Feminist Technoscience Studies in Unexpected Places: (Intra)Activism and Social Justice
Location 127
Date and Start Time 02 September, 2016 at 14:00
Sessions 6


  • Celia Roberts (Lancaster University) email
  • Lucy Suchman (Lancaster University) email
  • Ericka Johnson (Linköping University) email
  • Karen Throsby (University of Leeds) email

Mail All Convenors

Chair Lucy Suchman (Lancaster University,1), Kylie Valentine (UNSW Australia, 2,6), Karen Throsby (University of Leeds,3), Celia Roberts (Lancaster University, 4,5)

Short Abstract

This track highlights the myriad ways in which FTS methods, theories, and concerns articulate the places and practices through which science and technology are performed, enact in/justice and can be transformative.

Long Abstract

Feminist technoscience studies (FTS) comprise a major strand of STS. Constituted by a diverse and heterogeneous set of projects and publications, these studies make politicised, impassioned contributions to contemporary critical thought about science, technology and medicine. They are also driven by a powerful desire for justice (see Reardon et al in Catalyst Vol 1 No 1). Building on century-old traditions of embodied activism and collective politics, feminist scholars have led the way in developing engaged, interventionist approaches to multi, inter, and transdisciplinary encounters with technoscientific and biomedical practices and knowledges.

This track will highlight the myriad ways in which FTS methods, theories, and concerns articulate the places and practices through which science and technology are performed, enact in/justice and can be transformative. More specifically, the track welcomes submissions that reflect on, discuss, interrogate and 'do' feminist technoscience in unexpected places, understood as locations, encounters, and/or research subjects/objects.

It is hoped that the track will provide an opportunity to explore collectively the connections between, and underlying themes of, feminist work, and a space in which to debate how we might further develop these commonalities and explore differences and tensions. Convening feminist work as an open track - a political project in itself - will underscore both the extent of existing work and the possibilities for opening up other topics of interest to feminist analysis.

The track would welcome alternative presentations, including actions, excursions, manifestos, creative workshops and artistic engagements as well as more traditional papers and presentations.

SESSIONS: 5/5/5/5/5

This track is closed to new paper proposals.


Mitochondrial Disease Patient Activism: Feminist Technoscience Governance Research in Places of Rarity

Author: Jacquelyne Luce (Mount Holyoke College)  email

Short Abstract

Drawing on fieldwork in Germany and the transnational European sphere, this paper explores narratives of mitochondrial disease patient activism, everyday rare disease patient engagements with technoscience, and doing feminist technoscience governance studies in unexpected places.

Long Abstract

Mitochondrial disease is often classified as a rare neuromuscular or metabolic disorder, the symptoms of which are extremely varied in presentation and severity, ranging from severe multiple disabilities that are present from birth to adult onset progressive impairment. Mitochondrial disease is increasingly visible within the public sphere due to discussions about "mitochondrial donation", techniques involving the use of 'healthy' mitochondria from a donor egg in order to produce offspring which will (theoretically) be free of the mitochondrial DNA mutation of the intended parent. Mitochondrial donation is alternatively represented as an assisted reproductive technology, gene therapy, and/or a cure for mitochondrial DNA disease. Interrupting this focus on technoscientific novelty, this paper draws on fieldwork undertaken with mitochondrial disease patients and self-help group organizers in Germany, the US, Canada and the transnational European sphere since 2009 to address the contrastingly mundane narratives of mitochondrial disease patient activism, everyday engagements with technoscience and doing feminist technoscience governance studies in unexpected places. How are 'patients' and clinician-researchers negotiating the emergence and boundaries of a field called mitochondrial medicine? In what ways do repertoires of rare disease diagnostic technologies produce and disrupt ambitious imaginaries of health, science and social justice? How can feminist analyses of the 'participatory governance' of science and technology contribute to understandings of trust, silence, consensus, and coalitions within rare disease patient and researcher communities, especially in moments of achieving mainstream visibility?

Gender, experimentation and bioethics: medical controversies in India

Authors: Salla Sariola (University of Helsinki)  email
Deapica Ravindran (Center for Studies in Ethics and Rights, Mumbai )  email

Short Abstract

Framed in New Materialism, this paper analysis the intra-play of two HPV related medical controversies; research subjects; bodies; HPV viruses, vaccine and cervical cancer; and research regulation in India.

Long Abstract

This paper shows how scientific experimentation in India is gendered, by focusing on two medical studies on women: a recent HPV vaccine project and an observational study of cervical cancer from the 1970-80s.

Based on interviews with Indian government and public health officials and women's rights activists; archival research and reviews of the scientific papers published from the studies; and public reports of ethical malpractice, the paper reconstructs the two studies and analyses the controversies that followed. By analysing experiences of researchers, civil society members and regulators we show how local ideas of women as less-valuable members of society led them to be subjects of medical research and to an ethical triage whereby less rigorous research practices were deemed necessary.

Both studies were subject to critical public debate regarding the treatment of their study participants where the feminist activists raised concerns regarding patriarchal exploitation of women in India's reproductive health science in general, and the lack of sufficient measures to protect human subjects taking part in clinical trials in particular. The controversies shaped the future of Indian research culture when the public discussions led to the intensification of bioethical governance of human experimentation in 2013.

Drawing on framework of New Materialist that rethinks dualisms between nature and culture, matter and mind, this paper puts forward an analysis of the intra-play of subjects; bodies; HPV viruses, vaccine and cancer; and research regulation in these controversies, and develops an analysis of the relationships of feminist activism, gender, technoscience, and governance in India.

Troubling Time/s and Ecologies of Nothingness: Im/Possibilities of Living and Dying in the Void

Author: Karen Barad (UCSC)  email

Short Abstract

Diffractively reads insights from quantum theory and first-hand account of Nagasaki bombing through one another, bringing to the fore a troubling of scalar distinctions between the world of subatomic particles and that of colonialism, war, nuclear physics research, and environmental destruction.

