Theme 4-5: Sexual Health, Embodiment and Empowerment: Bridging Epistemological Gaps
By Malena Gustavson on 05 Dec | 1 comment
Theme 4-5: Sexual health, embodiment and empowerment. Bridging epistemological gaps
THEME DURATION: Jan-Dec. 2009
Call for participation and abstracts for Themes 4&5 November 2009 conference
See announcement of fellowships on:
Feminist research on gender/sex, sexualities, bodies, embodied subjectivities, empowerment, sexual difference, queer identities and anti-normative alternatives have, for decades, been central pivots of feminist research and theorizing. They have attracted the attention of feminist researchers from a broad spectrum of disciplinary backgrounds – from biology and medicine to humanities and social sciences. Different divisions of labour have been at stake here. Sometimes they have created productive tensions, at other times they have produced mutual misunderstandings, miscommunications and ”camps”. The goal of theme 4-5 is to try to bridge epistemological and methodological gaps between different strands of feminist and intersectional analysis of bodies, embodied subjectivities and sexualities. The idea is to try to maximize productive tensions and synergies between different approaches.
GEXcel Theme 4-5 will be headed jointly by Nina Lykke, feminist cultural studies scholar and Prof. of Gender and Culture, Linköping University. and Barbro Wijma, feminist Gynaecologist and Prof. of Gender and Medicine, Linköping University.
Two research teams will be formed - one led by Lykke and one by Wijma. The two teams will work closely together and compare notes along the lines of a joint cross-cutting theme: cross- and transdisciplinary approaches to gendered, sexualised and racialised bodies and ethics. Within this framework, they will reflect constructively on differences and similarities between cultural and medical studies.
I. The research team, led by Nina Lykke, will put focus on two related themes:
a) Feminist and queer perspectives on sex education, sexual empowerment and pleasure
Research under this sub-theme should critically analyse constructions of gendered, sexualised and racialised bodies in different kinds of sex education discourses and practices. Intersectionalities of gender, race, sexuality, dis/ability, nationality etc are to be explored as well as the ways in which different kinds of sex education create sexual dis/empowerment and im/balance between pleasure, power, liberation, prohibition, punishment, shame etc. Sex education is defined broadly as education about sexuality and the handling of sexual relations, which can take place as part of formal curricula of educational institutions (schools etc.) and campaigns (e.g. HIV/AIDS campaigns), but also informally via different kinds of mass media and art forms and pornography, via NGOs, via political activism, in family settings etc. The idea is that the research should cover both formal and informal sex education as well as both mainstream and alternative, conservatively restrictive and sex-positive feminist and queer discourses and practices. Special attention will be given to the period from 1970 till today in order to trace how contemporary developments of sex education may be influenced by new social movements - feminist, anti-racist, LGBT- and queer movements and by the so-called sexual revolution, i.e. the shift in sexual norms which, in the Western world, took place in parallel with the emergence of new social movements in the last decades of the 20th century. The influence of religion and fundamentalism should also be explored. Projects with a historical focus going further back than 1970 and exploring sex education in earlier centuries are also welcomed.
b) Critical sexology
Research under this sub-theme is expected to highlight the two-way links between sexology and sex education from feminist and queer perspectives. How do different understandings of sexology produce different kinds of sex education, and vice versa: how do different kinds of sex education practices create feed back to sexology. Critical reviews and assessments of constructions of taxonomies, in- and exclusions in historical, contemporary and transnational perspectives will be in focus of the resarch under the sub-theme. Intersectionalities between processes of genderization, sexualization, racialisation etc. should be highlighted. Moreover, critical research on contemporary treatment modalities of sexual problems will be encouraged.
II. The research team, led by Barbro Wijma, will put focus on the theme:
Gender and violence - mechanisms, anti-mechanisms, interventions, evaluations
Research under this sub-theme should not only approach direct events of violence, but also the power relations, which produce them. The ways in which different power differentials are entangled should be investigated from intersectional perspectives, where links between violence and disempowerment (related to social categories such as gender, race, ethnicity, class, age, sexuality, dis/ability etc) are investigated. The research should also reflect the fact that mapping the prevalence of violence, an often applied medical approach, is not enough. The more delicate issue of intervention needs also to be targeted. Evaluations of interventions against violence are on a rudimentary stage within the medical field. Such evaluations should, therefore, also be initiated as part of the research under the sub-theme. How masculinity norms are developed and interact with a legitimizing attitude to all kinds of violence is also an important research focus, as well as how certain femininity norms may legitimize accepting a victim role.
