About my Research

My research is transdisciplinary. This means that I am interested in how science and social science can be mutually transformative.

Research topics:

  • Human reproduction and reproductive politics
  • Developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD) and lifecourses
  • Fatness and adipositivity
  • Breastfeeding and formula feeding
  • Nonhumanism, microbiomes, and prions
  • Women’s work
  • Genomics


  • Laboratory ethnography
  • In-depth interviewing
  • Surveys
  • Action research



Postdoctoral Research

Postdoctoral Researcher
GeNA Lab
School of Communication
Simon Fraser University

I’m developing genetics and society research with the GeNA Lab team.

Dissertation Project

“Placentations: Agential Realism and the Science of Afterbirths”

According to biological sciences, placentas are transient organs that are necessary for mammalian fetal development and produced by interaction of maternal and fetal cells, a process called “placentation.” The aim of my dissertation is to understand and elucidate effects of placentations. I employ an agential realist framework to do this. As developed by Karen Barad, agential realism is a performative theory of the irreducible entanglement of matter and discourse that relates knowing and being as inseparable. Intra-action is the foundational operationalization of agential realism. Unlike interaction, which assumes that entities and their agencies pre-exist their meeting, intra-action refers to the entanglement of mutually constituted agencies. Informed by this ‘onto-epistemology,’ I define placentation differently than science as the differential and entangled intra- and inter-species, intra- and inter-cultural, and intra- and inter-disciplinary production of placentas. This definition is ‘naturalcultural,’ presuming that nature and culture are not distinct realms occupied by distinct kinds of beings; rather, such a duality is a performative effect of what Barad calls agential cuts enacted by the specific apparatuses that are employed to understand it. To understand placentation naturalculturally requires the breaching of disciplinary boundaries that relegate “culture” as a topic proper to the social sciences and “nature” to science. My dissertation breaches these boundaries, and in so doing opens up new avenues for thinking about placentations and their consequences. In order to empirically explore placentations, I interviewed and/or observed 31 scientists who study placentas, and reviewed scientific and other secondary sources. The main findings concern differences made by theorizing placentas in particular ways. Based on these findings, I argue that understanding placentations naturalculturally is not only a more accurate approach than the one predicating dominant scientific explanations, but also prompts new ethical, theoretical, and practical considerations concerning pregnancy, bioethics, environmentalism, health, and more. (This research is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.)

Deliverables to Date

Book Chapters

♦ Scott, Rebecca (2012) “Placentations,” in Lorne Tepperman and Angela Kalyta (Eds.),  Reading Sociology, 2nd Edition. Oxford University Press, Ch. 36.

Published Abstracts

♦ Scott, Rebecca (2011) “A Sociology of Placenta Scientists: Towards Transdisciplinary Collaboration” (Poster). Placenta, 32(9): A44.

Invited Talks

♦ 2011, Sept.: Plenary Talk: “‘It’s this all-singing, all dancing organ’: A Sociologist’s Perspective on how Placenta Scientists see the Placenta, their Science, and Themselves.” International Federation of Placenta Associations annual conference, Geilo, Norway.

♦ 2011, Mar.: “Reproductive Science Meets Sociology: Transdisciplinary Collaborations for More Responsive Research.” Robinson Institute, University of Adelaide, Australia.

Conference Presentations

♦ Scott, Rebecca. Jun. 2010. “Placentations.” 79th Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, Canadian Sociological Association Annual Conference, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec.

♦ Scott, Rebecca. Mar. 2010. “Laboratory Lives of Afterbirths: Placentas as Working Objects of Study.” JA Low Research Day, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario.

Guest Lectures

♦ 2011, Mar.: “Epistemology? I thought you Meant Episiotomy!”: A Sociologist’s Encounters with Scientists who Study the Placenta.” Department of Sociology, Queen’s University.

♦ 2010: “Laboratory Lives of Afterbirths: Placentas as  Scientific Objects of Study.” SOC 363: Science, Technology and Society, Department of Sociology, Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada.

Poster Presentations

♦ Scott, Rebecca. Sept. 2011. “A Sociology of Placenta Scientists: Towards Transdisciplinary Collaboration.” International Federation of Placenta Associations annual conference, Geilo, Norway.

♦ Scott, Rebecca, Myra J. Hird and Graeme N. Smith. Nov. 2009. “Laboratory Lives of Afterbirths: Placentas as Working Objects of Study.” 33rd Annual Perinatal Investigator’s Meeting, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario.


2014-11-12, Radio Program, SFU Intra Venus. “Reproductive Labour in/of Science and Medicine.” Dr. Rebecca Scott Yoshizawa delivers a talk on the modern implications of Reproductive Labour.

