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Biomedicalizing Gender. The Globalization of Sexual Science and the Redefinition of Gender Roles in Poland


Since 1989, gender roles have been in a state of continual flux and redefinition in Poland, reflective of ideological battles between the re-emergent Catholic Church, newly proclaimed scientific sex experts, and feminists and LGBT activists. This project is based on ethnographic fieldwork and analyses of written sources, and explores the relationship between scientific knowledge of sexuality and the construction of gender roles and stereotypes in contemporary Poland. I ask how the field of sexual science in particular has developed as a product of transnational flows of scientific knowledge (influence of North American knowledge of sexuality) , and in response to local debates about gender and sexuality. I seek to understand how the proliferation of discourses about sexuality that engage scientific language and ideas shapes gender roles in Poland. I will develop a theoretical framework based in medical anthropology and globalisation studies; study Polish and North American scientific knowledge of sexuality in order to track the sources of the knowledge referred to by my Polish informants; and examine cultural processes associated with the formation of local scientific knowledge of sexuality. The fellowship at Harvard University and the University of Warsaw will expand my field of expertise (medical anthropology, anthropology of globalisation in teaching and research; ethnographic fieldwork techniques and ethics) and facilitate obtaining habilitation (an obligatory next step after PhD in the Polish higher education system, required for conducting and supervising independent research projects and supervising PhD students) by allowing me collect data and develop theoretical framework for the habilitation book. Moreover, the fellowship will help to deepen the collaboration between the two host institutions, and allow the European host to use achievements of Harvard’s Social Anthropology program to extend the scope of its research and teaching.

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Krakowskie Przedmiescie 26/28
00 927 Warszawa
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 156 658,05
Administrative Contact
Magdalena Hanna Zowczak (Prof.)