Programme

(T051)
Feminist Postcolonial STS
Location 133
Date and Start Time 02 September, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 4

Convenors

  • Anne Pollock (Georgia Tech) email
  • Sandra Harding (UCLA) email
  • Laura Foster (Indiana University) email

Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

We invite empirical and theoretical contributions feminist, postcolonial, and STS analysis. This track seeks to generate new networks and conversations to interrogate the dis/connections across these three fields and to establish what might loosely be called a feminist, postcolonial, STS approach.

Long Abstract

What is the value of thinking through feminism, postcolonialism, and science and technology studies? Feminist theory has been influential in STS since the founding of the field, and over the past fifteen years, STS as a field has become increasingly attentive to knowledge-making and technological practices in postcolonial sites. Yet there is much work remaining to be done to bring feminist, postcolonial, and STS insights into conversation as intersecting fields of inquiry. At a moment in which some feminist technoscience theory is increasingly moving its attention toward the molecular scale, the postcolonial (and its Latin American decolonial sibling) can provide a call to remember macro forms of power and to interrogate modes of science by other means. At the same time as the postcolonial addresses the co-constitution of science and the postcolony, feminist theory attends to how these new forms of power shape and are shaped by unequal social relations of gender, sexuality, and race. Each of these fields on their own - feminism, postcolonialism, STS - have distinct theoretical and political projects but they remain limited. This open panel therefore invites papers that make empirical and theoretical contributions to all three of these urgent sites of feminist, postcolonial, and STS analysis and praxis. It seeks to generate new networks and conversations to interrogate the connections and disconnections across these three fields and to establish what might loosely be called a feminist, postcolonial, STS approach.

SESSIONS: 4/5/4/4

This track is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Colonial Legacies, Postcolonial Biologies

Author: Banu Subramaniam (UMass Amherst)  email

Short Abstract

The paper explores the contestations around Section 377 and how the histories of science and religion in India can help us understand the enduring power of colonial legacies of sexuality.

Long Abstract

Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code of India was introduced into India in the 19th century during British rule and still remains law in contemporary India. Section 377 criminalizes sexual activities that are "against the order of nature," outlawing behavior considered perverse. In recent years, the section was both deemed unconstitutional by the Delhi High Court, whose ruling was subsequently overturned by the Supreme Court, leaving it as the law of the land. Here I explore the contestations around Section 377 and how the histories of science and religion in India can help us understand the enduring power of these colonial legacies.

Decolonizing methods in transdisciplinary projects of (Bio-)Diversity?

Author: Marion Mangelsdorf (Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg)  email

Short Abstract

Following the theoretical approach of 'situated knowledge' regarding the interdisciplinary 'manufacture of knowledge' I want to discuss the transfer of this approach in transdisciplinary contexts of (Bio-)Diversity – asking how varieties of knowledge practices can be taken equally seriously.

Long Abstract

Questions of diversity are present in environmental sciences and gender studies, as in diversity of flora and fauna in the former, and amongst people of different ethnicities, genders, ages or status in the latter. From an inter- and transdisciplinary perspective, both fields deal with the challenge of how to fostered (bio-)diversity - mostly even against a general trend towards monocultures in environmental and social systems. How can we develop specific practices of 'doing nature' and 'doing gender' that do justice to the heterogeneity of living creatures as well as to the diversity of social forms of expression in various contexts? To address this question, research on the distinctive needs and knowledge cultures of different people, groups and their diverse natural environments is required. Therefore - as Linda Tuhiwai Smith and Kim TallBear empathize - decolonizing methodologies and recognizing indigenous knowledge cultures is a basic task.

But, what does ist mean to decolonize methods? Even in the field of (feminist) eco-sociology, where the intersection of biological as well as social conflicts are present, it's unclear how varieties of knowledge practices can be taken equally seriously. The (self) reflectional approach of 'situated knowledge' - developed inter alia by Sandra Harding, Donna Haraway and Patricia Hill Collins - is helpful to reflect - quoting Karin Knorr-Cetina - the 'manufacture of knowledge'. Moving along these theoretical approaches and along experiences in the field of 'participatory action research' (PAR), which promises answers to these questions on a methodological level, I discuss the (de)colonizing aspects of a 'manufacture of practices and tools'.

