The NeuroGenderings Network

The NeuroGenderings Network is a transdisciplinary network of ‘neurofeminist’ scholars who aim to critically examine neuroscientific knowledge production and to develop differentiated approaches for a more gender adequate neuroscientific research. Feminist neuroscientists generally seek to elaborate the relation between gender and the brain beyond biological determinism but still engaging with the materiality of the brain.

History

In March 2010, the Center for Gender Research at Uppsala University, Isabelle Dussauge and Anelis Kaiser in particular, launched the first international and transdisciplinary NeuroGenderings workshop NeuroGenderings: Critical Studies of the Sexed Brain, in order to make available a platform for the exchange between neurofeminist scholars. This conference, funded by the Swedish Research Council, as part of the excellence program GenNa: Nature/Culture and Transgressive Encounters, and by the Body/Embodiment Group at the Center for Gender Research, brought together experts from different disciplines to identify theoretical and methodological strategies for social scientists, cultural scientists and neuroscientists to engage with radical, intersectional feminist and queer studies of the brain.

The NeuroGenderings Network was born at this meeting. The NeuroGenderings Network was born at this meeting. Attendees at that meeting included Anelis Kaiser, Isabelle Dussauge, Sigrid Schmitz, Deboleena Roy, Hannah Fitsch, Cynthia Kraus, Rebecca Jordan-Young, Catherine Vidal, Cordelia Fine, Emily Ngubia Kessé, Raffaella Rumiati, Iris Sommer, Kathrin Nikoleyczik, Marianne Regard, and Iris Sommer; most of this group continued to engage as the original core group for the Network.

The international network of scholars represent a broad range of disciplines such as neuroscience, the humanities, social and cultural studies, gender and queer studies, feminist science studies, and science and technology studies. Their research focuses on a variety of issues pertaining to gender and the brain; their goals include evaluating the current state of neuroscientific methods, findings, representations, and interpretations of empirical brain research (neurofeminism), initiating dialogue across disciplinary borders, and developing detailed and enriched approaches for neuroscientific analyses (feminist neuroscience). Moreover, the NeuroGender Network aims to develop concepts for more reflective debates in education and in all social spheres (an approach we call neuropedagogies). The Network published first joint findings in a special issue of the journal Neuroethics, entitled “Neuroethics and Gender” (for an overview, see Dussauge & Kaiser 2012b).

The network grew after its second conference, entitled “NeuroCultures—NeuroGenderings II,” which was held at the University of Vienna from 13–15 September, 2012. At the conference, NeuroGenderings scholars discussed the impacts of neuroscientific research on gender constructions in socio-political and cultural fields (and vice versa) and analyzed the social and political underpinnings of the ongoing cerebralization of human life. The volume Gendered Neurocultures: Feminist and Queer Perspectives on Current Brain Discourses (Schmitz & Höppner 2014) brings together diverse analyses of scientific knowledge production focusing on sex, gender, and the brain and offers insight into gendered norms that frame current neurocultures. It also demonstrates how some of these norms could possibly be transformed while others tend to persist in scientific and popular discourse. The volume, finally, presents novel concepts for incorporating gender-appropriate neuro-pedagogies in teaching and social discourse.

The NeuroGender Network is an heterogenerous group of scholars; this heterogeneity is the basic prerequisite for the inter/transdisciplinary connections to the neuroscientific field, informs the perspectives on neurosciences and current neurocultures, and their concerns for the theoretical assumptions and implications tied to these issues. As a consequence, though the group’s knowledge production (as all scientific knowledge productions) follows some underlying themes, others are not necessary shared and remain more controversial (Kraus 2012b). Differences of opinions and approaches were highlighted at the NeuroGenderings III conference, titled “The 1st International Dissensus Conference on Brain and Gender,” held on May 8–10, 2014 in Lausanne (Switzerland) and organized by Cynthia Kraus and Anelis Kaiser.

The Neurogenderings Network has organized two additional conferences since then. The first took place at Barnard College, on March 18-19, 2016, and was organized by Rebecca Jordan-Young, Deboleena Roy, and Gina Rippon. The theme of the conference, “What Counts as Evidence?” was a continuation of the dissensus meeting in Lausanne. The meeting challenged the question of collaborations within the group, as members have often radically different orientations towards data. It provided a space to exchange information on how to read across different forms of evidence and develop a variety of methods to address common challenges that are faced by and/or directed towards feminist neuroscience research. Indeed, the conversations initiated some new collaborations, which were later published in a peer-reviewed special issue for Scholar & Feminist Online, published in Spring 2019 (all contributions are available at http://sfonline.barnard.edu/neurogenderings/).

The second, and last, conference took place at the Lorentz Center in Leiden, The Netherlands, on March 2-6, 2020, and was organized by Katherine Bryant, Hannah Fitsch, Anelis Kaiser, Annelies Kleinherenbrink, and Mal Pool. The aim of this conference was to explore how the concept of interdisciplinarity and intersectionality, inspired by black and people of color scholars, could be integrated in the Network members’ work; the conference was therefore titled “Intersectional Analysis of the Sexed/Gendered Brain.” A related, although separate, Frontier Issue on Challenges of Interdisciplinary Research in the Field of Critical (Sex/ Gender) Neuroscience, edited by Hannah Fitsch (Technical University of Berlin), Flora Lysen (University of Amsterdam), Suparna Choudhury (McGill University, Montreal), will be published at the end of the year.