time.

This paper aims to share a brief history (her-story) of the author’s struggles as a feminist philosopher from the time she began to take interest in women in philosophy studies to the height of her feminist struggles and projects in the academe. Part of the struggles had been to survive teaching in a male-dominated philosophy department. Some of her feminist projects include, among others, engaging in multi- and inter-disciplinary collaborations with students and colleagues; gender mainstreaming; curriculum development; institution of courses on gender and sexuality and feminist theories and philosophy; integration of gender concepts and principles into the curriculum; and developing gender-sensitive academic programs. Aside from addressing local issues and academic concerns, her feminist project has also reached other countries through paper presentations, intensive trainings and attendance to conferences. Ultimately, she aims to share her story and see her life continuously learning and working as a feminist in the global and local (glocal) contexts to be able to provide a complete picture of what it means to be a woman of, in and for this world.

Penny-Light, Tracy and Diana ParryDark Desires: Feminism, New Media, and Women’s Consumption of Pornographic Materials

Historically, women have been constructed as passive recipients of male sexual desire rather than sexual subjects in their own right. The notion of the “passionless” and reproductive woman (Cott, 1978; Penny Light, 2013) was (and is) entrenched in patriarchal structures that second wave feminism sought to dismantle by positioning women as capable of seeking and receiving sexual pleasure on their own terms from both men and women (Vance, 1992). Some even argued (controversially) that consuming pornography was a way to fully understand oneself (Tisdale, 1992). Today, new media (like e-readers and websites) further complicate our understanding of women’s sexuality because they open up space for a broad intersection of women to access, consume, and discuss pornographic literature both online and in face-to-face communities (Kamboureli, 1984; Parry & Penny Light, 2014). This seems to suggest that women have claimed sexual subjectivity for themselves (Parry & Penny Light, 2014). Such literature (like Fifty Shades of Grey and Eighty Days), however, tends to reproduce traditional paradigms of sexuality that reinforce harmful, heteronormative stereotypes of femininity and masculinity. For instance, women are typically portrayed as submissive to dominant male partners who “awaken” their (passive) sexuality (Jorgenson, 2008). Despite these representations of women as sexual objects, many women see their engagement with this literature as positive, enabling them to acknowledge and even celebrate their “dark desires” (James, 2011; Kipnis, 2007; Hammers, 2005; Jorgenson, 2008; Attwood, 2007; Sonnet, 1999). The ability for women to take advantage of new social media to consume pornographic literature appears to fit with third wave feminist thinking that embraces women’s individualism and ability to be empowered by their sexuality, act as sexual agents, and identify their own sexual pleasures. Yet, do these practices truly liberate women given their reproduction of traditional gender roles and ideologies? In this paper, we reveal the complexities of women’s consumption of pornography by tracing the shifting cultural and digital contexts in which pornographic materials are made available. In so doing, we argue that while a liberatory discourse is implied (a discourse reinforced by feminist movements), in fact such consumption paradoxically strengthens traditional patriarchal views of women’s sexuality, inherently limiting their sexual subjectivity.

Pham, MichelleScientific Consensus

Consensus in scientific communities is recognized in history and philosophy of science contexts to be epistemically valuable in at least three ways. First, it has instrumental value because it promotes disciplinary uniformity by serving as a heuristic for productive and cohesive research organization. Second, it is rhetorically valuable when scientists take part in risky, authoritative decisions. Third, it has epistemic value because it can function as a proxy for epistemic success. However, consensus in scientific communities is also a locus of tension because these ways in which consensus can confer epistemic value each have a potentially negative flipside. The instrumental value of promoting disciplinary uniformity can lead to a groupthink dynamic that precludes diverse perspectives. This is problematic because diversity in perspectives adds depth to research inquiry by pointing out problems that insider scientists may not recognize given the disciplinary uniformity (see Longino 2002; Wylie 2003). Pressures to conform to a view, as a result of groupthink, deflects outsider perspectives that could critically enhance research inquiry. Consensus’ rhetorical value becomes questionable when scientists publically endorse a claim that is too strong, and then the claim backfires. A consequence is skepticism against rhetorical appeals to scientific consensus as trustworthy and efficacious. Finally, it is not obvious that consensus automatically serves as a proxy for epistemic success. The social psychology literature on groupthink reveals that consensus does not necessarily mark epistemic advancement, it could instead be a result of authoritative and/or peer pressure to conform (see Janis 1982). There is thus a tension with consensus. On the one hand, consensus can confer epistemic value instrumentally, rhetorically, and as a measure for epistemic success. If consensus results from pressures to conform, however, it can actually deter efficacious scientific inquiry and/or preclude diverse research. My paper aims to systematically understand this tension with consensus.

Pohlhaus, Gaile"Do we really want to ask Grandma what she thinks?"