Completed Collaborative Project

Survey of Women’s Perspectives on Placental Donation in Campinas, Brazil / Opinião de mulheres a respeito da doação de placenta para pesquisa em Campinas-SP, Brasil

Under a Canada-Brazil Awards: Joint Projects initiative training and exchange program, I am conducting a survey of women’s perspectives on donating their placentas for scientific research in Campinas, Sao Paulo, Brazil. Placentas are integral to the conduct of scientific research on pregnancy, yet women’s views on the use of their placenta in research have not been systematically studied. This research will begin to address this gap. Ethical protocols for collecting and using placentas, as well as pregnancy research in general, may be made more responsive, efficient, and appropriate with insights from this research. Funding Support: Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT), Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES), Sao Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP)

Como socióloga eu estudo ciência e, especificamente, estudo ciência da placenta. Pode ser surpreendente descobrir que, do ponto de vista da ciência, a placenta tem várias utilidades. É claro que a placenta é estudada extensivamente em biologia reprodutiva, por que é fundamental para a gravidez e pode ser determinante para os resultados da gravidez. Mas também é necessário estudar a placenta a partir do referencial de outros campos além da biologia reprodutiva, porque se trata de um tecido grande, amplamente disponível, muitas vezes considerado “lixo,” e que tem diversas propriedades interessantes. Tem uma grande variedade de aplicações científicas em muitos campos como imunologia, pesquisa do câncer, toxicologia e engenharia de tecidos. Por isso, placentas são regularmente coletadas em hospitais de todo o mundo e utilizadas em experiências científicas. Todas as minhas pesquisas se concentram nas práticas de doação, coleta e utilização da placenta para fins científicos.

Collaborators: Drª. Maria José Duarte Osis (Cemicamp/Unicamp), Profº. Dr. José Guilherme Cecatti (Unicamp),  Ms. Simony Lira do Nascimento (Unicamp)


Peer Reviewed Publications

♦ Yoshizawa, Rebecca S., Maria José Duarte Osis, Simony Lira do Nascimento, Silvana Bento, Ana Carolina Godoy, Suelene Coelho, José Guilherme Cecatti [In Press] “Postpartum Women’s Perspectives on the Donation of Placentas for Scientific Research in Campinas, Brazil.” Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics. Online First. 

♦ Yoshizawa, Rebecca S. (2013) “Public Perspectives on the Utilization of Human Placentas in Scientific Research and Medicine.Placenta, 13(1): 9-13.

Invited Talks

♦ 2012, June: “Sociologia da Placenta/Sociology of the Placenta.” Biomedicina Medicina e Pós-Graduação, Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Goiás, Goiânia, Brazil.

♦ 2012, June: “Sociologia da Placenta/Sociology of the Placenta.” Faculdade de Enfermagem, Universidade Federal de Goiás, Goiânia, Brazil.

♦ 2012, June: “Sociologia da Placenta/Sociology of the Placenta.” Instituto de Ciências Biológicas, Universidade Federal de Goiás, Goiânia, Brazil.

♦ 2012, May: “Sociologia da Placenta/Sociology of the Placenta.” Reunião geral do Departamento de Tocoginecologia da FCM/general meeting of the Department of  Obstetrics and Gynecology, Faculty of Medical Science, UNICAMP,  Campinas, Brazil.

♦ 2012, May: “Sociological Studies of Placenta Science.” Graduate Program in Cellular and Structural Biology, Instituto de Biologia, UNICAMP, Campinas, Brazil.


♦ Yoshizawa, Rebecca Scott, Maria José Duarte Osis, Simony Lira do Nascimento, Silvana Bento, Ana Carolina Godoy, Suelene Coelho, José Guilherme Cecatti. Sept. 2013. “Postpartum Women’s Perspectives on the Donation of the Placenta for Scientific Research in Campinas, Brazil.” International Federation of Placenta Associations annual conference, Whistler, Canada.

Media Impact

2012, June: PUC Noticias, “Sociologia da placenta é tema de palestra na PUC Goiás.”

2012, May: Queen’s School of Graduate Studies, “The Adventure of a Lifetime: Interdisciplinary Travels to Brazil.”

2011, October: The Journal (Queen’s University), “New Student Exchange.”

Completed Projects

“The Barker Hypothesis and Obesity”

An exploration of the ways in which the Barker hypothesis is a resource for transdisciplinary collaboration between sciences and social sciences in the study of disease, lifestyle, life course, generation, social determinants of health, nutrition, and development, with a focus on obesity.


Peer Reviewed Publications

♦ Yoshizawa, Rebecca S. (2012) “The Barker Hypothesis and Obesity: Connections for Transdisciplinarity and Social Justice.Social Theory and Health, 10(4): 348-367.

Conference Presentations

♦ Scott, Rebecca. May 2011. “The Barker Hypothesis and Transdisciplinarity: The Case of Obesity.” Canadian Sociological Association Annual Conference, Fredericton, New Brunswick.

Invited Talks

♦ 2010, Mar.: “The Barker Hypothesis: A Call to Transdisciplinary Responsibility.” Invited talk during the visit of Dr. David Barker, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Queen’s University.

Guest Lectures

♦ 2010, Nov.: “The Barker hypothesis.” SOC 921: The Social Construction of Science and Technology (Graduate Course), Department of Sociology, Queen’s University, Kinston, Canada.

Poster Presentations

♦ Scott, Rebecca. Apr. 2011. “Sociology and the Barker Hypothesis: Transdisciplinary Approaches to Obesity.” 2nd National Obesity Summit, Montreal.