Long Abstract

This paper examines the ethico-onto-epistemological implications of dis/junctions of being and time by reading insights from Quantum Field Theory and Kyoko Hayashi's account of the destruction wrought by the Nagasaki bombing through one another. The diffraction of spacetime at the core of quantum field theory troubles the scalar distinction between the world of subatomic particles and that of colonialism, war, nuclear physics research, and environmental destruction, all of which entangle the effects of nuclear warfare throughout the present time, troubling the binaries between micro and macro, nature and culture, nonhuman and human. Attempting to think through what possibilities remain open for an embodied re-membering of the past which, against the colonialist practices of erasure and avoidance and the related desire to set time aright, calls for thinking a certain undoing of time, a work of mourning accountable to those most profoundly affect by ongoing ecological destruction and of racist, colonialist, and nationalist violence, human and otherwise. This task is related to rethinking the notion of the void. Against its Newtonian interpretation as the absence of matter and energy, as that which does not matter and thus works to justify colonial occupation, I argue that the QFT void is a spectral domain where life and death are originarily entangled, and inanimate matter itself gives itself to be thought in its mortal finitude. The void is rather the yearning and the imagining of what might have been, and thus also the infinitely rich ground of imagining possibilities for living and dying otherwise.

Techno-ecologies of Solar Fields: Entangling landscape, bodies and ethico-politics

Author: Dagmar Lorenz-Meyer (Charles University)  email

Short Abstract

Drawing on feminist STS and new materialism, this paper develops the frame of techno-ecology and uses ethnography and Roma photography to examine how different materialities affect to another in post-military places, and embody worldings and ethico-politics that are at odds with citizen science.

Long Abstract

This paper follows the object gatherings of photovoltaic panels through unexpected encounters in a former military training area where the largest solar fields in the Czech Republic were built in 2010. Examining how the solar panels have become part of a post-military landscape, multispecies entanglements, and capitalist profiteering, and building on feminist technoscience and new materialisms, the paper develops the framework of techno-ecologies. Techno-ecologies focus on how different materialities - technical, biological and geologic - are entangled and affect to one another, while keeping matters of life and death, finitude and renewal at the forefront. The paper explores how alternative energy in the landscape materialises also traces of constitutive exclusions: of migrant labour, toxicity, and community, together with differing ethico-politics. The investigation proceeds through ethnographic observation, interviews with scientists and community representatives, and the production and exhibition of photographs by Roma women of the place that draw attention to a range of energy infrastructures: solar fields, uranium pumps and military remnants. Showing how Roma bodies have been literally co-constituted by these infrastructures, and how the images materialise a practice of engagement in the form of silent witnessing and a refusal to forget that rupture an ethics of indifference and is at odds with science and technology studies' topical focus on citizen science, the paper asks: What kind of techno-ecological worldings, pasts and futures, and forms of response-ability (Haraway) appear in these encounters, and what might this mean for feminist technoscience engagements?

What if? What then? What now? Diffracting broken hearts

Author: Stine Willum Adrian (Aalborg University)  email

Short Abstract

By use of auto-ethnography this presentation inquire into socio-technical imaginations of technologies to end or save lives with congenital heart defects. This methodology is both a diffractive reading, and a call for a situated feminist ethics of reproductive technologies of broken hearts.

Long Abstract

Born with only half a heart, a congenital heart defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), my firstborn died 9 years ago. While processing the grief, guilt and shame that was part of the experience of loosing a child, the questions: What if?; What then?; What now? constantly returned to provoke new questions. These questions not only focused on the loss, but more so on the existing normalizations and values regarding the uses of technology to either end or save lives with congenital heart defects.

In this auto-ethnographic presentation, I return to these questions. I am curious to understand what socio-technical imaginaries (Jasanoff 2015) that are at play in the media and in the uses of life ending and life saving technologies of children born to HLHS in Denmark. The what if-methodology is in this regard a way of doing diffractive readings (Haraway 1997, Barad 2007) and a call for a situated feminist ethics of reproductive technologies of broken hearts.

Ethico-political Effects of an Accidental Bio-art

Authors: Choon Key Chekar (University of Leeds)  email
Ruth Holliday (University of Leeds)  email

Short Abstract

A Seoul cosmetic surgery created an unusual artwork for publicity purposes. This paper traces the controversial re-use of patients’ jaw bones in different stages of their life cycle, and asks if this work provoked ethico-political reactions to viewers about ethics of care.

Long Abstract

Amid the myriad images promoting innumerable types of cosmetic surgery, one particular photograph caused public outrage in South Korea in 2014. Two 60-centimetre-tall decorative glass towers, filled with bone removed from patients' chins - with each piece named with its original owner - had been displayed by a cosmetic surgery clinic in Seoul's Gangnam district, until the picture of the 'jaw bone towers' spread all over the internet, and the clinic received many complaints. This publicity material, intended to be positive, as proof of popularity and exceptional technique, was condemned by the press as bio-hazard that was neglectfully not properly dealt with. The scandal was resolved by the local authority: the towers were removed and a fine was levied on the clinic. Tracing the pieces of bone from inside patients' body to the incineration process illuminates how the meaning and relationship of these bio-objects to society reconfigured - from being an integral part of a human body, to a waste item for disposal, to bizarre art piece and publicity material, to a catalyst of public discussion, then finally back to biowaste. Unlike numerous artistic attempts to bring public debate to the controversial issue of cosmetic surgery in Korea, this image was, unwittingly, a hugely successful bio-art piece, stirring heated debates about the ethics of care, versus a profit-driven beauty industry, human dignity versus invasive medical intervention. This paper asks if the accidental ethico-political effects of this object provide us with an opportunity to critically engage with the concept of biotechnological objects as juridical-civic-political subjects.

Enacting queer political fantasies of synchrony

Author: Nina Wakeford (Goldsmiths, University of London)  email

Short Abstract

A contribution to Feminist STS in which synchrony is addressed through tales of menstrual effects, the making of fake blood, and the act of singing.