In this paper I examine two claims made by some experimental philosophers that depend upon a misconstruing of philosophical knowing. First, some X-Phi literature suggests that statistically significant differences in the intuitions of members of traditionally under-represented groups may provide some explanation for the philosophy's demographics. While the data is contested (and contestable), even if there were demographic differences in how groups answer "yes or no" questions to standard thought experiments, given the fact that philosophy proceeds not on the basis of "findings," but rather on the basis of arguments, simple quantitative data cannot explain philosophy's demographics. For example, what kinds of reasons might those who have different intuitions provide in support of their intuitions? And how might they engage with arguments in support of different intuitions? Second, some X-Phi literature suggests the notion of "philosophical intuition" ought to be abandoned altogether in favor of strictly empirical methods in philosophy such as sociological data as well as cognitive science. While I wholly concur that philosophers ought to give serious attention to the natural and social sciences, the idea that philosophers ought to engage only in scientific investigation depends upon misconstruing the aim of philosophy. Philosophy, I argue, is not directed toward answers in the form of factual knowledge, but rather toward a social practice of understanding not reducible to facts. On this conception of philosophical activity, differences in philosophical intuitions would not suggest that philosophical activity ought to be abandoned for scientific activity, but rather that philosophers ought to engage in more philosophy. More philosophical engagement, I argue, must indeed be open to the possibility that philosophers’ intuitions are wrong, not, however, because the data says so, but rather because new arguments lead us to broader philosophical understanding.

Porter, LindseyThe Moral Significance of Gestation: Parental Rights

In answering ethical questions about assisted-reproductive procedures such as gestational surrogacy and uterus transplantation, it is important to have a handle on what the value of gestation is. Importantly, is it morally transformative? Does it for example give one natural rights over a child; or generate moral duties towards the child? Is it an important component of motherhood, on the assumption that motherhood is a primary good? To that end, in this talk I explore the question of whether gestation generates parental rights. I discuss Anca Gheaus’s (2012) claim that gestation is rights-conferring.

Gheaus argues that the labour expenditure involved in gestation generates parental rights. This is a standard, Lockean sort of a move in parental ethics—it usually relies on the claim that I have proprietary rights over the products of my labour. However, Gheaus argues that a standard proprietary account of parental rights could not generate parental rights over one’s own birth child via gestation, since the labour involved in gestating a foetus is, in a sense, not foetus-specific. At best, then, labour alone would generate a right to a child. Gheaus then points out that, not only to gestational ‘mothers’ expend labour in the course of the pregnancy; they also develop emotional ties to the foetus. They ‘bond’ with it. This, Gheaus argues, coupled with labour, gives the birth mother parental rights over her birth child. Fathers, on her account, acquire rights over their birth child by contributing labour—in the form of antenatal support—during the course of the pregnancy.

I argue that Gheaus’s account does not work unless it relies on a proprietary claim, and this is prima facie reason to reject the account. Further, the fact that it only confers parental rights on fathers by proxy also gives us reason to reject the account.

Przybylo, Ela, Sara Rodrigues, Veronika Novoselova and Shannon BellOozing Technologies: Toward Technology as Feminist Methodology

Panel Abstract: “Oozing Technologies” explores three sites of feminist technological deployment and technological feminist deployment. Drawing on feminist engagements with method and methodology (e.g., Ramazanoglu & Holland 2002, 11) and questions of method and methodology within feminist science and technology studies (STS) (Bauchspies & Puig de la Bellacasa 2009; Chen 2012; Coole and Frost 2010), the primary concern of this panel is to explore the ways in which contemporary technologies (specifically social media technologies, e-commerce, and film) can be utilized as effective feminist methods that “animate” (Chen 2012) feminist projects. In taking up technology as “an assemblage of social and human relations within which equipment and techniques are only one element” (Rose 2007, 16), we respond to the complex dynamics that emerge in the synthesis of technology and method/ology, technologies and feminisms, and the animate and inanimate. We find, in the first case, that methodologies and methods, rather than dry instruments are themselves vibrant and animate, generating possibilities for techno-feminist enmeshment. Second, we explore ways in which technology can become constitutive of feminist methods and methodologies.

The first paper, “Retweets are Not Endorsements, or Ethical Uncertainties in Social Media Research” argues for a reinventing of feminist methodologies to accompany the invention of new technologies of sociality such as social media technologies. Next “Cuntal Representations and the DIY Craft Technologies: An Etsian Reading” considers how technologies of online production and consumption facilitate the making of new subjectivities, as well as new technologies of intimacy between oneself, one’s genitalia, and one’s things. Finally, “Shooting Theory – An Accident of Fast Feminism” utilizes Shannon Bell’s framework of fast feminism to create a technology-driven, theory-in-action, which uses filmic technology to act out the coordinates of critical theory. Ultimately, the papers in this panel generate new techno-methodologies, positing technology as a vast set of tools and a means of organizing subjectivities and galvanizing new oozings of feminist projects.


