Gender and race in relation to social structuredness and interpretation of science

This post begins by categorizing into three levels the gender dimensions of social structuredness in relation to science and technology.  (Equivalent levels can be articulated for differences that refer to race, ethnicity, or Euopean descent vs. other othernesses.)

1)  Under-representation of women in science and in technological design; Obstacles to and underrecognition of their contributions; Possibilities for women’s standpoint to address aspects of the world underrecognized by men.

2)  Biases in knowledge and technologies that claim to represent progress, efficiency, or other universal interests, but in practice promote the unequal social status of men over women.

3)  The pervasiveness of gender-like dualisms in which one category is subordinate to the other and complex spectra are purified into dichotomies; The suppression of ways these conceptual schemes are troubled by multiplicities and hybrids.

This taxonomy is extracted from from Taylor (2005), where I noted that almost all the researchers in the cases covered in the book are men of European descent.  That observation invites stretching (or critique) of my work in relation to the gendered or racialized dimensions of science.  At the same time, the perspective of heterogeneous constructionism developed in the book may stretch (or complement) feminist and anti-racist interpretations of science and technology.  From the perspective of heterogeneous constructionism, some of the resources that are mobilized in establishing specific knowledge or technologies will be drawn from the different levels of structuredness (above).  But it is implausible that all the resources would derive from gendered social structuredness, let alone from only one of the three levels.  The challenge becomes to analyze the ways that diverse resources are linked over time by knowledge-makers in particular constructions and to act on the basis of such analysis (Taylor 2005, Chapter 6, section C).  A very significant source of resources has been the existence of a feminist movement(s) based on a broader set of social and personal  concerns, which continues to bring attention to issues about science and technology on all three levels (Keller 2001).



Keller, E. F. (2001). “Making a difference: Feminist movement and feminist critiques of science,” in A. Creager, E. Lunbeck and L. Schiebinger (Eds.), Feminism in Twentieth-Century Science, Technology, and Medicine.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 98-109.

Taylor, P.J. (2005) Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement (U. Chicago Press).


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