Knowing Bodies: Science and the Sex/Gender Distinction

The distinction between sex and gender, nature and culture, has provided a foundation for feminist thought and activism over the past half-century. Today, however, this distinction is increasingly being called into question. Across the humanities, social sciences, and sciences, many now ask whether biology and culture are truly distinct phenomena. Scholars are also calling into question the idea that one can even think about “sex” without gender or race. Clearly, the meaning of the sex/gender distinction has shifted over time, as different generational cohorts have revised their understandings in relation to expert knowledge, emergent sensibilities, and dissident worldviews. This IRW seminar considers conversations about gender, bodies, and science through the prism of cultural and generational change, exploring the growing complexity of how we understand sex, gender, and sexuality.

We invite applications from faculty and advanced graduate students (ABD status required) whose projects explore aspects of our theme. Such studies may examine any time period(s) or geographical location(s) and be rooted in any disciplinary or interdisciplinary approach(es). Some possible topics relevant to the seminar theme include, but are not limited to:

  • Feminist genealogies and the sex/gender distinction
  • Subjectivity and the body
  • Medicalization
  • Lay expertise and the challenge to science
  • Sex, gender, and racial differences in scientific knowledge and biomedical research
  • Trans embodiment
  • Feminism, the LGBTQ movement, and popular attitudes toward medicine and the body
  • The gender politics of psychoanalysis
  • Neuropsychoanalysis
  • Gender and the aging body
  • The politics of cosmetic and gender-affirming surgery
  • Gender and the pharmaceutical industry
  • The science and politics of reproductive and sexual health
  • Changing socio-legal understandings of bodies

Individuals from all disciplines, schools, and programs on all Rutgers campuses are welcome to apply. We also welcome proposals from Rutgers-based writers and activists.

The seminar will support up to eight Rutgers Faculty Fellows and up to four Graduate Fellows from the New Brunswick, RBHS, Camden, and Newark campuses. Seminar fellows are expected to attend all Thursday morning seminar meetings during Fall and Spring Semesters 2020-2021, provide a paper for discussion in the seminar, and open a seminar session with an extended response to another scholar’s paper.

Graduate students will receive a $5,000 stipend for the year as seminar fellows. Faculty fellows will receive either $4,000 in research support or a one-course teaching release for one semester to enable them to participate in the year-long seminar. In the latter case, departments will be reimbursed for instructional replacements at the minimum contractual PTL rate. Financial arrangements will be made in advance of the seminar with the department chairs and/or appropriate deans.

Applications should be received at IRW by Friday, January 31, 2020. All decisions of the selection committee are final. 2020-2021 Seminar Fellows will be notified by Wednesday March 4, 2020. Please contact IRW at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you have any questions or would like more information.


**Download application materials for the 2020-21 seminar**