  • Bauchspies, W. K. & Puig de la Bellacasa, M. (2009). Feminist science and technology studies: A patchwork of moving subjectivities. An interview with Geoffrey Bowker, Sandra Harding, Anne Marie Mol, Susan Leigh Star and Banu Subramaniam. Subjectivity 28, 334-344.
  • Chen, M. (2012). Animacies: Biopolitics, racial mattering, and queer affect. Durham: Duke University Press.
  • Coole, D. and Frost S., eds. (2010). New materialisms: Ontology, agency and politics. Durham: Duke University Press.
  • Ramazanoglu, C. & Holland, J. (2002). Feminist methodology: Challenges and choices. London: Sage.
  • Rose, N. (2007). The politics of life itself. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Novoselova, VeronikaRetweets Are Not Endorsements, or Ethical Uncertainties in Social Media Research

As digital cultures continually reinvent themselves and as more sophisticated media technologies become available, new avenues for feminist research are being opened. This paper reflects on ethical and methodological uncertainties of Internet-based research complicated by the issues of presence, virtuality and embodiment. In particular, I argue that hybrid forms of collectivity within social media environments problematize decisions around the ethics of data collection, selfdisclosure, and self-presentation. Mediated communication enables an identity to be performed in multiple ways, leading to queering and fracturing of the self, a process which further destabilizes an already shaky researcher/subject binary.

Borrowing the notion of “microgeographies of power” from Elwood & Martin (2000), I ask how a digital presence of a researcher and an informant influences power dynamics and asserts one’s identity and academic legitimacy. What does it mean to retweet, friend or un/follow in the context of feminist research? What are the ethical responsibilities of researchers in online environments, which provide opportunities for surveillance? How does Internet-based research reconfigure outsider/insider dilemma? To answer these questions, I critically reflect on my experience of doing an ethnography in the feminist blogosphere and draw on the scholarship within feminist media studies which intervenes into the discussions of networked communication by: (a) emphasizing messy intersections of strategically managed identities, (b) examining a continuity of digital (self) representations with socially marked embodiments, and (c) critically interrogating the material underpinnings of online practices. I conclude by outlining how multimodal forms of online sociality afford new ways of looking at ethnography as a feminist method.

Przybylo, Ela and S. RodriguesCuntal Representations and the DIY Craft Technologies: An Etsian Reading

In this paper we develop what we call an “Etsian reading” of the commodification of representations of the “cunt” or “pussy” in do-it-yourself (DIY) craft as it appears on the ecommerce website, Etsy. DIY “cunt craft” represents the resurgence of vulval imagery in a range of textile and material work including embroidery, jewelry, sewing, and sculpture. Producers of DIY cunt craft generally oppose the disciplinary intensification of medicalization of female genitalia through crafts that promote vulval diversity and vulval self-love. In this way, they align with the political art of Wrenna Robertson (I’ll Show You Mine) and Jamie McCartney (Great Wall of Vagina), as well as with activist campaigns such as the New View Campaign, all of which seek to challenge how medicalization narrows the definition of acceptable vulval aesthetics and morphology. At the same time, the counter-medicalization stance is often deferred in order to focus on producing a relationship of self-love between oneself and one’s vulva.

We will explore the circulation and commodification of cuntal representations on Etsy, through what we are positing as an “Etsian reading” of this e-commerce technology. Such a reading of these virtual and material technologies is one that explores cunt craft in its circulation of economies of production and consumption. In this context, “technology” stretches to include processes of craft production, processes of virtual marketing, as well as the secret life of things post-consumption. Etsy cunt craft, cultivating a sense of self that is crafty and self-loving, also fosters a cunty self that is enmeshed in virtually-motivated practices of consumption and thing-love. As we will demonstrate, DIY cunt craft, as exhibited and made through Etsy, establishes particularly “loving” relationships between (a) oneself and one’s vulva, (b) oneself and the technologies of fuzzy e-commerce, (c) as between oneself and the textured objects that enter our lives. Our paper thus demonstrates that buying cunt craft via Etsy means consuming a new mode of experiencing the body, technology, and the things that populate our lives.

Bell, Shannon – Shooting Theory – An Accident of Fast Feminism

The paper/presentation will utilize Fast Feminism as a site of Virilian techno-speed, setting out a fast feminist enactment of what Paul Virilio deems the accident of art—the shift from representation to presentation. Fast Feminist art brut includes phallic-bioart performance and installation along with some avatar seduction. Drawing on Fast Feminism, a feminism of affect—of intensity and influence—I develop shooting theory—theory-in-action. In a sense the illegitimate offspring of Fast Feminism is the evacuation of the body to philosophical/theoretical images.

