Neurogenderings III: The 1st International Dissensus Conference on Brain & Gender (CFP, Conference, Lausanne, 8–10 May 2014)



8-10 May 2014, University of Lausanne, Switzerland


In 2010, the conference NeuroGenderings: Critical Studies of the Sexed Brain  was held in Uppsala (Sweden).

It 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. Two years later, NeuroCultures — NeuroGenderings II  was organized in 2012 in Vienna in order to continue the critical engagement with neuroscience and particularly to address processes of gendering in today’s rapidly emerging “neurocultures.”

Behind these international and transdisciplinary meetings lies NeuroGenderings  (NG), a network which aims to elaborate innovative theoretical and empirical approaches for questions of sex/gender and sexuality for neuroscientists; to analyze the social and political underpinnings of the ongoing “cerebralization” of human life and especially of sex/gender, and to discuss the impacts of neuroscientific sex/gender research in sociopolitical and cultural fields. Some of these approaches can already be found in [2] and [24].

In cooperation with the network NeuroGenderings , the Laboratory of Sociology (LabSo) and the Institute of Social Sciences at the University of Lausanne will host a three-day conference entitled “NeuroGenderings III – The 1st international Dissensus Conference on brain and gender,” 8-10 May 2014 .

We encourage submissions from scholars and students from all domains in the humanities, in the social, biological and medical sciences, including clinical practice, to discuss current developments — and alternatives to the existing research trends, models and practices— in the areas of brain, sex/gender and sexuality.


The idea and interest of organizing dissensus  (rather than consensus) conferences were initially suggested [17] with two main objectives in mind. The first was to advance “dissensus studies” exacerbating through critical analysis the conflicting dimensions of social life, especially in relation to (neuro-)science, medicine, gender and society, thereby extending the STS tradition of controversy studies [e.g., 9]. From a dissensus perspective, controversies and conflicts are considered not as obstacles to be overcome before we can have a “proper conversation,” and build collaborations or bridges between science, medicine and society. Rather, they are conceived of as ordinary, even desirable, phenomena in the practices of “good science,” of alliance formation, and of democracy. The second objective was then to explore how a dissensus framework could be operationalized to do more robust empirical research, improve healthcare practices, and “bring the sciences into democracy” [see 19].

The third edition of the NeuroGenderings conference series inaugurates the first international “Dissensus Conference.” Like earlier NG meetings, this three-day event will focus on the dynamic and multidimensional relations between brain, sex/gender, sexuality, and society. It aims to foster productive exchanges by inviting all participants to make explicit the different, and sometimes diverging, perspectives from which we problematize and study these relations, their implications for the concerned persons, and the broader sociopolitical stakes involved in our respective studies. We would like to bring the participants to reflect critically on the ways in which we do, or should do, brain research, feminist and queer theory, as well as brain sciences studies to make them relevant for political minorities and society at large.

We are particularly interested in concrete discussions that clarify how we produce knowledge, blind spots and ignorance; the potentials and limits of our own inquiries compared to other concerns, perspectives and research areas; articulate alternative models for research on a multimorphic rather than a dimorphic male or female brain; make explicit the kind of (im-)proper objects, subjects, agency, (im-)possibilities for (self-)transformation, and social order that we presume and produce through our knowledge practices; contextualize these practices in light of broader sociopolitical stakes, controversies, conflicts, social movements, health and public policies to name just a few. Such a collective endeavor is meant to open up the possibility of formulating constructive critiques of the often problematic “neurosexist” assumptions [7] that underwrite brain science and politics, while at the same time inspiring new ways of collaborating and of doing empirical neuroscience — towards a feminist/queer neuroscience [3].

Contributions to these discussions are welcome in the following THEMATIC STRANDS :

1. Hands-on NeuroGenderings — queering the brain / queering neuroscience

Which alternative research designs and models for sex/gender and sexuality need to be implemented by feminist and queer neuroscientists so as to avoid determinism and other methodological defaults that reinforce sex differences more than anything else? What are the variables and statistical approaches to be used in order to carry out more robust empirical sex/gender research?; what kind of sex/gender research practices would enable us to transform the experimental process itself into a new form of critical intervention? [e.g., 3-4, 8, 10-11, 13-15, 18, 20, 26-27].