Modern Cosmologies: Postcolonizing STS through Magical Realism

Author: James Malazita (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)  email

Short Abstract

Magical Realist literature can strengthen new materialist movements in Feminist STS. STS's strength in critiquing epistemic cultures can be applied reflexively to STS itself, and transform STS understandings of the role fetishism, social construction, and the world play in the creation of meaning.

Long Abstract

Magical Realism is a postcolonial literary style, strongly associated with Latin America, that challenges Western colonial ontological orientations--notably, the dualistic separation of the mystical world from the material one. While much of postcolonial theory and literature seeks to combat the material and cultural forces that oppress imperialized lives and bodies, magical realism seeks to legitimize the cosmological orientations of marginalized peoples by treating mystical events and worlds as truths, rather than as fetishized fictions.

Responding to the provocations of Philippe Descola, who critiques the tendency for social scientific analysis to adhere to "a particular kind of Eurocentrism, which consists in believing not that the realities that humans objectivize are everywhere identical, but that our own manner of objectivizing is universally shared," this talk argues that insights from magical realist literature can strengthen current ontological movements in feminist STS, particularly the materialisms and posthumanisms of Karen Barad and Rosi Braidotti. Through textual analysis of the discourse of Western scientists, engineers, and designers, this talk will extend Bruno Latour's observations that the Modern consciousness is far from rational or empirical, and that the Modern cosmological orientation towards science and technology is itself a kind of magical realism. In so doing, this talk will argue that STS's strength in critiquing Western epistemic cultures can be applied reflexively to STS itself, and transform social scientific understandings of the role fetishism, construction, and the world play in the creation of meaning.

Studying Down to Study Up, Sideways and Through: Positionality and Power in Feminist Postcolonial STS

Author: Logan Williams (Michigan State University)  email

Short Abstract

Attention to Nader's call to Study Up leads a feminist postcolonial STS scholar to consider her multi-dimensional positionality when conducting a multi-sited global ethnography in the global south.

Long Abstract

Science studies scholars often "study up" to high tech elites who produce and design scientific knowledge and technology. Methodological tension begins when you pair a desire to study down to less economically developed countries, with the desire to study up to high tech elites within them. This becomes further complicated when the ethnographer and her informants share professional interests and credentials. In these situations, the position of the ethnographer trained in the global north differs in comparison to her informants living in the global south. The researcher may be perceived as an "economic elite" and has high status because of geo-political privilege. However, the researcher is neither a "high tech elite" nor a local "cultural elite". How might such a researcher successfully access and navigate field sites imbued with these unseen power differentials?

This reflection methodology piece has the goal of drawing attention to this phenomenon as it exists across the global north/south divide of power while providing some strategies of how ethnographers trained in the global north might successfully and ethically access high tech elites in the global south. Commitments to policy-relevant global ethnography and to democratizing field practices as part of feminist (or engaged) ethnography are briefly discussed.

Biogenetic Belonging: Genetic Ancestry Testing in South Africa

Author: Laura Foster (Indiana University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper argues for a feminist postcolonial understanding of genetic ancestry testing in South Africa through a politics of belonging where simultaneous and contradictory narratives of biogenetic sameness, difference, and relatedness are deployed in the re-fashioning of the nation.

Long Abstract

STS scholars have given much attention to race and genetics - examining how genomics can reinforce race as biological (Marks 1995, Cooper, Kaufman, and Ward 2003, Duster 2003, Bolnick 2008) through technologies of admixture mapping (Rajagopalan and Fujimura 2012, Fullwiley 2008); genetic ancestry testing (Palmié 2007); patent ownership (Kahn 2008); and the inclusion of racial categories generally even as such research purports to be anti-racist (Reardon 2005, 2012, Bliss 2012, Pálsson 2012). Such insights are extremely valuable, but they can sometimes bolster quick assumptions that genetic ancestry testing inevitably reinforces race as biological.

