Talking Transdisciplinary, Doing Transdisciplinarity: Sex and Gender

On Friday I had the privilege of sitting among a highly trandisciplinary crowd to hear about gender, sex, health, and CIHR‘s Institute of Gender and Health from its Director, Dr. Joy Johnson. Her talk was for me not only informative, but a fine example of how to talk compellingly for and with transdisciplinarity. She was clearly versed in social scientific understandings of sex and gender as well as the everyday demands and commitments of scientific practice, and was able to find points where these two can meet and be mutually informative. At times I disagreed with what she said but I found these moments to be extremely productive because it is in those spaces that the true challenges of transdisciplinarity emerge and must be confronted. Her vision of transdisciplinarity is a pragmatic approach of focusing on issues. She emphasized that ongoing interrogation is needed to ensure that issues of sex and gender are addressed as best as they can be in scientific practice and health care. Such a project must be transdisciplinary. Dr. Johnson’s talk has given me new ideas as to how this project can be undertaken.

See this publication coauthored by Dr. Johnson:

Johnson, J.L., Greaves, L., & Repta, R. (2007). Better Science with Sex and Gender: A Primer for Health Research. Vancouver: Women’s Health Research Network.

On Thursday I enjoyed a talk delivered by Dr. Londa Schiebinger entitled “Exotic Abortifacients: Bioprospecting in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World.” Abortifacients are plants that induce miscarriage in pregnant women. Dr. Schiebinger spoke about why these plants of the “new world” were not mined by European explorers and colonizers like other resources, including medicinal ones. I don’t really need to say more than to quote from her talk: “Today, I am not going to tell you the history of a great man, or a great woman. Rather, I am going to tell you the history of a great plant. This talk is about the gender politics of plants.”