“Shooting theory” brings digital video technology and print textual theory together through imaging philosophical/theoretical concepts. The idea is to transpose Martin Heidegger’s claim regarding technology, “that you can’t think technology technologically,” to the praxis of political thought. The overarching argument is that you can’t think political theory simply within language. Heidegger contended that the place from which to think technology is art. I contend that the sites in which to think, produce and enliven written theoretical textual concepts are visual images and soundscapes that can be brought forth by digital video technology. Shooting Theory, an on-going project since 2007, combines the technic of digital videography with the skills of philosophical thinking, allowing this artistic endeavour to bring forth a materiality of the concept. I will present two theory/film texts from the shooting theory series. The technical requirements for paper/presentation are a projector and screen.

Ritz, Stacey, Zena Sharman and Sari van AndersLeaps and Bounds: Integrating Gender, Sex, and Feminism in Biomedical and Bioscience Policy and Practice

Panel Abstract: “Bound” carries multiple meanings – for example, “to limit or form the boundary of”, “to fasten or bind”, “to be obligated or have an inevitability”, or “to move by leaping”. Working to integrate gender, sex, and feminism in biomedical and bioscience policy and practice involves transcending boundaries and strategically employing them. Boundaries – the boundaries between disciplines, between sex and gender, between feminist experts and scientists – both constrain and enable. This panel integrates the perspectives of three feminist scholars who navigate a diverse array of boundaries in their own work.

Drawing on the similarities and differences in our scholarly backgrounds and programs of work, we will reflect on the boundary challenges and opportunities we’ve encountered in our research, teaching, and policy/program development. Key themes to be explored include epistemologies of ignorance, interdisciplinary teaching, and communicating across scientific, scholarly, and non-expert communities. We will discuss how – and if – we draw boundaries between gender and sex, and how to raise awareness and understanding of these constructs without overemphasizing or eliding difference.

In an integrated presentation and discussion, we will focus on our individual scholarly contributions as well as affective processes: we will highlight the challenges of working across disciplines and communities, including the resistance that often arises when boundaries are challenged and how we navigate our desire to be both credible and just. We’ll share what has worked (and what hasn’t) in our efforts to enable the integration of gender, sex, and feminism into biomedical and bioscience policy and practice.

Rodier, KristinEmbodied Imagination, Feminist Autonomy, and the Phenomenology of Perception

Catriona Mackenzie (2000) argues that one satisfies some conditions of autonomy when one can imagine oneself otherwise, because in doing so one creates reflective space in which to understand, define and know oneself (139). This imaginative project takes an agent into the remembered past, imagined past, counter-factual past, future, and fantasy future in order to locate feelings of “ownness” or self-identification throughout variable imaginings (130-2). Mackenzie notes that when imagining oneself an agent often compares herself to the dominant cultural imaginaries, which can distort her view of her “identity, including her talents and capacities, mental and bodily traits and dispositions, emotions and desires, temperamental characteristics, and so on”(141). On this view, one of the ways in which oppression occurs is when a dominant cultural imaginary sediments a limiting repertoire of imaginings into the individual psyche, and those imaginaries limit the agent’s capacity to “seriously imagine alternative possibilities for action, emotion, and desire.” (144)

In a later paper, Mackenzie disaggregates various moments of self-imaginings to uncover what it means to seriously imagine oneself otherwise, in other words, what kinds of imaginings can be effective for agency (2008). While the normative constraints on imagination she argues for are interesting and convincing—that is, they describe various forms of imagining where some are felt to be more salient than others—they uphold a division between our capacities for imagination and subconscious or otherwise inaccessible limitations on those capacities. This means that imagination is not only considered to be the cure for its own limitations but that the imagination is being theorized as a unified capacity despite a framework that acknowledges an embodied and culturally embedded relational self that makes capacities for imagination possible.

Mackenzie tries to deal with the latter difficulty by bringing in the constraint that the external perspective we take on ourselves while imagining must account for the particularities of our embodied subjectivity. Specifically, she writes: Because dispositions are sedimentations of past states, they carry the influence of the past into the present, constraining our present mental and bodily states, they carry the influence of the past into the present, constraining our present mental and bodily states, shaping our experience, and modifying our behaviour. (2008, 135)

This acknowledges the influence of habitual embodiment on imagining oneself otherwise, but her view does not fully benefit from what she acknowledges. This is evident in the example she chooses. This figures embodied subjectivity as a pure constraint and not as also the very enabling condition of imagination itself. The constraints of our embodied subjectivity for imagining means that Mackenzie can only imagine a fictional self performing as a high-wire trapeze artist, not an actual possible future self, presumably because she lacks the interest in training or the dexterity and fitness required to become a high-wire trapeze artist. This example speaks to the embodied self as a given limitation, that is, it treats the embodied self as having a static body—fully sedimented and constraining our mental and bodily states—rather than an embodied self as capable of changing and building capacities that revise past sedimentations. If Mackenzie’s view fully appreciated embodied subjectivity, especially according to the view of Maurice Merleau-Ponty whom she cites, she would not hold such a firm distinction between the fictional and the actual, especially given the embodied nature of imaginative capacities. Habits that produce subjectivity not only consolidate the past, but they foster future-directed meaning that they do not simply solidify and constrain our selves, thus becoming a knowable, static feature of the self, but they are flexible and open to revision which makes Mackenzie’s normative suggestions for mobilizing autonomy problematic.

