Sara Heinämaa – Sex, Gender and Embodiment: A Critique of Concepts

Event Date 17 – 18 May 2012

Day 1: Bolivar Hall,
54 Grafton Way, London WC1.

Day 2: Large Common Room,
Goodenough College,
Mecklenburgh Square, London WC1N

Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy


Transdisciplinarity and the Humanities: Problems, Methods, Histories, Concepts

2011–2013 (AHRC 914469)

Workshop 3

Case Studies 2. Transdisciplinary Problematics: Anti-humanism and Gender Study

This two-day workshop will examine the notion of a transdisciplinarity problematic, via the cases of anti-humanism and gender studies. The first day will approach theoretical anti-humanism from the standpoint of its destructive effect upon disciplinary fields in the humanities and as a radical problematisation of the discipline of philosophy in particular. The second day will focus on gender studies as a transdisciplinary problematic and on the transdisciplinary nature of the concept of gender itself. Topics will include the historical reconstruction of ‘gender’ as a boundary-crossing concept; the relation of its conceptual content to its functioning as a general concept across disciplines; the transformation of the disciplines in the humanities by ‘gender’ and gender studies; and the current productivity of ‘gender’.

Day 2: Gender Studies

Sara HeinämaaSex, Gender and Embodiment: A Critique of Concepts

This paper consists of two parts. The first part offers a set of systematic and historical clarifications of the conceptual distinction between gender and sex. The aim is to get clear about the senses in which these concepts are used in contemporary social and human sciences. The latter part shows how the phenomenological account of human embodiment differs from the dominant paradigm of sex-gender interaction. It argues that the female and male bodies which are thematized, theorized, and explained by the biosciences, and distinguished from gendered roles and gendered performances in the social sciences, are themselves results of complicated processes of objectification which rest in their sense on two fundamental types of experiencing bodies: living bodies as instruments for intending material things and living bodies as expressions in communicative interaction with others. This does not mean that the human body would be a mere social construct or cultural artifact. Even if the bioscientific articulation of the human body is an outcome of complicated scientific practices of objectivization, the body itself is fundamentally a prescientific object that is co-given to us in action and communication and is not something that we make, fabricate, or invent.

Sara Heinämaa is a senior lecturer in theoretical philosophy at the University of Helsinki. Currently, she works as Academy Research Fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, University of Helsinki (2008–2013). She has published several articles on phenomenology of embodiment, selfhood, personhood, and intersubjectivity. She is the author of Toward a Phenomenology of Sexual Difference: Husserl, Merleau-Ponty and Beauvoir (2003), and has co-edited Consciousness: From Perception to Reflection (2007) and Psychology and Philosophy: Inquiries into the Soul from Late Scholasticism to Contemporary Though (2008). Her latest publications include Death, Birth and the Feminine: Essays in the Philosophy of Embodiment (2010), with Robin May Schott, Vigdis Songe-Møller, and Sigridur Thorgeirsdottir.








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