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Queer STS at 4S/EASST in Barcelona: Looking Forward and to the Past

Stephen Molldrem and Mitali Thakor

16 August, 2016

We are publishing a series of posts highlighting some of the tracks on the program of the 2016 4S conference, which will convene jointly with the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST) in Barcelona, August 31-September 3. The theme of this year’s 4S/EASST conference is “science and technology by other means.” - Ed.

What is Queer STS method? How might Queer STS be institutionalized? Our “Queer STS?” roundtable at 4S presents these provocations as we convene a transnational group of early-career scholars who work at the intersection of Queer Studies and Science and Technology Studies. The participants are Patrick Keilty, George Hoagland, Patrick Grzanka, Rebekah Cupitt, and Ardath Whynacht. The group came together to further a dialogue about the possibilities, perils, and promises of “Queer STS”—with a particular emphasis on theory, method, and institutionalization in this growing area of inquiry.

Since their emergence in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the history of sexuality and LGBTQ studies have always centered issues that are near and dear to STS and the history and philosophy of science, technology, and medicine. These areas of focus range from the medicalization of identities and the history of psychiatry to examinations of the role of infrastructures of state surveillance in community formation and the politics of knowledge and expertise. While STS and LGBTQ studies have largely followed separate institutional trajectories—and take different lessons from scholars in their overlapping canons, such as Foucault—some individuals have worked explicitly within and across both fields for several decades (e.g. Donna Haraway, Steven Epstein, Arnold Davidson, and Ian Hacking.)

However, it was only recently that a growing transnational cohort of scholars began to build research agendas explicitly at the intersection of STS and LGBTQ and sexuality studies. From Anita Thaler’s Queer STS initiative in Graz, Angela Willey’s Undoing Monogamy, and campus-based initiatives at The University of Michigan and elsewhere, there is now a visible body of scholars publishing and working in the rapidly growing area of “Queer STS.” In response to (and as a part of) these and other developments, last year, at 4S 2015 in Denver, we convened the first #QueerSTS4S: A Meetup for Scholars at the Intersection of LGBTQ Studies and STS. We did so in the hope of creating a space for scholars in this area to network and socialize with one another. It resulted in a successful meetup and the creation of a small listserv called The Queer STS Network (which all are welcome to join).

For 4S/EASST 2016, we are happy to announce that the #QueerSTS4S meetup will happen again, on Thursday night of the conference (find details at the bottom of this post and in your conference program). We hope that the “Queer STS?” roundtable will be in dialogue with this year’s meetup and other ongoing developments in this field within 4S and elsewhere.

Accordingly, we have planned our Barcelona 2016 roundtable in two forms: 1) digitally, in spring and summer 2016, and 2) in-person at 4S Barcelona in September. With evident care, sensitivity, and earnestness—and of course, self-investment—our panelists conjure up various imaginings of what a Queer STS practice might look like. For our panelists, and for us, Queer STS emerges as a project centered on the transformation of individual scholarly practices and of the fields in which one works. A Queer STS theorist might employ playful and disruptive modes of studying objects queerly, or in explicit tension with the preferences of dominant institutions.

What does a Queer STS syllabus look like? Can Queer STS maintain the transgressiveness of queer studies and radical social politics, while being included in mainstream academia? Is STS, in some ways, always already queer? Does the STS “canon” make room for queer studies, not just in theory, but in terms of concrete funding and research approval?

This year, we hope the panel and meetup are valuable networking experiences for collective reflection on the future of Queer STS. Further, we hope that folks who are able to make it to both #QueerSTS4S and the “Queer STS?” roundtable bring insights gained during conversations at the meetup to the interactive panel. In sum, we hope that the Queer STS activities at 4S 2016 will help to advance a growing number of conversations about what folks who work in this field want in the coming years, and about what a collective “Queer STS” project might look like in the short-, mid-, and long-term.

See you in Barcelona!

Meetup at 4S Barcelona:

  • RSVP Link: http://tinyurl.com/queerSTSBarcelona
  • Thursday, September 1, 8-10pm, at L'Hangar Artspace, 16 Emilia Coranty, Barcelona 08018 (a 20 minute walk from CCIB). Complimentary wine, beer, & appetizers will be provided!
  • The #QueerSTS4S 2016 Meetup is generously supported by: University of Michigan: Department of American Culture, Institute for Research on Women and Gender, and the Program in Science, Technology, and Society; University of Toronto: Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies and the Technoscience Research Unit; Society for Social Studies of Science: The 4S Council, and The Society for Social Studies of Science Students Section (6S).

Mitali Thakor is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Sexualities Project at Northwestern. She recently completed her PhD from MIT's HASTS program, on "Algorithmic Detectives Against Child Trafficking," and is interested in anthropology, queer/feminist theory, and critical surveillance studies. 

Stephen Molldrem is a PhD candidate at the University of Michigan. His dissertation, “Programming Queer Health,” examines changes in how data about sexuality and gender are gathered and managed in health infrastructures in the United States. 

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Descriptions of current work—the makings and doings—of STS scholars across the globe. This includes individual work, as well as collaborations between / with academics, practitioners, and policy makers.