Slow Seminar no. 45

Promiscuous Hormones

2018.05.28 | Mia Korsbæk

Date Wed 22 Aug
Time 13:00 15:00
Location Moesgård Alle 20, 8270 Højbjerg, 4215, 032

This AURA Slow seminar will be led by post.doc at Aarhus University Victor Cova and AURA PhD student Katy Overstreet.

Hormones are the new chromosomes: they are used as the ultimate marker of gender to ground power inequality in a supposedly unchanging nature. We want to propose a different picture of hormones as promiscuous, both in the sense that they transgress boundaries of gender, species and morality, and in the ways that they animate sexuality beyond the requirements of reproduction. At the same time, as mere chemical messengers, hormones may help us enter conversations around the plasticities of bodies and the potential to re-signify gender and sexual norms. They appear in our fieldworks as key to processes of cattle artificial insemination and transgender indigenous body modification. 

The readings for this slow seminar come from two very different genres: a chapter on endocrines and cognition from a textbook on "Animal Homosexuality" from a biosocial perspective, and a recent landmark of queer theory that is also part-memoir from a student of Derrida. There is widespread suspicion, if not pure indifference toward biological studies of homosexuality which appear too reductive naturalizing, and plain naive. Queer theory, on the other hand, has often been an easy target for ridicule by hard-nosed scientists, fluffy sophistry at best, sinister denial of reality at worst. Yet these two texts exemplify an inflection towards reconciliation from both sides. Poiani's textbook reflects a lot on the requirements of both human and animal sociality and includes a surprising interpretation of Foucault's History of Sexuality.

Preciado, who at the time still wrote as Beatriz, becomes his own test subject, meticulously documenting the effects of testosterone gel on his mood, libido, smell, muscle, voice, hair, while also recounting the history of hormone science and their regimentation by the state. Hormones therefore also enable a disciplinary promiscuity between queer theory, STS and biology, beckoning anthropology to join in on the fun. 

Here are some of the questions we hope you can help us think about:

- How do hormones help us think about animal sexuality beyond reproduction? Is there a place for eroticism, pleasure and sensuality in biology beyond functional explanations?

- How do hormones help us think about animal reproduction beyond sexuality? What are the parallels and differences in the use of hormones to control reproduction between humans and non-human animals?

- How do hormones transform landscapes? Which bodies become connected through reproductive infrastructures, human and animal, gone feral?

- How can we reconcile Poiani's ontogeny of animal homosexuality and Preciado's queer phylogeny of hormonal biopower? What form of historicity emerges from a careful consideration of hormonal promiscuity?"

Seminar