The Rock Ethics Institute presents Katrina Karkazis, acclaimed anthropologist and bioethicist, whose research examines feminist, medicoscientific, and policy debates over categorizations and definitions of sex and the consequences of these definitions for the material conditions of everyday life.
Presenting the Rock Ethics Institute’s annual Lippin Lecture, Karkazis will speak on “Sex Itself: The Science, Politics, and Ethics of Categorization.”
Abstract: Whether one is entering into military service, seeking identity documents, enrolling in a clinical trial, or participating in organized sports, the categorization of bodies according to “sex” is central to the organization of society. Who is a woman, and who is a man—and what makes someone a woman or a man—may seem like simple questions, but making a determination of sex has long been understood as far from straightforward.
Decisions about which traits (or sets of traits) are used or studied, in what combination, and for what purpose are inextricably tied to why sex categorization exists and whom or what it serves. Far from neutral or objective, sex classification and definition rely on cultural norms about the “appropriate” relationships between sex, gender, and sexuality, and work in tandem with power to support social norms and goals as well as sociopolitical hierarchies that determine opportunities, rights, and privileges.
This talk is concerned with the problem of sex “itself”—what sex is—and what sex does using examples from two decades of my work. Far from being straightforward, I explore the ways in which sex is infinitely mutable and its meaning far more related to the needs of the state and society than those so classified.