Feminist Theory After Sex and Gender (FEMSAG) is a research action aiming to philosophically clarify the concepts of “nature” and “nurture” and the role they play or might play in gender studies (particularly in the domain of feminist thought) as well as in the public domain of gender- and sexuality-related law- and policy-making.
The nature vs. nurture issue bears on questions of gender and sexuality particularly in the context of trying to identify the causal bases of sex differences in cognition, emotion, behaviour and interests, as well as in positioning in social, cultural, economic and political life. Typically, “nature” has come to serve as a rubric for putatively biological factors, such as selective pressures during evolutionary histories, genetic constraints and drivers on developmental trajectories, types and levels of hormones, and brain structure and function. Conversely, “nurture” typically subsumes all factors acting in a given organism’s physical and social environments to incline its bodily, mental and behavioural development in a certain direction. This supposition of two sets of causal factors conjointly giving rise to extant sex differences among human subjects continues to inflect contemporary gender theory and politics, even as they also often find themselves contesting it.
FEMSAG aims to facilitate dialogue and communication across the boundaries separating feminist theory, social science, natural science and social policy-making bearing on the nature of sex, gender and sexuality through conceptual work based on philosophical naturalism as the chosen analytical framework. Philosophical naturalism asserts a physical, psychological, ethical and historical continuity between human beings and other kinds of living beings, while nevertheless acknowledging (albeit on empirical grounds only) the distinctiveness of the human form of life as well as the range of variations within this particular form of life. Along these lines, FEMSAG especially finds an opening in a recent trend in feminist theory that has been designated as a “naturalist turn”, epitomized in particular in the work of Karen Barad and Elizabeth Grosz.
FEMSAG thus engages with the most cutting-edge developments in feminist thought (and gender studies more broadly) concerning the concepts of nature (or “sex”), of nurture (or “gender”), and of a putative relation between the two with a view to enhance the conceptual framework in terms of which new policies and reforms concerning gender- and sexuality-related issues are projected. Such issues may include male (sexual) aggression against women, female underrepresentation in key societal and professional domains, and current controversies over how best to promote sexual and gender health and justice for gender non-conforming populations.
FEMSAG is funded by a 3-year individual global Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions fellowship (MSCA-IF-IG) through the H2020 program of the European Union. The funding period was initially set to July 2017 – June 2020, but the end date has been set back to 31 May, 2021, following the Principal Investigator’s appointment to a new academic position, at which he now works part-time while continuing the work on FEMSAG on a part-time basis. The fellowship is registered with the grant agreement number 701724.