How do we shift habitual ways of imagining? Despite raised feminist consciousness, gender largely occupies the background of perception—it is taken for granted as a field rather than what stands out. Feminist phenomenology is unique because it brings gender into the foreground and tries to see how it has constituted our ways of perceiving the world. Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology is a method of reflection on our perceptual connection to the world that reveals how perceptual schemas are applied and acquired. The application of perceptual schemas seems to imply active decisions to apply perceptual schemas, but these schemas operate largely unconsciously. Fortunately, phenomenological reflection can bring some of the operation of perceptual schemas to our notice. In this paper I employ Merleau-Ponty’s gestalt theory of perception in order to demonstrate how perceptual schemas can keep us locked within certain formations of meaning as well as how those meanings can change. I use this theory of perception to think more clearly about how the imagination can afford possibilities for changing ourselves. Mackenzie’s view lays a groundwork for feminist resistance through the power of the imagination, but it lacks and embodied method for bringing about these normative goals. For this reason, I argue that a phenomenological approach to the imagination answers some of the questions of method raised by the role that Mackenzie gives imagination in the promotion of autonomy. Specifically, habits of perception that can be explored through the phenomenology of perception are integral for understanding how to imagine otherwise.


  • Catriona Mackenzie. “Imagination Identity, and Self-Transformation” and “Practical Identity and Narrative Agency” Practical Identity and Normative Agency. ed. Catriona Mackenzie & Kim Atkins Oxford and New York: Routledge, 2008.
  • -----. “Imagining Oneself Otherwise,” in Relational Autonomy: Feminist Perspectives on Autonomy, Agency, and the Social Self, ed. Catriona Mackenzie & Natalie Stoljar. New York: Oxford UP, 2000.
  • Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Phenomenology of Perception. New York, NY: Routledge, 2002 [1945].
  • Weiner, Scott E.. “‘Inhabiting’ in the ‘Phenomenology of Perception’.” Philosophy Today, 34:4 (1990): 342-353.

Russell, CamishaRace and Assisted Reproduction in a Neo-Liberal Era

What role does race play in assisted reproductive technologies in an era of what we might call liberal or neo-liberal eugenics? Does a social-historical and ultimately non-genetic concept like race become an anachronism? Looking at Foucault’s description of American neoliberalism and the enterprising subject, I argue that, beyond advantageous genetic traits, whiteness itself remains an important source of human capital. Using Foucault’s notion of technologies of the self, I describe both how “private” interactions around reproduction involve the exercise of great deals of power and how a liberal eugenic focus on individually accessed technological solutions appears to render social and political solutions aimed at structural inequalities misguided or unnecessary.

I then turn to ethnographic narratives in which users of assisted reproductive technologies invoke notions of racial (or other social) identities in describing their reproductive preferences and choices. The construction of racial identity and kinship, I argue, are always both personal and political, but they are not always seen as such, especially in cases where members of a privileged group (like people racialized as white) are acting within the established racial norms (that is, marrying and reproducing intraracially). One way to try to disrupt the naturalization of the reproduction of race has been to point to its social construction. Yet, one neoliberal answer to that disruption is to acknowledge the social construction of identities (including race) while at the same time concealing that construction behind a veil of private choice. This personalization and depoliticization of race in reproduction is aided by and contributes to an ideal of colorblindness.

Ultimately, I argue, features of the neoliberal approach – the emphases on privacy, liberty, choice, and the individual’s right/power to create him/herself through technology and consumption – serve not only to depoliticize inequalities through their emphasis on personal responsibility, but also to depoliticize race itself.

Sample, RuthResearch Under Suspicion: Three Scientific Programs at Risk for Implicit Bias and Stereotype Threat

Implicit bias is an unconscious belief (with either negative or positive connotations) held about a member of a social group (Greenwald & Banaji, 1995). When members of a social group underperform in a given domain after being exposed to explicitly or implicitly expressed stereotypes, this is called stereotype threat (Steele & Aronson, 1995). Both implicit bias and stereotype threat can be amplified by certain claims in neuroscience. Furthermore, implicit bias may play a role in theory formation in neuroscience, psychiatry, and genetics. If so, this bias may negatively impact the progress of research by neglecting alternative hypotheses and diverting crucial research funding. My aim is to investigate three research programs in neuroscience, psychiatry, and genetics, and to examine the way in which implicit bias and stereotype threat are implicated. I will discuss specific research programs in autism, schizophrenia, and the Y chromosome and assess the risk for stereotype threat and implicit bias in each area. Which research programs are at risk for creating stereotype threat and implicit bias? How does implicit bias influence the formation of theories and the direction of research? How should scientists recalibrate their research in light of these risks?

