Lecture Drucken

Helen Hester

Feminism and Technology After Firestone / Re-Engineering Embodiment

9:00-17:00Haus der Kulturen der WeltJohn-Foster-Dulles-Allee 1010557 Berlin
Session one: Feminism and Technology after Firestone (9:00-12:00)

There is a longstanding feminist interest in engaging with science and technology, from the early agitation surrounding the under-representation of women within the STEM industries, to more recent technofeminist work addressing 'the mutually shaping relationship between gender and technology, in which technology is both a source and a consequence of gender relations' (Wajcman, 2004: p. 107). Within this already lively field, however, debates about biomedical technologies have been particularly vigorous. Discussions about the medicalization of childbirth, assisted reproductive technologies, and other scientific interventions within the sphere of gendered and sexual embodiment have generated dramatically divergent critical positions, and Shulamith Firestone's insistence on the need to 'free humanity from the tyranny of its biology' (Firestone, 1979: p. 183) has met with equal parts admiration and hostile criticism. This session will serve as a broad introduction to this problematic terrain, offering participants the opportunity to critically reflect upon the development of feminist approaches to technology since the 1970s.

Session two: Re-Engineering Embodiment (14:00-17:00)

Having sketched out some of the tensions within feminist thinking on science and technology, and addressed some of the problematic and unacknowledged essentialisms which can come to underpin it, the afternoon session will proceed to consider potential new directions for technofeminism in the twenty-first century. We will consider the role played by technologies of embodiment within what Beatriz Preciado has called 'pharmacopornographic biocapitalism' (2012: p. 35), and will think about how the medical practices which alter our moods, our fertility, and the contours of our bodies have come to shape our sense of what the contemporary gendered self might be. How, we will ask, can we retain Firestone's emphasis upon counter-hegemonic speculative thought whilst reframing the debate in response to valid anxieties about the potentially differential impact of technology upon distinct demographics and communities? Where can we see the legacy of second wave feminist approaches to technology within 'accelerationist' thinking, and what might contemporary leftist politics be able to learn from more recent technofeminisms? We will finish with a reflection upon new developments in sexual technologies, and the ways in which they work to emancipate the body from gendered expectations and constraints in order to re-engineer embodiment.