Long Abstract

In 1971 a paper by Martha McClintock in Nature launched a longstanding debate about the ‘McClintock effect’ in which women who live in close proximity experience the onset of their menstrual cycles as increasingly synchronized. Analysing the menses onset of college women in shared dormitories, McClintock suggested the existence of menstrual synchrony pheromones, an idea that is largely dismissed by contemporary endocrinology.

This presentation will address the scientific debate about menstrual synchrony and the truth or fictions of oestrogenic hormones, but also explore the capacity of menstrual synchrony to speak to the affective life of group solidarity and the potential of collective passions. The conference contribution draws from a recently initiated project ”Queering Love/Queering Hormones” funded by the British Film Institute in conjunction with the Society for Endocrinology.

Song lyrics that attempt to develop affinities between feminist papers at the conference will be written for the panel. In a nod to another cultural arena which has a strong affinity with both synchronicity (sound and image) and blood, the lyrics will be distributed in parallel with a recipe for the making of ‘Kensington Gore’: a fake blood used in cinematic performance, developed by a retired British pharmacist in the 1960s.

Feminist Technoscience at the Urinal

Author: David Andrew Griffiths (University of Surrey)  email

Short Abstract

An analysis of the urinal as a technoscientific object, with reference to historical and contemporary activism - particularly exploring the role of urinating standing up in controversial intersex surgeries.

Long Abstract

Between 1 in 125 and 1 in 300 boys are born with hypospadias: that is, the opening of the urethra (urinary meatus) is not at the top of the penis, but somewhere further down the head or shaft, or on the scrotum. If this is noticed at birth, this often leads to surgical 'correction', or 'hypospadias repair'. Intersex activists have for decades argued that these and other surgical interventions on children with atypical sex anatomies are cosmetic, not medically necessary, and non-consensual - in stronger terms 'infant genital mutilation'. One of the traditional justifications has been the supposed importance of urinating standing up for boys' development. This paper will focus on a key site for this performance of masculinity: the public urinal. Seeing the urinal as a technoscientific object with a specific history, I will trace its invention and role in the increasing industrialisation and urbanisation of Western countries. The toilet is one of the last public sites of strict gender segregation, and one where this segregation is expected and enforced. Tracing some of the different groups that have historically fought for access to toilets and some of the contemporary activism and debates in this area, I will ask what the urinal's historical, social and technological role is in the maintenance of gender binaries. Furthermore, as a key site for the disciplining of male bodies, masculinity and heterosexuality, and one that causes widespread anxiety among adult men, I will question how it functions in justifications for early childhood surgeries.

Material Intimacies: the syringe, science and gender

Author: Nicole Vitellone (University of Liverpool)  email

Short Abstract

Can gender and the syringe be productively integrated into social research? Addressing the empirical problem of risk in intimate injecting relationships as a material feminist concern, this paper describes the theoretical and methodological challenges the syringe poses to thought, science and policy.

Long Abstract

This paper investigates the materiality of gender in intimate syringe sharing practices. My aim is to consider how gender and the syringe might be more productively integrated into social research and make interventions in public health policy. Addressing the problem of risk in intimate injecting relationships as a feminist concern I review the ways the category of gender and the object of the syringe have been used to account for the causes and effects of harm. Drawing on my own empirical findings on the biographies of the syringe, Karen Barad's work on intra-action and Marilyn Strathern's work on the gift, I show that what might be known in ethnographic and social studies of intimate syringe sharing need not be defined or determined by fixed analyses of the injecting human subject or injecting technological object. Instead, by engendering a critical intimacy with the syringe my method of material inquiring reveals gender to concern an entanglement with the object. In paying closer attention to the entangled processes of giving, receiving and sharing this paper confronts the theoretical and methodological challenges the syringe poses to thought, social science and public health policy.

Activism #Fail? Considering deafness in organisational processes of video meeting technology procurement at Swedish television.

Author: Rebekah Cupitt (Birkbeck, University of London)  email

Short Abstract

Activism in the field takes many forms and most researchers are prepared to care and become engaged. What happens if their engagement is in ways that don't count? This is an account of such an engagement at Swedish television's editorial for programming in sign language.

Long Abstract

What happens when the engagement and relations of care which a researcher has with those she studies with, is not that which is asked for? Further, what happens when this engagement is appropriated by those in power to legitimise their goals, sometimes at the expense of those very people, the anthropologist cares about? This paper takes up examples from fieldwork at Swedish Television's editorial for programming in Swedish sign language (SVT Teckenspråk) and gives an honest account of a researcher who was at first unable to deliver the kind of help expected only to later become co-opted into a procurement process that ultimately failed to consider those that mattered, in any way that mattered. The case under consideration is the procurement of video meeting technology for Swedish Television. The crux of the issue was the difference in demands communication in sign language versus Swedish. This became a deliberation of the requirements of the deaf employees contra the hearing employees. I offer here, a reflection through empirical examples, of one researcher's engagement with SVT Teckenspråk over a four year period of time and the ways in which I worked to put deaf needs in the workplace on the organisational agenda. I also offer a reflection over how working for and working with is significantly different and ask if the role of researcher as activist always matters?

When Care 'Matters:' The Use of Social Media in Gezi Movement

Author: Oznur Karakas (Open University of Catalunia)  email

Short Abstract

The presentation discusses the technological mediation in Gezi Movement through situated observations within the field and the discourse analysis of in-depth interviews with the activists so as to propose an ‘embodied’ account on how a general politics of care also governed the use of digital media.

Long Abstract

The literature on the 'Occupy' movements characterized by the occupation of and encampment in public squares is laden with accounts on the role of social media in the emergence of such mobilizations. Nevertheless, be it the logic of collective action (Bennett & Segerberg), aggregation (Juris) or networks of hope and rage (Castells), most of these accounts prove to be hyperbolic and sometimes over-generalizing regarding the significance of the use of social media in this new wave of social contention which otherwise makes use of a highly embodied action repertoire.

