Research Focus 1 |
Research Focus 2 |
Research Focus 2:
The Gendered Codification of Scientific Objects
The construction of gender - in the medical subdisciplines, in normative and legal frameworks, in
historical discourses and practices or in the cultural analyses of symbolic meanings - is based on the
body as a point of departure as well as a point of refuge. In order to flee the fruitless binary opposition
of a preexisting or seemingly 'natural' body (or a 'natural' Leiblichkeit) on the one hand and
the scientific or cultural constructions of bodies on the other hand, the material make-up of these
bodily constructions and the processes of their embodiment must be at the center of research.
This choice of thematic focus is indebted to the "practical turnh in more recent research about
science which examines the material manifestations of such inscriptions, constructions and representations.
In other words, the rationale is to investigate the practices of construction, the media techniques of
representation, and the discourses of communication which convey a gendered identity to the scientific
objects of modern societies.
The body is necessarily of central importance in research on gender. The evident differences in the
material constitution of the human body have been the starting point for all existing ideas about sex.
Moreover, the centrality of this materiality and physicality in occidental culture has always served
as a last refuge for scientific investigations and theorizing which served to construct sex and gender
differences as scientific objects, be it as a 'mixture of juices' in the history of medicine , as
anatomical body, as text corpus, as moral subject, as body politic, as performative role play or as
phenotype of a heterochromosome.
Speaking with Latour, the 'body' has always been a hybrid of nature and culture. It therefore offers
an ideal testground for interrogating the implicit theses underlying essential notions of sex in the
same way as it challenges ideas about a radical constructivism as they have been advocated by some
gender studies researchers. Hence, the research program deliberately places the materiality and
physicality of gender specific codifications at its center in order to overcome the unproductive
opposition between a pre- or extradiscursive 'naturalness' and a discursive cultural formation and
construction, and by doing so places itself in the footsteps of the "practical turn" of science studies.
Nowadays there is much debate about the radical dismissal of the biological body as a basis for the
current gender order. At the same time, however, these gender formations become subject to a
re-biologization of new scientific objects (e.g. research on male and female brains). These shifts in
the gendered codification of scientific knowledge can only be traced via their intersecting relations
between discursive formations and material practices which take seriously the connections between
cultural and scientific or biomedical attributions and inscriptions.
In light of these developments, the graduate research group sees its task in examining the inscriptions
and attributions by which the disciplines construct the gendered nature of the body. These inscriptions
and attributions will be analyzed in their positioning vis-a`-vis the intersections of discursive shifts
and material practices. Making use of scientific theories about the body, body techniques and body metaphors
allows for a detailed and particularly convincing demonstration of the different methodical and
epistemological approaches which have been developed in the individual disciplines and in which gendered
codifications continue to be highly effective. The analogy between the biological body and the social
body or text corpus plays an important role in this respect.
In order to be able to develop a methodical 'toolbox' which allows for an exact methodical and
theoretical-categorical demarcation of 'body' as a concept, working groups will be established
whose activities largely draw from research conducted on culture techniques, understood here in their
broadest sense. Following the assumption that there is a mutual relationship between the ideal and
the material body, the cultural techniques functioning as 'channels' for these mutual relationships
are to be examined as well.