2. Feminist/queer brain science studies and “dissensus studies”

How should we best do feminist/queer brain science studies? With which theories, epistemologies, ontologies, ethics, tools, concepts, questions, objects, and methods?; which analyses of controversies and conflicts over brain, sex/gender and sexuality research are required for this purpose?; further elaborations and critiques of the dissensus framework [e.g., 1-5, 8, 12, 14, 16-18, 20, 22-27].

3. Interdisciplinarity and other modes of collaboration — for what?

Concrete discussions identifying convergences and divergences between neuroscience, feminist and queer theory, the social studies of neuroscience, and within each of these domains; analyses of the conditions of (im-)possibilities of articulating different perspectives, methods, disciplines, concerns, etc. [e.g., 1-4, 8, 12, 16-18, 20, 23, 25-26].

4. Neuroscience in relation to clinical research and healthcare practices

Analyses of the medical/clinical issues that frame brain research on sex, gender, and sexuality; uses of such research in clinical studies and healthcare practices; psychiatric/clinical neuroscience; psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy; drug research and clinical trials; epidemiology; psychiatric classifications (DSM, ICD, other); standards of care; implications for the concerned persons [e.g., 4, 10, 12, 16-17].

5. Neuroscience, ethics and politics

Sociological, historical, philosophical, ethical, cultural, etc. analyses of the broader sociopolitical stakes and related issues such as age, class, race involved in brain research on sex, gender, sexuality; implications for the concerned persons and society at large in terms of naturalization, discrimination, individual and group definition/formation, power relations, agency, etc. [e.g., 2-3, 7, 13, 16-18, 21-27].

6. Expert, lay expert, and pop uses of brain research

Social life of brain research outside the laboratory; neurocultures, neurolaw, neuroeconomics, neuroenhancement, etc.; public policies (education, health care, employment, equality, diversity, physical/personal integrity, etc.); brain-related activism; media; public understanding of neuroscience; pop neuroscience literature, etc. [e.g., 5-7, 21, 25, 27].

7. Other themes relevant to brain science studies and gender studies

Contributions to this conference can be submitted for oral presentation (20 min. paper) or for a poster presentation. Abstracts for papers/posters should not exceed 3000 characters (including spaces).

Please send your abstracts, along with a very short bionote, here, and indicate the strand in which you aim to present your paper/poster.

Deadline for submission: 1st October 2013 . The papers will be selected within a short time frame; confirmation by mid-October.

Cited references

[1] Bluhm, R., A. Jacobsen & H. Maibom, Eds. 2012. Neurofeminism: Issues at the Intersection of Feminist Theory and Cognitive Science (New Directions in Philosophy and Cognitive Science). Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan

[2] Dussauge, I. & A. Kaiser, Guest Eds, 2012a. Special issue entitled “Neuroscience and Sex/Gender.” Neuroethics 5(3).

[3] Dussauge, I. & A. Kaiser. 2012b. Re-Queering the Brain. In [1]: 121-144.

[4] Einstein, G. 2012. Situated Neuroscience: Exploring Biologies of Diversity. In [1]: 145-174.

[5] Fausto-Sterling, A. 2012. Sex/gender. Biology in a social world. NY & London: Routledge.

[6] Fine, C. 2008 [2006]. A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives. New York: W. W. Norton.

[7] Fine, C. 2010. Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference. New York: W. W. Norton.

[8] Fitsch, H. 2012. (A)e(s)th(et)ics of Brain Imaging. Visibilities and Sayabilities in Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Neuroethics 5(3): 275-283.

[9] Jasanoff, S., G. E. Markle, J. C. Peterson & T. Pinch, Eds. 2008. Handbook of Science and Technology Studies. Thousands Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

[10] Joel, D. 2011. Male or female? Brains are intersex. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience 5 (article 57).

[11] Joel, D. 2012. Genetic-gonadal-genitals sex (3G-sex) and the misconception of brain and gender, or, why 3G-males and 3G-females have intersex brain and intersex gender. Biology of Sex Differences 3(27) : 6 pages.