Inspired by the critical stance taken by feminist interventions in STS towards all types of 'disembodied' accounts on technological mediation, my presentation takes a critical distance away from accounts that overtly or implicitly see in occupy movements the materialization of otherwise virtual networks, thusly making invisible what characterizes the most such mobilizations: embodied and highly caring collective attempts to experiment on otherwise impossible encounters in the making-of alternative urban spaces.

I thusly analyze the use of social media in Gezi as a practice of 'care' and a 'solution' to the problem at hand based on observations in the field and a discourse analyses of 21 in-depth interviews with activists from different background with respect to the prevalence of care in the movement as an ethical and political stance, avoiding to be caught in either a technological euphoria on the potential of digital media to recruit virtual communities 'then to be' materialized in the squares or an unjust praise of willful 'human' action characterized by 'it's just a tool,' approach.

Towards a feminist reading of the activist drone

Author: Marcela Suarez (Freie Universität Berlin)  email

Short Abstract

This article argues that a feminist reading of the activist drone is necessary to make visible the human and non-human agencies, the power relations that are mobilized, and the configuration of counter-realities.

Long Abstract

This paper analyzes the role of a specific technology, namely unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, in shaping public political participation and representation in social collectives. Drones are pilotless aircrafts operated by remote control or programmed autonomously by computers on the ground that carry a video camera. Although drones are mostly known for their military and commercial uses, however their civil and even political innovations are on the rise. In recent years, drones have promoted new forms of digital counter-culture, political action and representation. This paper seeks to analyze from a feminist perspective the specific practices of collective actors who, by means of drones, are mobilizing knowledge and public opinion, raising awareness, negotiating, partnering up, and contesting state and multinational companies. Drawing on digital politics and feminist technoscience literature, the paper will contribute to the dynamics of new media technologies literature and the politics of emerging collective orders. The methodological approach will be to conduct a digital ethnography in the social collective "Rexiste" in Mexico. Rexiste stages public interventions with the help of its so-called little sister 'Droncita' (which means a small female drone in Spanish). They use drone photos and videos to increase global awareness about the disappearance of persons, human rights violations, and criminalization of civilian protests.

Domestic Disturbances: Big Data, Activist Intelligence, and #blacklivesmatter

Author: Beth Coleman (University of Waterloo)  email

Short Abstract

This paper looks at activist engagement of Big Data (social, locative, etc.) toward the making visible of racist bias in recent events in the lives of black Americans that have developed into the collective activist network of #blacklivesmatter.

Long Abstract

This paper draws attention to messy aspects of the ubiquitous computing paradigm (Anzelmo, Dourish and Bell, EPoSS), calling on examples of activist reappropriation of informational streams. Specifically, I look at the located engagement of Big Data (social, locative, etc.) toward the making visible of racist bias in recent events in the lives of black Americans that have developed into the collective activist network of #blacklivesmatter. In the this framework, I look at case studies to discus activist interventions in harnessing ubiquitous computing data toward local insurgencies that render legible often hidden inscriptions of white supremacist hegemony. I look at the purported "Ferguson effect" in terms of citizen production of forensic data around police brutality as well as activist use of social media (Fagan). These instances of the reorganization of Big Data tools toward social justice ends mark unexpected, located activisms in places that are not on the imagined map of the techno-utopic futurism of ubiquitous computing. They are domestic disturbances that make themselves visible through the energy of local activisms, framing social justice in terms of FTS issues of race, gender, and other complex phenomena (Reardon).

Solving the Gender Digital Divide through Social Theatre: Where Is Technology's Agency?

Authors: Adriana Gil-Juárez (Universitat Rovira i Virgili)  email
Joel Feliu (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)  email

Short Abstract

As gender is reproduced, negotiated or resisted in relation to technology we present a Social Theatre play where performing femininity appears as somehow incompatible with technical expertise in computing and we discuss whether the piece adequately represents the different tangled agencies involved

Long Abstract

Male dominance of technology is enacted in most everyday life situations, therefore, dependence, vulnerability, invisibilisation and exclusion of women ensue from this persistent association between technology and masculinity. Having this in mind we helped design, in 2013, an Action Research project that could contribute to reduce male dominance in the computing field. Young women Computer Sciences undergraduates told us their personal technological trajectories and their narrations inspired a Social Theatre piece which recreated their experiences with technology. The play shows different daily life situations related to the gender digital divide, where a girl is confronted to different oppressions perpetuated by her antagonists. During the play participants can think of these situations, discuss them and try to correct them by replaying them. This allows different strategies in front of oppressions to be rehearsed in a secure space, where errors can be made with no consequences. A space emerges where new forms of confronting conflicts related to technology are negotiated and new gender performances may appear and may pave the way to other possible citations of gender. During the session we will present extracts of the play and ask some questions to be discussed. Why, during the play, only people have agency and not technology? Is our relation to technology a personal matter solvable by simply changing our ways of performing it? Is the concept of empowerment, which sustains Social Theatre, misleading us? Are the oppressed the responsible for their own liberation, isn't that accusing them of complicity with their own oppression?

Feminist interventions and everyday struggles for the protection of Forest Sámi cultures against "environmental friendly" power production and other colonial and racist technoaggressions

Authors: May-Britt Öhman (Uppsala University)  email
Petri Storlöpare  email

Short Abstract

Highlights the everyday struggles of Henrik Andersson, a young Forest Sámi reindeer herder for Sámi culture against ongoing industrial exploitations and the threat of wind power and is also a Feminist/Indigenous technoscience challenge of colonial Swedish politics where Sámi voices are excluded.

Long Abstract

Representatives of the Swedish state commonly present Sweden as being in the global front regarding democracy, human rights and environmentally sustainability.

Meanwhile the Swedish state is performing genocide against its Indigenous people.