Alternatively, through examining a 2007 genetic ancestry testing program in South Africa called the Living History Project (LHP), this paper asks how the LHP articulated narratives of biogenetic sameness and difference to fashion individual and collective belonging to South Africa through notions of race as both biological and social. Specifically, it charts the precise mechanisms by which LHP organizers sought to shape a postapartheid genome through subject recruitment and informed consent. In doing so, it draws upon feminist postcolonial scholarship that both theorizes the contradictions of marginalized subject positions under postcolonial conditions and emphasizes a critical feminist politics of belonging grounded in difference, sameness, fluidity, and relationality. In the end, this paper argues for a feminist postcolonial technoscience understanding of the LHP within a politics of belonging where simultaneous and contradictory narratives of biogenetic sameness, difference, and relatedness are deployed in the re-fashioning of the South African nation-state in both promising and problematic ways.

Rethinking the "Nature" of Sexuality: The Scientific Evidence for Homosexuality in Uganda

Author: Jia-Hui Lee (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines key reports on homosexuality published by the Ugandan Ministry of Health before passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Considering the production of scientific knowledge about sexuality in Uganda offers theoretical insights for feminist science studies of the global South.

Long Abstract

Since 2009, Uganda has come under international scrutiny for attempts to criminalize homosexuality. Scholars have analyzed homophobia in Uganda as products of a (neo)colonial regime of power (Hoad 2011), as a key part of transnational religious organizing (Hassett 2007), and as a contestation of Western human rights norms (Lee 2016). Just weeks before Yoweri Museveni, Uganda's president signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law, he commissioned the Ministry of Health to assemble a panel of scientists to evaluate whether homosexuality has "natural causes." Museveni would later describe the scientific study in his national address as providing solid proof that homosexuality does not exist "by nature" and can hence be criminalized in the name of protecting Uganda's moral order. Drawing on methodologies from feminist science studies (Haraway 1991; Harding 2008), this paper reviews the expert opinion offered in the "Ugandan Ministry of Health Scientific Evidence on Homosexuality Reports" (2016) as a critical case study of the production and interpretation of scientific knowledge on sexuality in Uganda. The paper provides an account of how sexuality is understood scientifically in Uganda and situates "the nature of homosexuality" within a wider context of increasing homophobia in sub-Saharan Africa. It contributes to a toolkit of interrogating the intersection between science and politics beyond Western liberal democracies. Finally, it offers a few theoretical implications for doing feminist science studies in postcolonial contexts and from the South, building on a recent turn to focus on theory emerging out of the global South (Law 2015; Comaroff and Comaroff 2012).

How are Asian Indian faculty members perceived in the US? Examining Stereotypes and Cultural Values

Authors: Meghna Sabharwal (The University of Texas at Dallas)  email
Roli Varma (University of New Mexico)  email
Elissa Colich (University of Texas at Dallas)  email

Short Abstract

Given the increasing presence of Asian Indians in US academia, a question of importance is: What cultural values do these groups of people bring to their work and what stereotypes are they faced with?

Long Abstract

Currently in the United States there are close to 3.1 million Asian Indians representing approximately 1% of the US population and 20% of the total Asian population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2013). Furthermore, about three-fourths of the Asian Indian population in the US are foreign-born. The academic sector in the U.S. relies heavily on the contributions made by foreign-born scientists and engineers, especially of Asian origin. Given the increasing presence of Asian Indians in US academia, a question of importance is: What cultural values do these groups of people bring to their work and what stereotypes are they faced with? Participants for this study are 51 Asian Indian scientists employed in 18 research universities across the US funded through a NSF project. Individuals rely on stereotypes in their everyday interactions, and often times these stereotypes are subtle or inherent. Negative stereotypes usually perpetuate prejudice and positive stereotypes (e.g. with model minority myth among Asians) may also have a negative impact on the group. We will examine both the positive and negative stereotypes encountered by Asian Indians in US academia alongside their cultural values that have a major influence on everyday work. Preliminary findings show that our participants believed in the meritocracy of the US system and were protected from discrimination based on their educational qualifications, work ethic, and hard work. Interestingly, several thought of Indians being stereotypical of others. A number of faculty members characterized the "casteism" in India as worse than any stereotype they have encountered in the US.