Scheman, NaomiAgainst Fantasy Physics: Toward a Relational Ontology

Feminist metaphysics has focused largely on questions concerning the nature of classification or kinds, much less on the nature of particulars, of individual things. I want to suggest that we need to challenge a deeply embedded picture of thing-ness that is part of a presumptively scientific world-view, which I call “fantasy physics”. According to this picture, things precede relationships; vagueness is semantic, not a feature of reality; and objects of knowledge are best known in abstraction from their surroundings and in terms of their constituent parts. This picture, of proper objects of knowledge, has had obvious deleterious effects on the social sciences, in part because it makes it especially difficult to understand socially constructed entities (among which I would include mental phenomena). But, I want to suggest, this picture is not in fact supported by actual science, including actual physics, but only by fantasy physics, and is problematic when applied even to the non-human, and even the inanimate, world: it gets even stones wrong.

I want to suggest that actual science—notably physics and biology—far from supporting the individualistic atomism of this picture, supports a metaphysics according to which thingness is characterized by relationality and difference, both of which are core concepts in feminist theory. To be a thing is to respond to and to affect one’s surroundings in distinctive ways: thingness is a matter of the differences things and their surroundings make to each other. I draw on the work of feminist science theorists such as Karen Barad—notably her conception of “intra-action”, which challenges the priority of relata over relationships—and Donna Haraway—notably her work on commensal organisms and the complications our microbiome poses to any pure, well-bounded conception of the human body.

Schmitz, SigridThe Epigenetic Case: Opportunities, Challenges, and Resistances for Feminist Science Studies

Epigenetics – more precisely environmental epigenetics and transgenerational epigenetics – is a growing branch of molecular biology that studies the interaction between genes and environment in plants, humans and animals. In many ways, this field of research currently refigures the question if and how the social and the biological are intertwined, and hence it challenges the understanding of the relationship between nature and culture within the bio-medical field. Even in feminist science studies epigenetics are discussed as a “new” perspective that could open the discourse to integrate a de-constructive perspective within the Sciences.

A focus of research in environmental/transgenerational epigenetics rests on the effects of life experiences resulting in epigenetic modifications that are in consequence taken responsible for, e.g., health dispositions, stress responses, suicidal tendencies to behavior in further individual life, and even in the life of the next generations. Yet, it is not obvious how to actually approach and comprehend ‘social experience’ and how to account for the complexity of situated social life experiences with the experimental paradigm of bio-medical sciences.

In 2012, I organized (together with colleagues from Science Technology Studies and Life Sciences) an international symposium on “Epigenetics, Society, and Gender” at the University of Vienna. This symposium was intended to bring scholars and students a from bio-medicine and life sciences into dialogue with feminist STS scholars. In taking a topic of mutual interest, e.g. an area where science and bio-medical disciplines themselves discuss the transgression of nature/culture dichotomies, we aimed to foster a critical reflection on the impacts of epigenetic research on society and culture, and tried to sensitize towards burgeoning social, ethical and gender questions connected to this research, its theoretical framing, methods and data interpretation. I present the fruits of dialogue but also the challenges and the still existing barriers, in particular when it comes to questioning knowledge production in Science and Technology.

With this case study, I aim to reflect a bit further on the use and misuse of de-constructive epistemologies in contemporary western scientific and societal culture.

This individual paper refers to the topics of 1. Challenges to and challenging scientific literacy, 11. Feminist methodologies in the humanities, social and natural sciences, 13. Feminist scholarship of teaching and learning

Schueneman, BrookeKnowing Nature Responsibly: Ecological Thinking and the Trouble with Encounter

In Ecological Thinking, Lorraine Code proposes a supplement to traditional epistemic methodologies. Her “ecological” method incorporates context, a merging of scientific and experiential evidence, integration as opposed to isolation, a refusal of the autonomous knower, multiple balancing acts, andan emphasis on specificity. Ecological thinking is critical and does not assume that science is truth. It is also creative, suggesting and validating alternative ways of knowing. Code offers ecological as an analysis within epistemological, political, and ethical frames. For Code practices of responsible knowing are imperative for ecological thinking to be ethical. Without them, the method is ethically neutral. When the domain of inquiry involves human subjects, this is not a problem as responsible knowing is based on narrative, imagination, and listening. Yet if we wish to extend ecological thinking to non-human nature, it is unclear how I should apply these practices. My concern is that Code’s notion of responsible knowing is entirely human-centered and, when applied to non-human nature, the ethical dimension drops out.

