SOCIOLOGICAL EXPLORATIONS

Dr Jude Roberts (Keele)

Title: “I will never reveal the truth!”: figuring out non-binary gender in contemporary comics.

Abstract: This paper will discuss the representation of non-binary gender in two contemporary comics and the reception of non-binary gender characters amongst fan communities. Focusing on characters from The Runaways and The Order of the Stick, I’ll consider the ways in which their creators are attempting to navigate some of the key questions of representation – language (non-binary pronouns), bodies (both the diversity of bodies and challenging belief in the body as the location of the reality of identity) and subjectivity (resonance with real people’s identities and experiences) – and the ways in which much of the reception of these comics is concerned with ‘figuring out’ the characters ‘real’ gender. Ultimately the challenge of representing non-binary gender characters is that we exist in a culture in which, as argued by Judith Butler, binary gender and heteronormative sexuality are taken as markers of personhood. I will argue here that the comics medium brings these questions to the fore through its specific visual/linguistic juxtaposition. Images produce a particularly affective form of anxiety about our ability to know: we simultaneously believe that seeing something with our own eyes makes us more likely to know the truth and are trapped in the surface of the image. Although there is no underneath to a line drawing, the visual representation of characters of non-binary gender seems to provoke a particularly strong desire to ‘figure it out’ and a belief that it is possible to do so.

JudeBio: Jude Roberts is a researcher in gender and sexualities in contemporary popular culture and a Teaching Fellow in English at Keele University. Her current research focuses primarily on pornographic comics and obscenity and she is completing a monograph on this topic which will be published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2017. She is also co-editing a collection on gender and sexuality in contemporary popular fantasy (Ashgate 2016).

Dr Carolina Matos (City University, London)

Title: Women in transnational contexts: gender politics and the media in Latin America and Brazil

Abstract: From advertising, to television and film, feminist media scholars have examined the changing nature of media representations from the 1990’s onwards in comparison to the 1950s in the UK and the US. Many debates focus on the current complexity and ambiguity surrounding media representations which are inserted within post-feminist texts that tend to equate female empowerment with choice, individualism and consumerism. This has occurred in a context where there have been some achievements in gender equality worldwide, with women occupying more spaces in the marketplace, business and government, although the process has been extremely slow since the start of the struggles of the first wave of feminists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 2015, the United Nations underlined that full gender parity would only be reached in 80 years. Latin America and the Caribbean, however have been seen as regions which have made some improvements in the last decades, although there are not that many reasons to be cheerful.

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC – UN 2004) underlined that full equity was reached in the 1990’s with access to primary education. In the last decade, the region also saw the election of female politicians throughout the continent in the context of the re-democratization period following from the collapse of dictatorship regimes in the 1980’s. Countries like Brazil, despite the reduction of inequalities in the last four decades, are still home to gender discrimination and inequality, with high levels of domestic violence towards women, low levels of political representation, a culture of machismo that permeates Brazilian society and accusations made by feminists of stereotypical gender representations in the media.

This research looks at the correlation between gender inequality in society with media representations, situating the case of Brazil and Latin America within the global quest for gender justice and also the debates on the extent to which it is possible to pressure for change and pursue public policies in favour of gender and development in an era of market restrictions and globalization. Questions asked include: Why do media representations matter, and for whom? How can the media assist in gender development and nation-building, contributing to wider democratization? This paper is part of the forthcoming book, Globalization, gender politics and the media), to be published by Lexington books in 2017.

CarolinaMatosBio: Dr Carolina Matos is a journalist, lecturer and researcher with 23 years of professional experience; 10 years as a full-time journalist in Brazil and over 12 years working in universities throughout the UK. Dr Matos obtained her PhD in Media and Communications from Goldsmiths College, University of London, in 2007 with no corrections, with a thesis that was transformed into a book and translated and adopted at universities throughout the world.

Before joining the Sociology department at City University London, Dr Matos was a part-time lecturer in the Government department at the University of Essex, and previously an LSE Fellow in Political Communications, taking over from senior lecturer Maggie Scammell. Dr Matos was a LSE Expert and Visiting Fellow at the Media and Communications department at the London School of Economics and Political Science, as well as a visiting lecturer at Goldsmiths College, University of East London (UEL) and St. Mary’s University College, Twickenham. Her research is multidisciplinary, drawing from Media and Communications, Politics, Sociology, Globalisation and Latin American and Brazilian Studies.

Dr Carrie Friese (London School of Economics)

Title: Fields in STS: Reconciling Care, Science and the Structuring of Social Life

Bourdieu is something of a taboo figure within Science and Technology Studies. On the one hand, his structuralist accounts of social life are simply at odds with the post-structuralist understandings of science and society that dominate STS. But in addition his caustic tone in Science of Science and Reflexivity combined with his need to ensure the special status of scientific knowledge have made him something of a scape goat within the field. It is in this context of historical hostility that I am currently embarking upon a field analysis of in vivo science, asking what the role of animal care is within that field. This paper discusses the different models of science and society that exist today, specifically actor networks, social worlds/arenas and fields. I address why I have moved from a micro-level ethnographic approach, which would seemingly align better with actor network theory, to field analysis. I close by addressing the dilemmas that arise when exploring a relational practice like care from the perspective of a hierarchical theory like fields.

Carrie Friese photoBio: Carrie Friese is an Associate Professor in Sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her research is in medical sociology and science and technology studies, with a focus on reproduction across humans and animals. Her initial research focused on the use of assisted reproductive technologies for human reproduction in the context of infertility, with a particular focus on ageing and motherhood. She then explored the development of interspecies nuclear transfer (aka cloning) for endangered species preservation in zoos, asking how notions of nature are being innovated in and through biotechnological development. Based on this research, she has also written and given talks on the ethics of de-extinction. She has received a Wellcome Trust New Investigator Award for a new research project, entitled Care as Science: The Role of Animal Husbandry in Translational Medicine. This five year project (2015-2019) uses quantitative and qualitative research methods in a field analysis of in vivo science and translational medicine within the UK. It asks why an increasing number of scientists understand quality animal care as a scientific priority in the current socio-historical moment. She has also written and taught workshops on situational analysis and grounded theory, and have a general interest in relational research methods. 

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