Monitoring immigrant integration: the reproduction of 'European Others' and imagination of national societies

Author: Sanne Boersma (Erasmus University Rotterdam)  email

Short Abstract

This paper is an ethnographic study of the monitoring of 'immigrant integration' at social scientific institutions and networks in various West-European nation-states and shows how 'European Others' are reproduced and consequently a national society is imagined.

Long Abstract

This paper aims to bring together the fields of STS, postcolonialism and feminism through an empirical study of the monitoring of 'immigrant integration' in West-European societies. On the basis of ethnographic fieldwork at social scientific institutions and networks in the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and the UK, the paper first of all focuses on how practices of monitoring are to be held accountable in constituting "European Others" in West-European national societies (El-Tayeb, 2011). Second it shows how monitoring makes plausible these national societies through epistemic formulations and interrogates in particular how "anxious practical epistemics of race" are still at work today in professional practices (Stoler, 2008). Empirically the paper examines classification systems including categories such as 'second generation' or 'people with migration background', which show a reproduction of European Others who are mostly born within Europe. Also it questions the seemingly 'neutral' standards in the background of survey questions on for instance religion and modern views. I argue that these practices amongst others enable difference-making, i.e. the production of 'self' and 'other', hence producing postcolonial West-European societies. Rendering observable European Others through monitoring immigrant integration legitimizes who does or does not belong to 'society'. 'Society' I argue is not to be understood as something 'out there' but as being continually reproduced and imagined through knowledge-making and technological practices such as monitoring.

Women and the Urban Sanitation challenge: A technofeminist approach towards urban infrastructure planning in cities of East Africa

Author: Anshika Suri (Technical University of Darmstadt)  email

Short Abstract

Sanitation infrastructure is often determined by engineering, environmental and public health concerns that are often far removed from women’s needs. Hence a technofeminist perspective within urban infrastructure planning can be used to understand technologies as immersed in systems of power.

Long Abstract

Sanitation infrastructure is often determined by engineering, environmental and public health concerns that are often far removed from women's needs, their socio-cultural practices and existing gender constructs. In addition, the failure to involve women in the design of infrastructure facilities results in inappropriate standards and technological artefacts.

While extensive research exists on gender and sanitation focused on hygiene and health, it fails to capture the magnitude and scope of gender-based disparities, how women's human rights fit into different development strategies and an inherent lack of gender equality in accessibility of sanitary infrastructure. Previous feminist scholarship in science and technology studies has theorized the relationship between gender and technology as mutually shaping technological innovations through the social circumstances within which it takes place. Hence, a technofeminist perspective within urban infrastructure planning can strengthen investigation into access to sanitation provision as not just a technological problem but as technologies immersed in systems of power.

In this paper, I aim to investigate the inclusion of public infrastructure under the taxonomy of systems of oppression of women through the perspective of urban and infrastructural development issues in the Global South. By using data collected through qualitative semi-structured interviews conducted in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi with female residents of informal settlements, city planners and governmental actors, I highlight how urban and infrastructural planning processes lack the inclusion of a technofeminist perspective. Preliminary conclusions reveal that inadequate access to sanitation infrastructure may be propelling fear of violence which is further accentuated through the planner/user divide.

A Synthetic Chemistry Site for Feminist Postcolonial Theorizing

Author: Anne Pollock (Georgia Tech)  email

Short Abstract

This paper combines empirical ethnographic attention to a specific site of postcolonial science -- a synthetic-chemistry based drug discovery company in South Africa -- and theoretically-driven feminist analysis attentive to technoscience materialities.

