Feminist Darwin

March 21, 2012 (Wednesday) / 5:00 pm6:30 pm

Rainey Auditorium, Penn Museum, 3260 South Street

Feminist Darwin

Elizabeth Wilson

Professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Emory University

Evolutionary theory has been invoked to support a range of social and political agendas, but it has rarely been seen as providing a useful framework for feminist approaches to gender and sexuality. In a provocative reading of the classic texts by Charles Darwin and Jean Baptiste Lamarck, Elizabeth Wilson argues that key evolutionary concepts like coadaptation and organic affinity may in fact hold immense value for contemporary feminist and queer thinking.

Elizabeth Wilson is a self-declared “feminist scientist” or “scientist feminist.” A professor of Women’s Studies at Emory University, she holds both a Bachelor of Science degree and a Ph.D. in Psychology, and her research draws on the resources of biology, evolutionary theory, and the neurosciences to develop new models for feminism and queer theory. While feminists have frequently critiqued the neurosciences’ tendency to biological reductionism, Dr. Wilson believes that they can be used to reinvigorate theories of the body, sexuality, and affect. Her books include Psychosomatic: Feminism and the Neurological Body (2004) and Neural Geographies: Feminism and the Microstructure of Cognition (1998). Her most recent book, Affect and Artificial Intelligence (2010) is the first in-depth study of affect and intersubjectivity in the computational sciences. In it, she argues that the pioneers of artificial intelligence in the 1950s and 1960s understood intelligence to involve not just the capacity to think but also to learn, feel, and grow. Her current project, “Gut Feminism,” is a feminist analysis of biomedical theories of depression. Currently a professor of Women’s Studies at Emory University, Dr. Wilson was formerly an Australian Research Council Fellow at the University of New South Wales.