Call for Proposals
Mimicry in Metabolism(s): Industrial Chemicals, Synthetic Hormones, and Unruly Bodies
Oslo 13-14 Feb 2020
Endocrine disrupting chemicals as well as synthetic hormones interfere with and alter human and nonhuman metabolisms. Endocrine disrupting chemicals have been identified as potentially harmful to reproductive health, though discussions are deeply rooted in "medicalised understandings of the body and normative gender identities" (Lee & Mikitiuk 2018). Certain synthetic hormones, however, act as support for the coming into existence of non-binary and non-cisgender positions. Key to all these mechanisms is the potential of some chemicals and synthetic hormones to mimic processes on the endocrine level.
Therefore, this workshop takes the concept of mimicry as a starting point for a productive cross-disciplinary discussion on hormones, chemicals and affected bodies in "late industrialism" (Fortun 2012). Mimicry and mimesis are key concepts within philosophy and biology to engage with phenomena like imitation, camouflage, adaption and deception. As relational concepts, they cut across conventional boundaries and demarcations such as original/forgery, real/copy, nature/culture or life/technology, connecting or disrupting presumed spheres of difference, such as biology and culture (Maran 2017). Broadly used in the life sciences the concept can be found in a variety of disciplines. For the purpose of this workshop, (post)colonial and queer-feminist engagement with mimicry is of particular importance. Here, the notion of mimicry is equipped with a critical perspective on power relations. Correspondingly, mimicry as a concept but also as a practice needs to be understood as embedded in power relations and, to that effect, simultaneously a result of as well as a threat to hegemonic power (Bhaba 1984). It is about questioning naturalized binary notions of gender, about performative enactment without reference to an original or authentic, an "imitation without origin" and "parodic proliferation" (Butler 1990). On paving the way for these movements of thought, it is possible to overcome fixed dichotomies and, for instance, to examine environmental harm without relying on heteronormative assumptions or predefinitions of what counts as a "normal body" (Agard-Jones 2013; Davis 2015).
Different from classic approaches of environmental anthropology and risk management, this workshop takes a polluted world as a starting point (Liboiron et al. 2018). It asks for the temporally uneven "chemical infrastructures" of late industrialism (Murphy 2013). Expanding the social studies of synthetic chemicals and their harmful effects toward the analysis of sex and environment as co-constituted (Ah-King & Hayward 2013), this workshop examines the multiplicity of social practices of chemical mimicry that engage with ambivalences and contradictions, opening up for broader aspects of intoxication, environment and the gendered and sexed body.
Against this background, we would like to highlight the following topics and questions:
1) How can we know hormone mimicking substances? What are the various forms of knowledges (artistic, activist, scientific, etc.) and imaginaries at stake to engage with hormone mimicking substances in the (more than human/ other than human) body and the environment?
2) What are possible intersections of queer politics and environmental justice? How can we avoid a fallback into heteronormative concepts of gender and bodies while simultaneously taking into account the diverse inequalities in exposure to harmful chemicals?
3) What are possibilities of seizing or appropriating technosciences on reproduction and toxicology? And to which end? What are the practices in place and the politics at stake?
The intention of the workshop is to bring together social anthropologists, toxicologists, science and technology studies (STS) scholars, Do-It-Yourself (DIY) and hacker movements and popular culture. It will gather work in gender and postcolonial studies and other disciplines on synthetic biology engaging with the concept of mimicry.
We invite contributions in a range of formats (short presentations, panel inputs, artistic research formats). Please submit an abstract of 150 words to [log in to unmask]
by 15 November 2019. Confirmed participants will be asked to precirculate a position paper before the workshop.
Limited financial support for participants without funding is available.
Franziska Klaas, SAI, UiO
Susanne Bauer, TIK, UiO
Agard-Jones, Vanessa. "Bodies in the System." Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism 17, no. 3 (42) (November 1, 2013): 182-92
Ah-King, Malin, and Eva Hayward. "Toxic Sexes-Perverting Pollution and Queering Hormone Disruption." O-Zone: A Journal of Object Oriented Studies 1 (2013).
Bhabha, Homi. "Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse." October 28 (1984): 125-33.
Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble. 1st ed. New York: Routledge, 2006.
Davis, Heather. "Toxic Progeny: The Plastisphere and Other Queer Futures." PhiloSOPHIA 5, no. 2 (2015): 231-50.
Murphy, Michelle. "Distributed Reproduction, Chemical Violence, and Latency." S&F Online. (2013) Accessed September 27, 2019. https://sfonline.barnard.edu/life-un-ltd-feminism-bioscience-race/distributed-reproduction-chemical-violence-and-latency/.
Fortun, Kim. "Ethnography in Late Industrialism." Cultural Anthropology 27, no. 3 (2012): 446-64.
Lee, Robyn, and Roxanne Mykitiuk. "Surviving Difference: Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals, Intergenerational Justice and the Future of Human Reproduction." Feminist Theory 19, no. 2 (August 1, 2018): 205-21.
Liboiron, Max, Manuel Tironi, and Nerea Calvillo. "Toxic Politics: Acting in a Permanently Polluted World." Social Studies of Science 48, no. 3 (June 1, 2018): 331-49.
Maran, Timo. Mimicry and Meaning: Structure and Semiotics of Biological Mimicry. Biosemiotics. Springer International Publishing, 2017.
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