Long Abstract

This paper combines empirical ethnographic attention to a specific site of postcolonial science and theoretically-driven feminist analysis attentive to technoscience materialities. It draws on ethnographic research at iThemba Pharmaceuticals, a small South African company founded in 2009 with the mission of finding new drugs for TB, HIV, and malaria. The synthetic chemistry methods employed at this site are similar to what might be done at a well-equipped lab anywhere in the world, yet I argue place matters - not only for the scientists involved, and for those interested in global health and postcolonial science, but also for feminist engagement with matter. In this paper, I focus on the place-specificity not of the company's drug discovery ends, but of its synthetic chemistry means. Intellectual property can exist in abstract forms, but to become pharmaceuticals, it must be materialized in particular infrastructures that are unevenly distributed in space. These spaces are always already part of a network, in part because synthetic chemistry makes ample use of commercially-procured "intermediates," rather than starting from first principles. Unlike drug discovery efforts based on bioprospecting or traditional knowledges, the potential for an ingredient to be locally-made is a practical concern for a synthetic-chemistry based firm, rather than a marker of African authenticity. There are additional resonances here: since the term "synthetic" is often used as an antonym for "natural," synthetic chemistry is a fitting object for a cyborg feminism. More abstractly still: etymologically, "synthesis" derives from the Greek for "place together." Place signifies less autochthony than co-presence.

Tiny Feminisms: Decolonizing Building Sciences in the Do-It-Yourself Tiny House Movement

Author: Evangeline (Vange) Heiliger (Oberlin College)  email

Short Abstract

I argue that tiny house builders would benefit from a greater engagement with feminist / decolonial /STS knowledge production, not only in the building sciences, but also in histories of racism, genocide, sexism, ableism, classism, and dispossession that inform their larger social justice goals.

Long Abstract


The Do-it-Yourself Tiny House Movement (DIY THM) calls for rethinking human needs and collectivizing building practices to address intersectional economic, environmental, and housing justice concerns. The DIY THM pushes back against institutional scientific norms through shared engineering experiments and building practices. Yet calls by tiny homers to "return" to an era of smaller living ignore modernist projects that have provided differential access to larger homes along lines of race, gender, class, disability, and employment. This erasure misses opportunities to promote intersectional structural changes in housing, debt, and economy. I use Roy's articulation of "asking different questions" and Tuhiwai Smith's decolonizing methodologies as starting points for a decolonial feminist STS understanding of building sciences within the DIY THM. I engage feminist science studies, decolonial feminisms, feminist political economy, and feminist materialisms to understand how tensions are negotiated through the intimate, embodied labor of salvaging materials and sharing engineering knowledge to build tiny homes on wheels.

The "turn towards tiny" recalls Sara Ahmed's argument not to reify "new" materialisms, nor to forget existing feminist work in all its complexity. I argue that the Tiny House Movement would benefit from a greater engagement with feminist knowledge production, not only in the building sciences, but also in the histories of racism, genocide, sexism, ableism, classism, and dispossession that inform the THM's larger social justice goals. In making these claims, I draw on discourse analysis of tiny house websites; survey results; and preliminary research conducted at tiny house building workshops in the USA.

When gender and technology matter in a data journalism startup

Authors: Candis Callison (University of British Columbia)  email
Mary Lynn Young (University of British Columbia )  email

Short Abstract

Drawing on ethnography and grounded theory, this paper explores how professional journalists’ systems of knowledge, power, and expertise are interrupted and re-articulated in a digital journalism collaborative startup owned and operated by women.

Long Abstract

This paper examines what happens when gender matters in a journalism startup that focuses on the production of data journalism. We problematize journalists' established systems of knowledge production, specifically, in this case, how professional expertise and values are interrupted and re-articulated in a digital journalism collaborative startup owned and operated by women. We are particularly interested in the relationship between the sociotechnical and organizational context, and we argue that new journalism startups informed by gender adapt vernaculars, methods, and approaches to journalism and digital technology that expose broader configurations of power (Callison, 2014; Küng, Picard and Towse, 2008). Feminist media studies scholars have made significant contributions to our understanding of gendered representations, organizational contexts, professional labeling and identities as well as material labor environments inherent in the traditional journalistic mission (Young, 2005; Byerly, 2011; Robinson, 2005; Van Zoonen, 1998). Our contribution lies in bringing a feminist STS approach alongside as the relationship between gender, technology and journalism is relatively underdeveloped, relying on relevant yet existing disciplinary approaches such as gendered norms and practices (Appelgren and Nygren, 2014; Young and Hermida, 2014). We employ ethnographic methodologies and grounded theory to explore how journalists engage in a system of co-produced power, knowledge, and expertise (Faulkner, 2009; Haraway, 1997; Jasanoff, 2004; Wynne, 2008) that has significant consequences for women's access to emergent professional identities and media ownership, and the ongoing evolution of methods and models related to data and collaborative journalism (Gillespie, Boczkowski & Foot, 2014).