[12] Jordan-Young, R. 2010. Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

[13] Jordan-Young, R., & R. Rumiati. 2012. Hardwired for Sexism? Approaches to Sex/Gender in Neuroscience. Neuroethics 5(3): 305-315.

[14] Kaiser, A. 2012. Re-conceptualizing Sex and Gender in the Human Brain. Journal of Psychology 220(2): 130-136.

[15] Kaiser, A., Haller, S., Schmitz, S. & Nitsch, C. 2009. On Sex/Gender Related Similarities and Differences in fMRI Language Research. Brain Research Reviews 61: 49-59.

[16] Kraus, C. 2012a. Critical studies of the sexed brain: a critique of what and for whom? Neuroethics 5(3): 247-259.

[17] Kraus, C. 2012b. Linking Neuroscience, Medicine, Gender and Society through Controversy and Conflict Analysis: A “Dissensus Framework” for Feminist/Queer Brain Science Studies. In [1]: 193-215.

[18] Kuria, E. N., & V. Hess. 2011. Rethinking gender politics in laboratories and neuroscience research : the case of spatial abilities in math performance. Medicine studies 3(2) : 117-123.

[19] Latour, B. 2004. Politics of nature. How to bring the sciences into democracy. English transl. C. Porter. Harvard: Harvard Univ. Press.

[20] Nikoleyczik, K. 2012. Towards Diffractive Transdisciplinarity: Integrating Gender Knowledge into the Practice of Neuroscientific Research. Neuroethics, 5(3): 231-245

[21] Rippon, G. 2010. Sexing the brain: How Neurononsense joined Psychobabble to ‘Keep Women in Their Place’. Lecture presented at British Science Festival, Sept. 2010. Press release (pdf attached). Accessed 29 July 2013.

[22] Roy, D. 2012a. Neuroethics, Gender and the Response to Difference. Neuroethics, 5(3): 217-230.

[23] Roy, D. 2012b. Cosmopolitics and the Brain: The Co-Becoming of Practices in Feminism and Neuroscience. In [1]: 175-192.

[24] Schmitz, S. 2010. Sex, Gender, and the Brain: Biological Determinism Versus Socio-Cultural Constructivism. In I. Klinge & C. Wiesmann (eds.), Sex and Gender in Biomedicine. Göttingen: Universitätsverlag Göttingen, pp. 57–76.

[25] Schmitz, S. & G. Höppner. Forthcoming 2014. NeuroCultures – NeuroGenderings. Vienna: Zaglossus e. U. /Coll. Challenge GENDER– Contemporary challenges of within Gender Theory (ed. Referat Genderforschung, University of Vienna).

[26] Doing Neuroscience, Doing Feminism: Interview with Dr. Sari van Anders, Accessed 29 July 2013.

[27] Vidal, C. 2012. The sexed brain: between science and ideology. Neuroethics 5(3):295-303.

Concept : Cynthia Kraus (University of Lausanne) and Anelis Kaiser (University of Bern)

Organization : Cynthia Kraus (UNIL), Anelis Kaiser (UNIBE), Christel Gumy (UNIL), Alba Brizzi (UNIL)

Scientific Committee : Isabelle Dussauge (University of Uppsala, Sweden), Cordelia Fine (University of Melbourne, Australia), Hannah Fitsch (TU Berlin, Germany), Rebecca Jordan-Young (Barnard College, U.S.A.), Anelis Kaiser (UNIBE), Cynthia Kraus (UNIL), Emily Ngubia Kuria (Humboldt University Berlin, Germany), Katrin Nikoleyczik (Bonn, Germany), Deboleena Roy (Emory University, U.S.A.), Raffaella Rumiati (SISSA Cognitive Neuroscience Sector, Italy), Sigrid Schmitz (University of Vienna, Austria), Catherine Vidal (Pasteur Institute Paris, France)


Interface Science – Society of the University of Lausanne

Institute for the History of Medicine and Public Health (IUHMSP),

Faculty of Biology and Medicine, University of Lausanne & University Hospitals CHUV

Social Psychology, Department of Psychology, University of Bern

Interface Sciences – Société

Institut d’histoire de la médecine et de la santé publique

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *