Category: Queering STS

Detangling Molecular Hauntings: Hair as a Site of Preserving Lived Experience

Listen to an audio recording of this piece read by Benjamin Schaefer Hair is a dynamic biological structure and retains great social significance for humans. Hair can grow on most external areas of the body except for the palmar and plantar surfaces of the hands and the soles of the feet. The number of areas where hair is most noticeable is also the most commonly coiffed, trimmed, shaved, or plucked. These areas include the face, ears, head, eyebrows, legs, underarm, stomach, and pubic regions. As humans develop in utero into fully formed adults, hair growth signals hormone production such as pubertal development where secondary sex characteristics become more visible. Specifically for hair, it can be an indication that intertwines social identity, status, religion, economics, and politics. (read more...)

Revisiting Human-Machine Relationships and Efforts of Feminist STS

Alexa, Bixby, the GPS voice, Siri.… AI (Artificial Intelligence) assistants, which operate through algorithms and also produce them, have restructured our everyday lives: from listening to music to getting a sense of where we are (if the GPS is working properly). For users, these “assistants” have become integral parts of our everyday lives. Human-machine communication, in turn, has become more intimate than ever before. However, little effort has been made to understand this intimacy between humans and machines. Instead, much attention has been centered on the increasing obsolescence of technology, as newer models and gadgets enter the market. To recognize machines as sociable and understand human-machine relationships from a different perspective, I revisit feminist STS (Science and Technology Studies) scholars’ works. Furthermore, I look at smartphones, which are usually only considered as hosts for the immaterial AI, as social. (read more...)

Queered Ruptures: The Politics of Anti-irradiation Maternalism in the TEPCO Nuclear Disaster, Kokutai, and Hentai

It is August 2018 and Ishikawa Chiharu and I are sitting down for tea in an herbalist cafe in Fukushima prefecture. We are reflecting on a recent workshop I had organized with my friend N, a professionally trained dancer, for youth in the anti-irradiation space Chiharu organizes. Commenting on how N began her workshop with a short performance, Chiharu says, Thinking normally, that kind of self-expression is something to be embarrassed of Even if it’s small, I think it would be nice to have a place that tells it’s okay for them not to kill a part of themselves. That’s why when very little was emerging out of Fukushima prefecture, the people who tried to take action were really a little hentai… This essay reflects on the significance of Chiharu’s description of herself and other women active in anti-irradiation efforts as hentai. It reflects on the sense that Japanese mothers who take issue with nuclear reconstruction in late capitalist Japan are perverse and aberrant. (read more...)

The Networked Animita: Transgender Remembrance on Social Media

Tomorrow, November 20th, the world will commemorate Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to collectively mourn and remember those who have died as a result of transphobia. Started in 1999 by US trans woman Gwendolyn Ann Smith, Transgender Day of Remembrance is now observed in countries around the world, including my primary field site, Chile. In this post, I explore how social media might be understood as a technology of memorialization and mourning, especially for marginalized groups. Inspired by informal roadside shrines called animitas, popular in Chile and elsewhere in Latin America, I propose the ‘networked animita’ as a useful analytic for understanding trans remembrance online. I do so through an exploration of the digital afterlife of Chilean trans activist, educator, interlocutor, and friend Mara Rita Villaroel Oñate. (read more...)

When Sex Becomes a Matter of the State: Peciagraphy as a Qualitative Method for Examining Legal Cases

For the past ten years, I have been conducting ethnographic research on the Federal Supreme Court’s (STF) decisions on sexual identities in the Brazilian legal system. Despite the variety within this realm, I have always had the same guiding question: how do the STF and social movements perform sex as a matter of the state? (read more...)

PrEP in Thailand in the time of COVID-19

In 2012, the first PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) drugs came onto the market, poised to revolutionize the field of HIV prevention. ‘The Pill’ promised to usher in a kind of sexual revolution, particularly for gay men and trans women. Sexual rights activists and health workers around the world analogized PrEP to birth control, suggesting that PrEP would allow particular sexual minority populations to secure bodily autonomy and serve as a tool for the self-management and mitigation of risk. (read more...)

Some Chloroquine-AZT Parallels and Science’s Credibility Struggles

As an anthropologist and STS researcher, a great deal of my academic career has been proudly dedicated to studying and denouncing the bias, inequalities, and prejudice within both scientific and medical practices. Such critique, far from intending to undermine scientific credibility, comes from a place of deep respect, trust, and, I dare say, great optimism regarding what kind of project we have for science in the long term: one where knowledge is comprehensive and accessible, and where expertise is not build upon the concealment of information. (read more...)

Hetero-Comfortable Avatars

Content warning from author: This post will have instances of sexism, transphobia, and sexual violence. I noticed a masculine voice near me say: “wow Wow WOW!” I turned my body to see a couple of masculine avatars looking at me, or rather looking at my breasts. I said nothing, afraid I might be “found out” — that my voice wouldn’t quite match what the body of my avatar “should” have. As my avatar stood there, blinking in silence, one of the masculine avatars got closer and began to rub my body, taking particular interest in my breasts. I looked down and shared eye contact with him, and he said “Don’t worry. It’s ok, it’s VRChat. This is what happens. You won’t really feel anything anyway.” The others did the same. (read more...)