Health at her fingertips: development, gender and empowering mobile technologies

Author: Marine Al Dahdah (Paris Descartes - Sorbonne University - IFRIS)  email

Short Abstract

This communication examines health programs that are using mobile phones to improve maternal health in the developing world. Thanks to gender, post-colonial and STS studies, we would like to offer a critical analysis of those new devices using mobile phones to “empower” women in the Global South.

Long Abstract

As soon as you start working on development programs that are targeting women, "gender" becomes a pervasive and inescapable term. If you look into it from a post-colonial feminist point of view or from the international development agencies perspective, "gender" holds very different meanings that may be controversial. Development programs that are using mobile phones to improve maternal health in "poor-resources" settings make visible a particular entanglement of gender and technologies. They offer to make up for gender inequalities by using an "empowering" tool for women: the mobile phone. This proposal contains an objectified vision of the techno-gender relationship embodied in mHealth. By mobilizing feminist, postcolonial and STS studies, I offer a more dynamic analysis of the techno-gender relationship at stake in mHealth devices. This particular study will use empirical data collected on a global mHealth program deployed in Ghana and India. My analysis will situate gender at the intersections of other forms of power and domination and will show how those sociotechnical artefacts have generated, displaced or transformed power relations in a different way in South-Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. This intersectional multisited analysis will help us to explain how mHealth devices negate the multifactorial dimension of gender inequalities but also how those global assemblages are silently renegotiating gender power relations.

Germline Ruptures: Methyl Isocyanate Gas and Transpositions of Life, Death, and Matter in Bhopal

Author: Deboleena Roy (Emory University)  email

Short Abstract

As MIC continues to exert reproductive health effects in Bhopal, the surrogacy market is growing in this city. Tracing the breakdown of Bhopali survivors’ reproductive bodies due to MIC exposure, this paper explores MIC as a catalyst for the placental migration of transnational biopolitics.

Long Abstract

As methyl isocyanate continues to exert its effects on the reproductive biology of women, men, and children in Bhopal, remarkably, there is a growing market of in vivo human labor developing in this city that depends precisely on the promissory futures made possible by the remaining potential for reproductive value that exists in this very same population and location. By tracing the breakdown of Bhopali survivors' reproductive bodies, their chromosomes, and their bodily fluids due to MIC exposure, and by simultaneously examining the embryonic development of new fetal bodies through genetic materials and proteins provided by surrogate women, my aim is to explore the compound MIC as a catalyst for the placental migration of transnational biopolitics. By conducting an analysis of these entanglements and ruptures - genetic, reproductive, and otherwise - my hope is to contribute to interdisciplinary conversations between feminist science and technology studies (STS), postcolonial STS, and new materialisms.

The Politics of Reproductive Rights and Assisted Reproductive Technologies in South Korea

Author: Sunhye Kim (University of Maryland)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines how the feminist postcolonial STS approach can be a valuable tool to analyze the use of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) in South Korea through legal and social discourse analysis and in-depth interviews with infertile women, medical professionals, and governmental personnel.