Here I will engage Code’s responsible knowing in an attempt to render ecological thinking appropriate as an ethical application for knowing the non-human world. I will begin by explaining in more detail how practices of responsible knowing constitute the ethical dimension of her theory. Given the limitations of applying responsible knowing to non-human subjects, I will look at Freya Mathews’ “encounter” as an alternative model for ethical inquiry of non-human nature. Mathews’ suggestion is intriguing and appears to resolve several of the problems associated with Code’s “thinking,” but it requires that the knower undergo a fundamental shift in her metaphysical commitments. I ultimately doubt that this shift is possible and will suggest an alternative that incorporates both encounter and ecological thinking.

Schwartz, LauraRethinking Silence: A Critical Examination of Classroom Participation

This paper stems from a broad concern with harmful pedagogical practices that work to silence women in philosophy. My specific concern is with classroom participation and our biases against the silent. Professors often focus on participation. I contend that,

1) This focus is misguided.

2) This focus leads to the adoption of engagement strategies that harm the silent.

3) We need new strategies for engagement with those who are reluctant participants.

In this paper, I will focus on 1). My hope is that in fleshing out 1), I can motivate discussion of 2) and ultimately illuminate strategies for 3).

I argue that focus on classroom participation is motivated by two assumptions concerning A) the reasons why students are reluctant to speak, and B) the link between classroom participation and the skill set of a competent academic. The assumption, I gather, is that for the graduate student, productive participation is requisite for success as a professional philosopher. Consequently, reluctance to speak indicates a lack of skills necessary for professional success.

However, there are multiple reasons why a student might be reluctant to speak in class, and many of these reasons are not indicative of one’s future career potential. Furthermore, there are additional ways to fail to be a productive classroom participant. For example, a domineering style of engagement often silences others and might indicate a lack of skills necessary for teaching success. Ultimately, it seems curious that our concern falls solely on the silent and that our concern covers most silent individuals. I contend that evaluation bias is at work here. We imagine the silent female graduate student as lacking a capacity that bars her from engaging in rigorous philosophical work, whereas her male counterpart is seen as lacking a skill that has little implication on his overall potential.

Sewell, JamieCommercial Surrogacy and the Capabilities Approach

Many countries prohibit altruistic and commercial surrogacy, leaving those wanting families in search of alternatives. One possible (and increasingly popular) alternative is “reproductive tourism”. In this paper, I am interested in the ethical issues and social implications of commercial surrogacy in India. What is of particular concern is the excessively instrumental relationship between the reproductive tourist and the surrogate, as well as the asymmetry in the social, political, and economic standings of the reproductive tourists relative to the surrogates in India.

I begin by describing the policies of a popular (and recently publicized) clinic in India to give a general sense of the practical considerations of surrogacy. Next, I explain Martha C. Nussbaum’s version of the capabilities approach, and highlight three capabilities that are central to any justice-oriented discussion of commercial surrogacy.

By pointing to specific harms to both reproductive tourists and surrogates related to three central capabilities, I argue that based on Nussbaum’s formulation of the capabilities approach, commercial surrogacy as practised in Anand, India is morally impermissible. This is because although the desire to have biological children may be strongly linked to a sense of self-worth and human dignity for some (central to human flourishing on the capabilities approach), the satisfaction of this desire cannot be justifiably had at the expense of the sense of self-worth or dignity of another. Although Nussbaum accepts that in order to foster some capabilities, limitations on other capabilities may be justified, I argue that the harms associated with an unsatisfied desire to have a biological child do not outweigh the nature and degree of harms to the surrogates. Finally, I raise possible objections to my claims which represent some of the more predictable arguments in favour of surrogacy either in terms of its moral permissibility or in terms of implementation.

Shapiro, DevoraDiversity, "Objectivity," and the History of Science: Feminist Philosophy and the Evolution of Methodology

Feminist philosophy, like other forms and histories of philosophy, began with a methodology, and has proceeded to build a canon. Feminist philosophers have built their methodology through practicing an inclusive, diverse, and embodied perspective on the world, and theorizing from their explicitly situated experiences. A feminist philosophy, therefore, is necessarily multiple and, because of its unique methodology, is empty without diversity and a diversity of perspectives.

This view, however, is somewhat familiar; the enlightenment and scientific revolution provide us with numerous examples of philosophers and scientists developing theories incorporating observations not so dissimilar from those I mention here. In the philosophy of science we see significant time spent addressing the nature of hypothesis and its effect on supposedly “objective” results. And yet the history of philosophy, and the standard view in science, identifies such moments of concern, sees the limiting nature of overly narrow perspectives, and the dangers of seeking truth by the corroboration of a single class of observers, and runs the wrong way. Rather than noting the need for diversity of viewpoints to expand the discursive space, and create new and innovative solutions to standing problems, traditional approaches in philosophy hammer home the need to improve “objectivity” so that we might better discern a truth that “we” – the privileged knowers – are uniquely suited to “discover.” While at times a feminist approach appears to turn on its head the standard assumption that “objectivity” will lead to justice, feminist work in philosophy demonstrates repeatedly the ways in which such assumptions have only served to erase experience, and demean situated knowledges.

