Gender Wars in Academia – Oh, But My Government Made Me Do It!

Ever since the President of Harvard Larry Summers on a sunny day in April 22, 2005 commented on sex differences between men and women and how they may relate to the careers of women in science the Heat has been On. Summers was forced to resign over the heat he drew upon himself. But the seminar at Harvard University was about the research on mind, brain, and behavior relevant to gender disparities in the sciences, including the studies of bias, discrimination and innate and acquired difference between the sexes. The Edge reports on one of the most vivid debates between Elisabeth Spelke and Steven Pinker – nurture vs nature in a battle between two great psychologists.

Further reading on the brain and gender

In Sweden gender troubles have been illuminated in many different fields and in general all large state organizations have equality plans to help facilitate a discussion and move toward less discrimination. But now the backlash is a fact: the universities of Lund and Göteborg have both in recent cases been the targets of policies implemented from above in order to secure a gender perspective on all research fields. People like Steven Sampson have raged against the idea of a gender certificate stating that it is a way of the feminist forces to issue their influence upon the rest of the university. And yes, surely it is an idea that is using the worst of leftist paternalistic strategies, but there is nothing principally bad with the idea of letting a power perspective influence research in various fields of the university.

But the question of the female brain and the strategies of erasing bias from our public sphere must be held at a reasonable distance from each other. You cannot make swift inference from a few MRI’s and connect it to an immediate policy decision where teachers at universities are forced to give equal time in the class room to males and females, as is the case in a recent report in Sweden. My view, as always, is that the cognitive research in this field must be expanded and the humanities must come closer to scientific knowledge. Science in turn must start a discussion of political bias in Academia in order to stop the slanted and patriarchal structuring in all forms of knowledge production and development.

An important point made by neuroscientist Melissa Hines when discussing gender/sex in the brain is that the once-established dichotomy between sex and gender is really impossible to sanction. Mainly because the supposition that certain aspects should be analyzed biologically (sex) and others socially (gender) is from a brain perspective wrong, the social brain and the physical brain cannot be separated.

Further reading to recommend:

Annica Dahlström one of the leading proponents of the nature assumption of gender says it all.

The sexual brain by Simon LeVay

Brain Gender by Melissa Hines

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Book about HUO’s Science Marathon Hits The Shelves

cover_dec9_2The most tenacious curator around – Hans Ulrich Obrist – moves his marathon project he started at The Sepentine a few years ago to a collaborative model with John Brockman, a New York based literary agent and publisher of into book form. People like biologist Ricky Dawkins, cognitive scientist Stevie Pinker and genome sequencer Craigie Venter have all been present at the ”Experiment Marathon” during 2007 and later in Reykjavik Art Museum, involving Olafur Eliasson as well. Over 100 figures from the art world and science have been involved and I will defintley try to get my hand on this one asap.

Until then watch videos from the Marathon.

Taggad , , , asks Hans Ulrich Obrist: What will change everything?


Demon curator Hans Ulrich Obrist

Demon curator Hans Ulrich Obrist

John Brockman, the science minded intellectual behind poses his annual query of 2009 to the demon curator Hans Ulrich Obrist. His response to the question ”What will change everything?” is laden with Wallersteinian utopics: 

In order to find a new sense of fulfillment, individually and collectively there will be a tendency towards increasing the number of de-commodified institutions. 

So Obrist tries to delineate a world system analysis based on the notions of de-commodification, proposed by political philosopher Immanuel Wallerstein. And although his text is ripe with Marxist rhetoric enough to make you dizzy, he compiles a great story of art, architecture and common culture that in his words blatantly have transformed the roots of thinking. The ideas that never were are just a way to draw a curved line between reality and the unrealised ideas holding it up. 

French artist Philippe Parreno, was also given the 2009 question to which he responded: 

Could we take the next step by breaking down the strict distinction between reality and fiction: NO MORE REALITY!

(I am not sure what he was smoking while writing this, but my guess is a pink colored toy penguin, bought at Palais de Tokyo. Mmm, raspberry!)

Jokes aside, others answering are Eric Kandel, Richard Dawkins, Terence Koh[!] and Frank Wilczek, check it!

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