State supported/encouraged industrial exploitations such as mining, hydropower, forestry, windpower, militarization, roads and railroads is increasingly environmentally destroying Sámi territory, endangering the future for Sámi reindeer herding as well as all other Sámi traditional and local livelihoods.

A more than century long aggressive colonial racist policy has taken and continues to take its toll on Sámi communities and individuals as well as other local inhabitants. However, the Sámi have never given up.

This presentation provides insight into the everyday struggles of Henrik Andersson, a 35 year old Forest Sámi and reindeer herder of Gällivare Forest Sámi village, CEO of his own company where he also works with the building of traditional Sámi timber corals and goatje.

Andersson has worked with the strengthening of reindeer herding and other Sámi traditions since young age. A film and research project collaboration involving Andersson, filmmaker Petri Storlöpare and Dr. Öhman (also Forest Sámi), puts focus on the one hand Andersson's daily struggles to protect the important forests and lands for reindeer herding, in particular against the threat of wind power constructions by the state owned company Vattenfall and the private Vasavind. On the other hand the presentation is one out of Öhman's many Feminist/Indigenous technoscience interventions, challenging the colonial and racist Swedish energy politics where Sámi voices are strategically excluded.

Refiguring childbirth: the logic of maternity care and the logic of women's reproductive choice in Taiwan

Author: Li-Wen Shih (Taipei Medical University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper aims to explore Taiwanese maternity care practice. It will focus on Taiwanese women’s experience of childbirth in hospital, and how these experiences affect women’s reproductive choices.

Long Abstract

This paper aims to explore Taiwanese maternity care practice. It will focus on Taiwanese women's experience of childbirth in hospital. Women's experience of maternity care has been one of the main concerns in feminist technoscience studies. Many feminists criticize the dominance of the obstetric knowledge and practice with its medical interventions, while others focus on women's need for women-centered maternity care. To go beyond these discussions, this paper conducts fieldwork in Taiwan in order to provide an account of women's experience of childbirth. Since 1995, most prenatal and intrapartum care in Taiwan has been provided by obstetricians. In 2014, the Taiwanese Health Department announced an 'enhancement pilot on humanization of birth' in six hospitals in Taiwan in an attempt to find ways of reducing the increased medicalization of care. Based on empirical data, interviews, participant observations in the hospital and drawings from participants describing what childbirth is for them, this paper discusses how Taiwanese maternity care is practised after midwifery has been introduced to the obstetric ward, how women experience this, and how these experiences affect women's reproductive choices. Inspired by Annemarie Mol's (2008) work on the logic of care and also Charis Thompson's (2005) ontological choreography, this paper employs their material-semiotic approach to trace actors in the maternity care network. It will focus on understanding the logic of the maternity care practice, and on how women's body as a mediator is rearticulating and reshaping professional discursive practices.

Rethinking the Materiality of Hormone Treatment Risks: A Trans/Feminist Approach

Author: Sari Irni (University of Turku)  email

Short Abstract

This paper shows how trans persons account for hormone treatment effects and risks and problematize the conventional medical understanding of risks as pertaining to chemical effects within bodies.

Long Abstract

Hormone treatment is conventionally understood to consist of matters such as pills, patches or injections that have chemical effects in bodies. From this perspective, the materiality of risk is regarded as confined to potential adverse effects of pharmaceuticals within individual bodies. By discussing Finnish trans persons' accounts of hormone treatments this paper contributes to a rethinking of both the materiality of risk and how gender figures as part of the effects and risks of hormone treatments. The majority of this study's trans participants perceived the risks of hormone treatment as related to the healthcare system rather than to the pharmaceuticals' effects per se. Based on this result, and drawing from feminist histories of hormone treatments, trans/feminist studies and material feminisms, this paper argues that hormone-treatment risks can be seen as phenomena that materialise contextually within particular 'treatment apparatuses' and the power relations that saturate them instead of merely as chemical effects within individual bodies.

Obesity surgery, promissory technologies and technoscientific subjectivities

Author: Karen Throsby (University of Leeds)  email

Short Abstract

The dominant representations of obesity surgery mean that patients are not easily legible as technoscientific subjects. This paper focuses on the everyday experiences of patients, showing how post-surgical subjectivities are constructed and the technologies are enacted and transformed.

Long Abstract

Obesity surgery is an intervention of last resort that forcibly restricts the amount of food the fat body can consume and / or absorb with the goal of significant and sustained weight loss. In the dominant representations, obesity surgery is conventionally figured as a weight loss 'tool', rendering surgery as fixed and knowable and the fat body as unreliable and liable to failure. These figurations confine our understanding of obesity surgery and its effects to moralising narratives of (non-)compliance. Consequently, while surgery and its associated devices (bands, staples etc) are easily conceptualised in technoscientific terms, its patients are much less straightforwardly understood as technoscientific subjects who are actively constituting, appropriating and transforming those technologies through their mundane embodiment of them.

Drawing on interviews with obesity surgery patients, ethnographic data from an obesity surgery clinic, and medical, policy and popular literature, this paper argues that obesity surgery is best understood as a 'promissory technology'. It is replete both with the hopeful promise of present resolutions to problematized fat bodies, and with the anticipation of future, less 'fleshy', genetic or pharmaceutical technologies that will render surgery obsolete. This paper focuses on the everyday management and experience of the surgically altered fat body as a means of exploring these conflicting promises. This illuminates the ways in which post-surgical, technoscientific subjectivities are constructed, resisted and maintained, and how the technologies of surgical weight loss themselves are enacted, transformed and remade in the process.

Yearning for Justice: The Politics of the Social in Technoscience

Author: Coleen Carrigan (California Polytechnic State University)  email

Short Abstract

This ethnography connects social justice aspirations, epistemic biases and labor segregation in technoscience to suggest that the yearning of underrepresented knowledge producers to reproduce collective well-being may inspire new possibilities for the creation and applications of technology.