Shotwell, AlexisIntersectional Intents and Effects in Medico-Scientific Direct Action

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, what drugs there were to treat the opportunistic infections that killed people living with AIDS were frequently not legal or were so expensive that they were in effect unobtainable, particularly for people living in poverty. In the Canadian context, living in poverty, being racialized, being disabled, having unstable immigration status, having reduced family support, and living with HIV or AIDS were often entangled experiences. In this paper, I examine how direct action activists addressed these co-factors in people’s premature deaths. I focus on the campaign that produced Ontario’s Trillium Drug Program, a program that even today provides access to medical treatments not otherwise available. Taking this case study as a grounded example of activism expressing an interlocking oppressions or intersectional analysis, I offer a theoretical framework for understanding the work of activists with the group AIDS ACTION NOW! to create a framework for increased health justice in this specific context. Drawing on Ladelle McWhorter’s genealogical reading of eugenic practices, Maria Lugones’s understanding of the importance of prioritizing impure and coalitional politics, and Donna Haraway’s account of what it means to “share suffering,” I argue that certain forms of medical activism powerfully express a non-reductionist and complex intersectional science and technology practice, bridging lay and professional medical contexts.

Sisko, AdrianaGoing All the Way, And Where Is That? A Reflection on Real Sex

How are we to define sex (the act)? Popular films depict sex, particularly the loss of virginity, as a rite of passage to adulthood. To lose one’s virginity (depicted as the goal of adolescence in films such as American Pie) is to experience penile-vaginal intercourse. Leading scholarly studies that explore the relationship between sexual activity and other behaviors such as alcohol-use define sexual activity as penile-vaginal intercourse to the exclusion of other forms of intimacy. ‘Sex’ and ‘penile-vaginal intercourse’ are largely synonymous. The insinuation, particularly with regards to this conceptualization of virginity, is that engaging in penile-vaginal intercourse is to ‘go all the way’, to experience ‘real sex’. Forms of intimacy such as oral sex and anal sex do not necessarily count as going all the way, and are therefore ranked as less fully real forms of sex. Nevertheless, I argue that the notion that real sex As solely penile-vaginal intercourse is in dire need of reevaluation due to its far reaching social import and its failure to adequately capture the full range of human sexual behavior. While socially constructed concepts such as identity and the body have been thoroughly questioned in the scholarly literature, the idea of real sex has received relatively little attention. Through an examination of historical sources and popular cultural texts, I show how the current limited definition of real sex shapes other issues such as expectations concerning the female orgasm and discourse on sexually-transmitted diseases. I conclude by providing a revised definition of sex: one that rejects the notion of real sex. I show how the revised definition may influence both future research on sexual activity and future scholarly work on subjects related to sex such as virginity, the body and gender.

Sreedhar, SusanneLocke on Polygamy

The issue of polygamy was a vexed one for proponents of the burgeoning liberal tradition in 17th-century Europe. One the one hand, such theorists overwhelmingly endorsed the sexual codes of their own culture, which involved unquestioned commitments to monogamy. On the other hand, they wanted to avoid any suggestion that the polygamous actions of the revered biblical fathers were against natural law. John Locke is an intriguing figure to look at in this regard.

For example, in the Letter Concerning Toleration, Locke includes polygamy in the list of “things indifferent,” alongside dietary laws. In the Second Treatise, Locke acknowledges the existence of polygamous practices, but indicates that he is not subjecting them to moral evaluation in the least. In The Whole History of Navigation, Locke describes – devoid of moral judgment – a foreign nation where men had one wife to serve them on land and another to serve them at sea; he does so as one might list quirks, alongside observations about their body hair and fashion of dress. Finally, in Essays and Notes on St. Paul’s Epistles, Locke insists that the “discourse against fornication…concerns Christians only…not mankind in general.”

I argue that when we work through these dispersed pieces of text, a coherent picture emerges. Locke’s position is that the organization of sexual and familial life may well be a matter of religious and cultural concern, but it does not fall under the jurisdiction of universal, rationally required natural law. I further demonstrate that Locke’s view, so reconstructed, is not only consistent with – but also implied by – more fundamental commitments about natural law and its relation with divine and civil law. Taken to their logical conclusions, Locke’s philosophical starting points yield a lenient position that is accepting of diversity, and a refusal to characterize various sexual or familial relationships as inherently wrong.

Science and Technology in Society Teaching Group

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Feminism and Science Research Group

In the Feminism and Science Research Group we conduct research that is unified by attention to justice and the social nature of scientific, technological and medical research. We are interested in research policy, practice, education and implementation. Details