Drift 21, Rm. 005 24 Jul 2019 Organized Session
Tools for Historians of Science 09:00 - 11:45

Sponsored by the Women's Caucus

Feminist scholars of science and technology studies (STS) have revealed the manifold ways in which differences of sex, race, and gender structure the production of knowledge. They show how binaries – including feminine and masculine, male and female, active and passive, emotional and rational – imbue scientific practice with local meanings. And they show how gendered commitments shape global concepts like nature, body, and mind. Our panel adds development to this list. Relying upon various insights from feminist STS, each panelist will think through case studies in the history of medicine and the human sciences. Collectively, we explore the cross-cultural ways that gender organizes the scientific study of developmental processes. We foreground a transnational network of scientists who studied how cultures, bodies, and identities changed over time. Barbara Pohl begins in early twentieth century, examining how feminist anthropologists used "gender-critical" methods to understand cultural development in the American southwest. Lan A. Li moves to the mid-twentieth century, recounting how acupuncture analgesia disrupted developmental assumptions about the human body in greater China, Germany, and the United States. Susanne Schmidt lands in the late twentieth century, exploring the anti-feminist commitments of Euro-American developmental psychologists and psychoanalysts. Soha Bayoumi ends in contemporary Egypt, considering how "popular" sexologists have approached questions of modern femininity. Eli Nelson will provide a synthetic commentary, bringing insights from postcolonial and queer feminist STS to our discussion. Together, we will use gender to reinterpret developments in the history of science and medicine.

Organized by Barbara Pohl

Changing Minds: Feminist Methods in Anthropology
09:00 - 09:30
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Anglo-American anthropologists conducted field expeditions to disparate regions. Some of these anthropologists contributed to the social reform efforts of a trans-Atlantic community of Progressive experts. Within this highly populated landscape, a small field of feminist anthropologists emerged with a distinctive set of ethnographic methods. My paper will trace the empirical practices of one such figure: Elsie Clews Parsons. Parsons formed queer kinships with a disparate group of cultural anthropologists who straddled the socialist-pacifist salons of Greenwich Village, the settlement houses of Chicago, the academic departments of Columbia and U.C. Berkeley, and the artist colonies of Sante Fe. With ample personal connections and financial means, Parsons conducted fieldwork with the Pueblos of New Mexico and Arizona. In 1918, after revitalizing the cultural anthropology program of Franz Boas, she began to experiment with ethnographic writing. She learned how to bring the changing minds of indigenous subjects into the cultural foreground, thereby capturing the development of human personalities. This interpretive skill, I argue, emerged from her encounters with several "men-women" and Zuni women conducting domestic labor. Parsons, while writing about these experiences, denaturalized gendered norms circulating within Pueblo culture. She then turned these observations back onto her own culture, leading her to generalizations about the dynamics of power and mind. This conceptual practice -- what Sarah Richardson might term a "gender-critical" method -- sustained her identity as a feminist anthropologist. My exploration of Parsons places feminist science studies into historical relief.
Women’s Place in Developmental Theory: From Androcentrism to Anti-Feminism
09:30 - 10:00
This talk highlights the relevance of gender in American and European accounts of identity development in the latter half of the twentieth century. Going beyond existing analyses by Carol Gilligan and other relational psychologists, feminist social scientists and writers, who have read dominant theories of individuation as androcentric, I argue that these were based on normative assumptions about women’s selves and capacities. Reconsidering the implications of male-centered perspectives in the social and human sciences changes our understanding of anti-feminism. More than just an extreme opinion, anti-feminist positions structured basic constructions of the self and social order. Not simply implying that Man was the measure of all people, Erik Erikson, Benjamin Spock, Daniel Levinson, and other social and developmental psychologists, practitioners, and psychoanalytic thinkers also exempted women from personal development. Their theories applied to boys and men almost exclusively, whose growth and self-realization they described. Yet despite their focus on men, these developmental models were primarily directed at women. The formulations and effects of identity theories in social policy as well as public debates about work and the family show that they provided a guideline for wives and mothers, describing as the primary task of women to produce, even embody a “facilitating environment” (Donald Winnicott) for male development. When women challenged these directions, experts responded by barring them from redefining their lives and seeking self-fulfillment outside the home. By arguing that women’s liberation hindered men from releasing their full potential, they used the notion of identity to defend traditional gender roles.
Bloated Bellies and Bleeding Thyroids: Needling at Gendered Bodies in Acupuncture Anesthesia (1950-1970)
10:15 - 10:45
Presented by : Lan Li
Acupuncture analgesia seemed relatively straightforward. The patient lay awake as a practitioner needled selected sites on the body to induce numbness for surgery. Numerous reports emerging from China in the 1970s featured women and men resting on operating tables, smiling into the camera, surrounded by doctors who attended to the excised region—the esophagus, brain, belly, heart, or lungs. Readers were as amazed as they were skeptical. To one critic, acupuncture analgesia worked, but it only worked on Communist Chinese bodies. Beyond the ontological debates that surrounded how needling actually worked, was the curious ways in which the patient and practitioner both participated in a choreography of knowledge production. Needling-induced numbness allowed the patient to lie awake during the operation. She could ask questions, drink tea, eat fruit as nurses reached into her body to remove an ovarian cyst. This paper argues that the choreographed epistemology of the operating room, or “improvised medicine” as Julie Livingston would put it, re-constituted dualities that defined expertise, indigenous knowledge, and gender. Between the patient and practitioner, zhongyi (“Chinese” medicine) and xiyi (“Western” medicine), and feminine and masculine bodies were the multiple effects of needling that challenged assumptions about how responses to pain changed over time. Those who tested the effects of needling-induced numbness in Singapore, Hong Kong, Michigan, Berlin, and Shanghai hoped that its universalizing effects could reflect the universal properties of needling—that it could temper the idiosyncratic nature of the body and collapse conceptual differences. By drawing on literature in transnational feminism and postcolonial STS, this paper offers a cultural history of neuroscience through the queering effects of needling in the operating room.
Egypt’s TV Sexologists and the Politics of Modern Femininity
10:45 - 11:15
Since Foucault’s History of Sexuality, sexology has been viewed by historians of science and medicine as a marker of sexual modernism, a category of biopower and an apparatus of discipline and social control. Postcolonial historians of medicine, including historians of the Middle East, have complicated our understanding of sexology as both an instrument of imperial control and a potential tool of social critique and resistance to colonial assumptions. More recently, feminist historians of medicine have highlighted the roles played by women sexologists as a way of countering the historical narrative that viewed women and their sexuality solely as objects of study and control by a male-dominated medical establishment. Modern interest in the scientific study of sexuality in the Middle East can be traced back to the mid-nineteenth century. This interest manifested in various ways during the colonial period and over the course of the twentieth century. Most recently, new media allowed for the proliferation of sex education TV programs, websites, YouTube Channels and social media accounts. In this paper, I aim to contribute to the growing scholarship on sexology by examining the role played by contemporary women sexologists in Egypt and their role in cultivating ideals of modern, bourgeois feminine sexuality. Turning to two “popular” female sexologists and sex educators, Heba Kotb and Alyaa Gad, I aim to historically contextualize these popularized iterations of the scientific discourse on sexuality and how they approach questions of modern sexuality in relation to other discourses, such as religious and moral discourses.
Commentary: Gendering Development
11:15 - 11:45
Presented by : Eli Nelson

Yale University
Freie Universität Berlin
Harvard University
Adrian Research Fellow, Darwin College, University of Cambridge
Adam Matthew Digital
Harvard University


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