Graduate Research Colloquium: Megan Reed (Sociology) and Tabea Cornel (History and Sociology of Science)

Wednesday, January 23, 2019 - 12:00pm

GSWS/APC Conference Room, Fisher-Bennett Hall, 3rd Floor

This location is ADA accessible

Megan Reed: Gender Scripts of the Upwardly Mobile in India: Intersectionality in the Global South
This study examines the relationship between social class and gender performance in Indian households by tracking changes in the household practice of female seclusion over time using a nationally-representative panel dataset. The results present evidence of “Sanskritization,” a process through which upwardly mobile households seek to legitimize their new class position through status performance which draws on the cultural framework of caste. This is done through the adoption of practices associated with the highest castes, in particular, the practice of female seclusion. Regression results reveal that upward economic mobility, as measured by relative wealth, is associated with increased practice of female seclusion. For these households, the cultural system which underlies caste serves as a more durable and stable basis for status claims-making than social class, despite the fact that their mobility is economic in nature. These results highlight the importance of taking an intersectional approach to gender in the Global South by showing how gender is employed to construct other forms of group identity, namely caste and class.
Tabea Cornel: Fixing the Plastic Brain: Testosteroneas a Bridge between Nature and Nurture in Hormonal Theories of Laterality
In the 1980s, Harvard neurologist Norman Geschwind and colleagues suggested that prenatal testosterone determines brain asymmetry, handedness, and a range of other physical, behavioral, and mental characteristics. Too much testosterone in utero, so the theory suggested, might be associated with left-handedness, disorders of the immune system, learning disabilities, psychiatric illnesses, ‘homosexuality’, and other non-conforming characteristics. This theory did not rest on experimental evidence. It was based on a review of hundreds of scientific studies, some of which were over 100 years old. In synthesizing the vast set of interdisciplinary literature, Geschwind and colleagues combined multiple incommensurable concepts of ‘the brain’. In particular, they mobilized contradictory notions of fixity (‘nature’) and plasticity (‘nurture’). They employed testosterone to bridge this epistemic divide, defining the hormone as a dynamic agent of change that only works in clearly circumscribed areas of the body in a strictly sexed/gendered way. This episode illustrates that the allegedly innocuous category of handedness can function as a proxy for sex/gender, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, as well as mental and physical dis/abilities. This insight challenges our concept of intersec-tionality and prompts us to include allegedly apolitical classifications into our considerations of governance, inclusion, and citizenship.

All are welcome. Lunch will be served.


Sponsored by
Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies Program