Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Call for papers: Bodily Differences - Social and Scientific Technologies of Self-Making

May 8 & 9, 2009
Laurentian University
Ontario, Canada

"I mean for us to embrace our myriad of bodily differences, to understand our lives as ordinary and familiar from the inside, even as we’re treated as curious, exotic, unbelievable, deceptive, threatening from the outside..... I mean for us to embrace our bodily differences while never forgetting the ways in which the world privileges some bodies and marginalizes others. Bodily difference as neither good nor bad, but as a simple fact of life: gender wrapping around sexuality hanging onto race compounding class pulling at disability, all of it finally piling into our tender, resilient human bodies where the answers are ultimately not about doctors, even for those of us who transition, but about self love, community, and liberation" (Eli Clare 2007).

“Bodily difference” is never natural: how bodies are made different from one another has always to do with the social worlds into which they enter and by which they are shaped. Theorists from Aristotle to Marx and from Darwin to Haraway have explored the relationships among worlds, skills, machines, social practices, and bodies. This conference seeks to unpack the social and scientific technologies through which “difference” becomes socially significant. In diverse ways, there has been important work on how machines are made to fit bodies and how bodies in turn are shaped in relation to machines, as well as on questions of how technology is social, and how the social world is technological. Technologies are themselves embedded in circuits of capitalism and colonialism, sometimes best expressed in current connections between science funding and science practice. Understanding embodiment requires us to contemplate complex systems from the lab to the clinic to the media outlet to the library to the university classroom and beyond. We invite papers that explore questions such as:

. How can scientists and people in science studies have meaningful dialogue?

. How is scientific knowledge-making racialized?

. Is it possible to “do” science within capitalist models of science-as-enterprise without succumbing to capital’s imperatives? In a world where funding agencies and private partnerships determine which work gets done, how might we resist capitalism in the practice of science?

. How are classificatory practices important to the production of social worlds?

. How are social practices, like pronoun use and gender recognition, technologies for shaping gender?

. What do current research practices in medicine teach us about the gendered body?

Since temporary able-bodiedness is a product of our social worlds, how can we better work with bodily difference as, in Eli Clare’s words, a simple fact of life?

. How are cross-species bodily differences shaped, torqued, and understood? How might such differences shift our understandings of what it is to count as human?

. How are sex and gender integrated into biological and medical research? How are such differences not incorporated into these realms?

We hope for this conference to be a site for engaged cross-pollination and active discussion, and invite panel proposals and papers that foreground this kind of work. Presentations do not have to take standard academic form. Please send 250 word abstracts by February 15th, 2009 to Alexis Shotwell (

Alexis Shotwell Assistant
Professor Department of Philosophy
Laurentian University
935 Ramsey Lake Road Sudbury
Ontario P3E 2C6
705-675-1151 ext. 3709

(this cfp was sent to my women's studies list serv from Shana L. Calixte, Women's Studies Program, Laurentian University,