Long Abstract

Emerging evidence suggests that social justice aspirations play a role in patterns of labor segregation in technoscience. Contributing to this growing body of scholarship, this paper draws on two ethnographic studies of underrepresented groups in technoscience within neoliberal institutions stratified by race, gender and class to explore the hierarchies of value between social and technical knowledge production. I investigate reigning ideologies that privilege empirical evidence over qualitative data and dismiss socially applied education and research. This epistemic bias, a cultural legacy of imperialist, capitalist patriarchy, shapes underrepresented scholars' perception that technoscience is detached from social concerns and lacks meaningful applications. While some underrepresented group members chose to divest their talents from technoscience fields, those who persist must navigate institutions that presume them less competent and demean their yearning to make a difference in society. I trace moments of rupture in my participants' stories, when and where they feel the tension between their own aspirations and the cultural norms of their disciplines, to excavate and interrogate the origins and purposes of exclusion in technoscience. My participants' lives, careers and aspirations not only challenge assumptions of who is allowed to participate, and what counts as knowledge, but also the false binary between reproductive and productive spheres. A focus on their yearning to contribute to the reproduction of the collective well-being of society may inspire new possibilities for interdisciplinary collaborations and institutional transformations that reimagine and reshape the purposes and applications of technology.

Casting a Feminist Eye on Public Infrastructure

Author: Sarah Fox (University of Washington)  email

Short Abstract

Drawing on feminist histories of activism in the Pacific Northwest and fieldwork in the Seattle Park Districts, we examine the infrastructure of public restroom maintenance and the distribution of hygiene resources.

Long Abstract

Drawing on feminist histories of activism in the Pacific Northwest and fieldwork in the Seattle Park Districts, we examine public restroom infrastructure and the distribution of hygiene resources. We discuss subtle differences to "customer convenience" across public restrooms, or "comfort stations," in public parks and community centers. When grassroots organizations begin to upend these systems through the collection and distribution of menstrual hygiene projects and by calling for gender-neutral restrooms, they also reorient whose resources are 'cared for' by the state. This discussion of public services and care serves as a foundation for collaborative field interventions examining the local maintenance practices on public infrastructure meant to redefine the infrastructure of access for people with limited resources, and highlight what Marilyn Strathern (2005) calls partial connections, or the partnerships constituted across difference. 

Biosensors: experience of self and world from 19th Century travel writing to contemporary fitness tracking

Author: Kate O'Riordan (University of Sussex )  email

Short Abstract

Contemporary biosensors give rise to networked assemblages: the paper draws on 19th century women’s letters and diaries to situate them in relation to processes of mediation over time, and trace the connections and disconnects between these historical and contemporary forms of mediation.

Long Abstract

Biosensors: experiences of self and world from 19th century travel writing to contemporary art and science (or Data Romanticism: subjects, selves and mediation)

Contemporary biosensing devices from lifestyle electronics like Fitbit to biomedical insulin detection instruments have been taken up widely and across a range of user groups including: patients; those associated with the Quantified Self; heath promotion and fitness consumers; artists; designers; and industry R&D. These devices, their interfaces, data infrastructures and flows, give rise to biodigital assemblages, or networked bodies, in the contemporary idiom of the networked society. However, these are far from seamless and give rise to frictions, resistances and disconnections as well as facilitating data flow. In situating these I draw on late 18th and early 20th century women's letters and diary writing to examine these devices in relation to processes of mediation over time. Those historical attempts to document and connect self and environment combined technologies of travel, text and dissemination, with material practices and imaginaries, and brought them together through the idiom of printed texts. With biosensors, they share colonializing impulses and forms of exploitation as well as sense making about the world. The paper traces the connections and disconnects between these historical and contemporary forms of sensing, self care, ritual, experience, fabulation and fabrication to examine the specificity of biodigital subjectivity and contemporary biosensing.

This paper is proposed in tandem with submissions from Caroline Bassett, Maureen McNeil and Joan Haran - with Sarah Kember as suggested discussant - under the theme of 'Looking differently: unexpected places as feminist method'

Not Even There: Understanding early Automation Scares through FTS approaches

Author: Caroline Bassett (University of Sussex)  email

Short Abstract

The obliteration of feminist perspectives in early debates on cybernation/ automation render them unlikely sites of feminist analysis. But using FTS methodologies tension around technological transition is related to human divisions - and their supposed surpassing through the advent of automation.

Long Abstract

A gathering of 'experts' where no feminists were on the panel, where women's expertise in living 'leisured lives' post-work, was derided by many, and set aside as irrelevant to the burning issue of politics and the post work society by a leading (female) philosopher, looks like an unpropitious site for research into feminist interventions around early cybernation and automation debates. One contemporary feminist who did speak (Friedan) was 'not even there' according to the conference organizer. The point was cybernation and social justice to come. Not women and their transitional 'rights'.

Two reasons not to turn away: (i) The conference was significant - encapsulating the response of the organized left, civil rights movement, unions, nascent technological leftists, and others, to the 1960s cybernation scare. (ii) To grapple with media archeological questions arising in computational histories, forms of feminist theorizing - interventions into archaeological thinking - are crucial.

Here feminist technoscientific analysis - specifically situated positionality and inter-sectionality - is undertaken to consider the first cybercultural conference, held in New York in 1965, accessed using archived, re-found, and interview material.

The intention is to understand why the insights of women were so thoroughly expunged from the debate, to consider the distinct and overlapping treatment of race and sex/gender questions and to investigate the critical political stakes of a long-standing tension; that between (justice and) processes of technological transition and hoped for end results. I note this tension looms large in the revived automation 'scares' of today.

Earth Activist Training as feminist, multicultural, antiracist technoscience project

Author: Joan Haran (Cardiff University)  email

Short Abstract

Since 2001, Starhawk, an ecofeminist activist has been teaching Earth Activist Training courses combining permaculture design with a focus on activism and spirituality. How might we understand Earth Activist Training as a “feminist, multicultural, antiracist, technoscience project” (Haraway 1994: 61).