Long Abstract

This paper examines how the feminist postcolonial STS approach can be a useful tool to analyze the use of ARTs in South Korea. Its demand has been rapidly increasing as people are delaying childbearing. The average age of South Korean women giving birth for the first time is 31.5 years, and infertility related to delayed pregnancies is the major factors in the growth of IVF treatments. Initially criticized as a dangerous technology because it disrupts the concept of the traditional Korean family system and ideology, ARTs has gained a positive meaning as a hope technology for infertile women, aided by the South Korean government's provision of IVF subsidy programs since 2006. This research aims to discover what cultural, social, technological, and legal factors justify and promote the use of ARTs in South Korea by analyzing the related legal and social discourse and conducting in-depth interviews with infertile women, medical professionals in IVF clinics, and governmental personnel. This paper argues that the Korean use of ARTs cannot be fully understood without the an analysis of the postcolonial context of South Korea because ARTs developed under the international population control regime in the 1960s and 70s and expanded by the aspiration of Korean nationalists who believe the biotechnology revolution in South Korea can be an opportunity to 'catch up' or surpass the Western hegemony. Lastly, this paper addresses how the concept of reproductive rights in the field of ARTs can be claimed beyond western centered pro-choice discourse.

Reproducing Inequalities: Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) Promotion and the Urgency of Feminist Postcolonial STS

Authors: Patrick Grzanka (University of Tennessee)  email
Jenny Brian (Arizona State University)  email

Short Abstract

Though celebrated as the magic bullet solution to unplanned pregnancy, long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) promotion represents a complex social problem that necessitates an integrative feminist postcolonial STS critique and intervention.

Long Abstract

Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) methods, including the intrauterine device and the implant, have recently become the favored contraceptives of many legislators, health policy advocates, healthcare providers, and consumers in the contemporary United States. They argue LARC is an affordable, reliable, and safe means by which to reduce rates of unplanned (teenage) pregnancy and abortion; however, reproductive justice advocates suggest that LARC promotion reconstitutes eugenicist policies that target society's most vulnerable populations. For example, fifteen U.S. states currently encourage immediate post-partum LARC insertion for Medicaid recipients, who are disproportionately low-income women of color. In the face of institutional pressures, scientific debates about LARC's safety and efficacy, and cultural ideas about contraception, pregnancy, and family formation, individual social actors must negotiate whether LARC is indeed the "magic bullet" promised by public health advocates. LARC promotion - a contemporary form of technoscientific population control - represents a nexus of complex inequalities that invokes historical injustices shaped by the intertwined, intersecting histories of settler colonialism, scientific racism, heteropatriarchy, and nationalism. In this paper, we situate LARC promotion as a public health crisis that necessitates feminist postcolonial STS intervention. We articulate the exigency of such an intervention by exploring both the efficacy of an intersectional approach that incorporates insights from each of these domains while underscoring the limits of any one-dimensional approach that elides how White supremacy, nationalism, and heteropatriarchy co-constitute LARC technologies, policies, and practices. We emphasize the capacities of postcolonial feminist STS to interrupt rather than merely describe the heterogeneous consequences of LARC promotion.

Nourishing relations: feminist postcolonial STS approaches to global health

Author: Ramah McKay (University of Pennsylvania)  email

Short Abstract

Drawing from feminist STS approaches to care, and postcolonial theorizations of medical governance, this paper explores the forms of distribution, expertise, and relation that emerge out of global health circuits in Mozambique.

Long Abstract

Over the last ten years, new donors and partners have emerged in Mozambique's global health fields, evoking discourses of "south-south solidarity" and global health alternatives to describe and enact projects of pharmaceutical development and distribution. Ethnographic accounts of global health projects have emphasized how transnational circulations of money, medicine, experts, and patients produce new practices of subjectification and self-making. This paper explores how global health goods are incorporated into projects of care and control within and beyond the health clinic. Drawing from feminist STS approaches to care, and postcolonial theorizations of medical governance, this paper explores the forms of distribution, expertise, and relation that emerge out of global health circuits. Attending to the forms of relational distribution that accompany global health - whether material resources such as medicine and food, or the forms of authority and expertise that accompany of research and treatment - the paper suggests that feminist approaches to science and technology in the postcolony can illuminate how relational practices make possible new forms of professional and biological life. Such approaches are particularly attuned to the collectivities - as kin, partners, colleagues, friends - through which care is delivered, and to the relational futures that they enable. Yet these futures often extend beyond and at times subvert the caregiving and medical aims of global health projects.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.