More on Inclusion and Exclusion: Institutional Reproductions of Sex and Gender

My first chapter, currently under review and recipient of student paper awards from the Society for the Study of Social Problems and the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport, analyzes a 2015 international court case that affirmed the use of testosterone to determine which women are eligible to compete in international track-and-field competitions. In considering how epistemological ascendancy was established within this legal setting, I show how sexed bodies are enacted through and as part of determinations of expertise. I argue that the legitimacy of these regulatory efforts was established through the concurrent narrowing of expertise and the body, with expert status achieved only by those who represented sex as binary and biological.

My second chapter, presented at the 2018 Junior Theorist Symposium, focuses on the marginalization of complex accounts of embodied difference. Drawing on textual and interview data to contrast the rule-making efforts of the NIH, IAAF, and IOC, I develop the concept of ignorance as a mode of institutional resistance to complexity. I examine the mechanisms by which complex accounts of gender and sex, including those advanced by feminist biologists and social scientists, were systematically disabled, delegitimized, and marginalized. I show further that the epistemological ascendancy of binary and biological accounts of sex difference in sport and US biomedicine relies upon the institutional suppression of these more complex alternatives.

My third chapter, focused on the NIH, links institutional epistemologies of gender and sex to the broader regulatory field within which rule-making occurs. I develop the concept of epistemological fields to explain the formation of alliances between NIH policy-makers and well-resourced stakeholders, such as women’s health activists, politicians, pharmaceutical companies, and biological scientists themselves, with sex inclusion becoming a legitimate policy focus through their collective (and contested) efforts over time. Taken together, my dissertation reveals gender and sex as the contested epistemic products of regulation and rule-making.