Long Abstract

Since 2001, Starhawk, a feminist environmental and social justice activist has been co-teaching Earth Activist Training (EAT) courses which combine teaching on permaculture, a systems design approach to regenerative agriculture, with a focus on activism and spirituality. According to the EAT website: "Permaculture has many tools to address the problems of climate change and environmental degradation, and our courses focus on solutions and positive approaches to the grave problems which confront us today". In this paper, I explore the ways we might therefore understand Earth Activist Training as a "feminist, multicultural, antiracist, technoscience project" (Haraway 1994: 61).

Earth Activist Training courses bring together mainstream technoscience, indigenous, lay and local knowledges. Feminist and anti-racist critiques are incorporated in accounts of the social and environmental injustices the training is designed to empower its students to help redress. The course emphasis is on active, participatory and experiential learning, but conventional lecture modes are also employed. Drawing on my own experience of participating in an EAT course, as well as online accounts of EAT's mission, I think through the tensions and contradictions inherent in bringing together knowledge systems with such radically different genealogies and affordances.

EAT's ambitious mission statement includes the goal of "cross-pollinating the political, environmental, and spiritual movements that seek peace, justice and resilience", but might this cross-pollination be undermined by epistemological (or cosmological) dissonance? Alternatively, might this dissonance be productive if it is allied with a commitment to collective exploration of where technoscience and indigenous knowledge (for example) converge and diverge?

Egg freezing: new technological reproductive 'choices' and corporate 'freedoms'

Author: Maureen McNeil (Lancaster University )  email

Short Abstract

This paper will explore the emergence of new technological choices being offered to women in the form of access to egg freezing for ‘social’ reasons. It will also consider the significance of corporate sponsorship (Apple and Facebook, 2014) of this technological reproductive choice and pathway.

Long Abstract

This paper will explore the emergence of new technological choices being offered to women in the form of access to egg freezing for 'social' reasons. It will also consider the significance of corporate sponsorship (Apple and Facebook, 2014) of this technological reproductive choice and pathway. The extension of this practice has been described as 'the best fertility insurance policy', a technological intervention which can 'stop women's biological clocks', 'giving women reproductive choice or control' and as an 'empowering tool'. Moreover, recent corporate sponsorship elicited the assessment that 'thousands of women in the tech industry are likely to take this option'. This paper will investigate what precisely is being offered to women through this technological option both corporeally and socially, and it will trace the forms of investment it entails. It will ask: What are the benefits and risks of this practice? How might it alleviate or intensify reproductive/fertility anxiety? What is at stake in the extension of this technological practice? Who stands to gain from this? This paper will also place this emerging technological practice in a broader context: juxtaposing it with other recent developments in technological reproductive control and situating it with reference to related technological practices. Methodologically and theoretically, the paper will examine notions of 'technological choice', technologically enabled 'reproductive freedom' and high-tech workplace cultures.

Once more with feeling; emotion, agential realism and affective choreography in transformative STS research

Author: Ardath Whynacht (Mount Allison University)  email

Short Abstract

Drawing from diffractive research/creation practice, this poem/paper explores emotion as a territory in which agential cuts (Barad, 2007) take place in collaborative and community-based STS research that seeks to transform the entanglements of vulnerable people with 'expert' knowledge systems.

Long Abstract

As feminist STS scholars, how can we account for violence; for harm; for marks on bodies (Barad, 2007) in ways that acknowledge the materiality of emotional experience? If feminist practice leads us to collaborative relationship-building with communities, how can we performatively engage with each other to intervene at the point at which agential cuts are made? Drawing from diffractive research/creation practice, the author situates this paper in a broader project of feminist intervention with marked bodies (Barad, 2007) in contact with expert knowledge systems. This piece is a reflection on a much longer-term project of collaborative art-making and intervention into forensic neuroscientific knowledge with women who self-harm, and explores how feminist technoscience theory and the new materialism can provide a framework in which transformative entanglements can take shape. Shifting the choreography between marked bodies and expert knowledge requires consideration of the ways in which agential cuts are made in lived experience. Diffractively reading feminist work on emotional labour (Hochschild, 2012; Ahmed, 2004), feminist STS (Tallbear, 2015; Haraway, 1997) and disability studies (Mauldin, 2014; Nicki, 2001) simultaneously, we are able to articulate the complexity of the entanglements between our vulnerabilities and the technoscientific systems that shape them. This paper provides a case study in embodied activism that is rooted in agential realism (Barad, 2007) and suggests ways in consideration of emotion in feminist technoscience can catalyze relationship building with vulnerable publics in prisons, hospitals, community care institutions, experimental research projects and secure youth facilities.

Feminist technoscience perspectives on New Big Science

Author: Kerstin Sandell (Lund University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper approaches New Big Science from a feminist technoscience perspective. My focus is designing instruments for experimentation. I will engage in the stumbling block of representation, in how to pose questions using feminist theory of science and show how the desire of justice gets derailed.

Long Abstract

Currently I am studying the realization of two large-scale experimental natural science facilities: The European Spallation Source (ESS) and MAX IV (a synchrotron facility). They are examples of New Big Science (NBS) - facilities where substantial amounts of resources and hopes are tied to making future scientific discoveries. Both facilities will host more than 20 different instruments, catering for a diverse user community from mainly physics, chemistry and biosciences. More precisely I study the design process of the instruments, where promises are to be turned into experimental realities.

In this paper I explore the fruitfulness and pitfalls of using a feminist technoscience perspective in studying these facilities, that are part of what Sharon Traweek call "culture of no culture". I will explore three ways in which feminist technoscience can be mobilized in my studies.

Feminist theory of science questions - this is where I always claim that I start out. But what does it mean to turn feminist theory of science questions into ethnographic explorations in NBS?

Representation - gender as representation seems to be eternally on the agenda in STEM: there are always too few women. In my project the topic of representation seems to be a stumbling block, or a way of just kicking in open doors.

The derailed desire for justice. In this section I will explore how the question of justice seems to constantly displace me from my field site into areas of promises and policy.