One of the issues which is expected to be in focus of the research is the difference between, on the one hand, power as a negative force which leads to misuse and subordination (potestas) and, on the other hand, power as a positive generative force (potentia). Many men and women in power positions are tempted to misuse power, but what characterizes those who perform differently, when in power? And what can be learnt from that? Jonathan Glover's humanized ethics is much discussed within the medical field. Can his ideas become materialized, operationalized and tested in research? And how do these ideas relate to theories on gendered and sexualized violence, developed by feminist and profeminist scholars?
III. Cross-cutting theme: Bridging epistemological gaps:
Led jointly by Nina Lykke and Barbro Wijma
The aim of the cross-cutting theme is to critically reflect on possible synergies between medical and cultural studies approaches to gendered, sexualised and racialised bodies and ethics. In particular, feminist approaches (such as queerfeminist materialism, sexual difference approaches, posthuman and cyborg feminist theories etc.) which go beyond a dichotomizing of gender and sex, and which look at gender/sex as processes which intersect with processes of racialisation, ethnification, construction of class privilege, geopolitical positioning, (hetero-)normativisation, dis/ability etc. will be explored in terms of their potentials to unleash productive dialogues across disciplinary borders between humanities, social, medical and biological sciences.
by theme leaders Nina Lykke and Barbro Wijma
We generated the idea for GEXcel Theme 4-5 on inspiration from earlier joint research projects: “Visualisation and simulator-technologies in gynaecological education,” funded by the Swedish Research Council, 2004-07; and "New technology for fetal monitoring: a gender perspective on changes in work organisation, professional boundaries and everyday practices", funded by the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research, 2005-07.
While working on these projects, we explored both differences and similarities between our approaches. To do research within the framework of the medical paradigm is very different from doing Cultural Studies research. The epistemological and methodological differences between our ways of working and between the ways in which we have been trained to approach science and articulate scientific problems and research designs are huge. It is easy to line up binaries such as positivism-empiricism versus poststructuralism-postconstructionism and quantitative versus qualitative research in order to depict differences between our scientific starting points. But we both share the belief that the world is more complex than such neat - and reductive - oppositions may reveal. Besides our differences, we share two important commonalities. One is an outspoken critical as well as affirmative-visionary feminist research interest in gender/sex, sexualities, bodies, embodied subjectivities, empowerment, sexual difference, queer identities and anti-normative alternatives. Moreover, we share a firm scientific belief in the huge - and still rather unexplored and understudied - potentials of transdisciplinary research and transversal research dialogues, set up to bridge the epistemological and methodological divides, which today, to a large extent, prevent science from understanding the world in its discursive-material, sociocultural-biological complexity. Against this background, it is our ambition to make theme 4-5 into a joint framework for exploring the potentials and synergies, which we firmly believe can be generated via transversal and transdiscipinary research dialogues.
The overall goal is hence to create transversal dialogues between the different scientific entrance points. To bridge gaps, constructed by disciplinary boundaries, and to create new synergies and understandings beyond the reductionist dichotomizing of sex and gender, bodily materiality and discourse, it is our ambition that GEXcel theme 4-5 shall attract researchers with excellent records in studies of sexed embodiment, gendered subjectivity and empowerment from different disciplinary perspectives, but with an outspoken ambition to transgress disciplinary barriers and epistemological boundaries - and with a willingness and commitment to experiment with new transdisciplinary methodologies. In particular, it will be considered important to include, on the one hand, researchers with a background in medicine and biology and a high level of knowledge of ways to empower women in clinical and therapeutical situations, and, on the other hand, researchers with a background in the human and social sciences and a high level of knowledge of feminist theories of embodiment.
Click here for the programme for the "peak" GEXcel scholar visiting period for these themes (November-December 2009)
See here for details of Themes 4-5 kick-off conference which took place in June 2009.
Click here for the kick-off conference programme
Click here for the kick-off conference poster
Click here for the November 2009 conference poster
Click here for the November 2009 conference programme
Affiliated Swedish and International Network on Sex Education and Critical
Persons involved with this theme: