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Kathryn Gjorgjiev

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Risky Tranformations? Sex and the Negotiation of Hormone Treatment Risks

The Gender Institute and the Department of Sociology will co-host a discussion led by Sari Irni

  • Thursday 20 February 2014
  • 2.30-4pm 
  • Graham Wallas Room, Old Building, Houghton Street, LSE
  • Chaired by Professor Charis Thompson

In this talk Sari will discuss some of the specific ways in Finland in which hormone treatments have been proposed to be ‘risky’. Most often in feminist theory the risks of hormone treatments are understood as health risks. Here however, Sari focuses on the ways in which hormone treatments have been considered risky primarily because they have seemed to challenge the two-sex binary. Sari pays attention in particular to hormone treatments which, either deliberately or as a ‘side effect’, may have resulted in the transformation of the so-called sex characteristics, e.g. when they have resulted in the lowering of voice or increasing of muscles of bodies that are regarded by the discussants as ‘female’ or the growth of breasts of bodies considered ‘male’. Sari's examples consist of accounts of different hormone treatments and their effects on bodies, such as treatment of menopause, utilization of anabolic steroids in sports, and sex-reassignment, by Finnish scientists, medical practitioners and politicians. Sari suggests that in order to capture the complexities of hormone treatments in a critical analysis of power and differences, it is crucial to account for how the negotiations about hormone treatments and their risks also include struggles over questioning and/or maintenance of the binary system of two sexes.

Sari Irni finished her doctoral thesis Ageing Apparatuses at Work: Transdisciplinary Negotiations of Sex, Age and Materiality (Åbo Akademi University Press) in Women's Studies in 2010. She works as a University Lecturer (in the UK system, this would be called Senior Lecturer) in Gender Studies at the University of Tampere, Finland. She is currently on research leave as Academy of Finland Postdoctoral Researcher until September 2014, her research project being called “Performative Hormones – Affective and Medical Assignments of Sex”. Her earlier publications have focused on gay marriage debates in Finnish media, on the problematisation of the notion of ‘ageing’, and on gender, sexuality and ageing in working life. Her current research interests include feminist theory, affective interdisciplinary encounters, science studies, queer theory, and the political history of sex hormones. She has published in Finnish, Swedish and English. Her publications in English include the co-edited book Complying with Colonialism: Gender Race and Ethnicity in the Nordic Region (Ashgate) and articles in the journals Gender, Work and Organization, NORA – Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research, and European Journal of Women’s Studies.

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