Gender politics and synthetic biology: Practice, practitioners and potential

Author: Pablo Schyfter (The University of Edinburgh)  email

Short Abstract

Synthetic biology remains an unsettled field without clear boundaries or typical practitioners. I examine the building of identities in synthetic biology: identities based on disciplines with consequential differences in gender politics. I study the gendered making of ‘the synthetic biologist.’

Long Abstract

Synthetic biology has captured great attention and funding due to its practitioners' bold and loud pronouncements of finally delivering 'authentic' engineering with biology. It is also a field that enrols many disciplines with radically different gender politics. Research consistently finds that biology and engineering have the highest and lowest percentages of women practitioners, respectively. Such polarity is a result of dissimilar histories and ongoing assumptions about the disciplines and their members. Simply stated, engineering has been and remains thoroughly masculinised, whereas many fields in the biological and medical sciences are (comparably) open to women.

Alongside the birth of disciplines, identities are created and policed: synthetic biology and 'the synthetic biologist' are being built in concert. In this paper, I attend to the gendered making of disciplinary and personal identities. Practitioners' quest for engineering authenticity has set established engineering fields as disciplinary exemplars. So too might the authentic synthetic biologist be rendered in the form of the authentic engineering: as a masculinised subject.

Disciplinary and personal identities remain unsettled and contested in synthetic biology. As such, potential exists to study the making of a new person—the synthetic biologist—and expand our understanding of a field with elevated weight and standing. Moreover, potential exists to help shape a new technoscientific field with gender politics better than those of most science and engineering today, and to demonstrate to synthetic biologists the responsibilities they have to each other.

Every day I'm hustlin': On being a Feminist STS scholar

Author: Anna-Lena Berscheid (University of Paderborn)  email

Short Abstract

This paper seeks to show, analyze and reflect my several roles as Feminist STS scholar doing research and intervening in a male-dominated technoscientific environment. My aim is to exchange with engaged colleagues on how to handle those roles in my every day and scientific work.

Long Abstract

According to Jutta Weber, Feminist Technoscience Studies are not only an analytical or theoretical, but also an explicitly political project seeking "to question techno-pragmatic and hegemonic forms of rationality and the dominant logic of efficiency" by "showing and analyzing the on-going co-construction of gender, science, and technology" (Weber 2006, 411).

This contribution establishes on these remarks by reflecting on my own work: I want to show and analyze my 'social ownership' as (1) member of a graduate school concerned with the subject of hybrid lightweight materials, (2) doing an (feminist) ethnographic research about this very same graduate school and its members and (3) being one of only two women in this environment.

I consider my work not only as an analysis of the socio-material practices in a transdisciplinary field where mechanical engineers, physicists, chemists and industrial agents meet, but also as a means to "bring" (Feminist) STS-knowledge into technoscientific environments: I try to intervene, to break up traditional ideas of "real" science, gender roles or the social construction of technology in various ways (which is no easy task, but an important and innovative thing to do in my opinion).

My wish is to 'use' this track as opportunity to fruitfully reflect on the several roles I occupy that 'other' me in my every day work. As I am a PhD student new to the field, I seek for an exchange with other active and/or more experienced colleagues and hope to find new insights for my empirical and "interventional" work.

A project-based learning experiment in feminist pedagogy

Author: Peter Taylor (University of Massachusetts Boston)  email

Short Abstract

This presentation provides a compressed experience of project-based learning (PBL) as implemented in a course on gender, race, and science, co-taught four times for the Boston-area Graduate Consortium on Women’s Studies.

Long Abstract

This presentation provides a compressed experience of project-based learning (PBL) as implemented in a course on gender, race, and science, co-taught four times for the Boston-area Graduate Consortium on Women's Studies. Evaluations of the course document a tension between initial discomfort and subsequent appreciation: "you might think you aren't sufficiently grounded by the course [but] being on the other side of it now, I see it works out beautifully." Teaching the course has nudged us to explore this and other tensions that run through PBL teaching what makes pedagogy feminist, and the challenge of drawing students into developing their own narratives about how to learn without a sequence of texts assigned by a teacher to dictate the logic of learning. The project to be explored in this presentation raises all these issues for session participants to explore and share. Handouts with links to webpages will provide the details about PBL and the course that might have been covered in a conventional presentation.

More than one way to solder a circuit: The politics of skill-sharing

Author: Ellen Foster (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)  email

Short Abstract

There is more than one way to solder a circuit, and in turn to teach technological engagements. this presentation invokes critical pedagogy, Haraway’s “situated knowledges” (1991), and Harding’s “standpoint epistemologies” (1993) to rethink maker skill-sharing endeavors.

Long Abstract

Recognizing that there is more than one way to teach soldering and circuitry (with or without flux, or even with conductive ink, conductive thread, and copper tape), this presentation invokes Haraway's "situated knowledges" (1991) and Harding's "standpoint epistemologies" (1993) to rethink simple skill-sharing endeavors in hackerspaces and makerspaces. It will explore ways in which the oft overlooked practice of skill-sharing in maker, hacker, and fixer communities harbors politics, having impact on who feels welcomed, involved, and "empowered" in workshops and in communities of practice.

Calling into question the constructivist attitude that learning-by-doing is the key to success for each and every student, this research hopes to explicate the ways in which technology and the technical are often presumed positive and a-political in these contexts. It queries, how do particular discourses and unquestioning acceptance of ways in which to enact technological knowledge impact students and their views of the world? In turn, how do these discourses and non-critical mindsets affect the type of technologies created and knowledges highlighted? Pulling from feminist and critical pedagogy scholarship (hooks 1994; Boler 1998), this research further examines alternative ways in which to enact skills that do critique the knowledge imparted -- how it is used, how it might be used differently along lines of gender/race/class, and how it manifests politics.

Using research that engages both traditional interviews and participant observations, as well as experimental methods critically engaging the act of work-shopping, the presentation of this research will be multi-modal and experimental.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.