© Tony Rinaldo


Sarah S. Richardson

Professor of the History of Science and of Studies of Women

Harvard University

Born in 1980 in Washington, DC
Studied Philosophy at Columbia University and Modern Thought and Literature at Stanford University


Theorizing "Sex"

Are sex differences like species differences? Is there a "male" and "female" genome? Can a cell have a sex? These questions are more beguiling than they may first appear. Among scientists, sex is typically conceptualized as a simple discrete variable consisting of a short list of biological components, such as chromosomes and hormones, which characterize maleness and femaleness. Feminist theories complicate conventional notions that sex is a fixed and discrete binary. They also emphasize that, in humans, "sex" is deeply entangled with "gender", so much so that the two concepts can be difficult to pry apart. Some theorists embrace the term sex/gender in a refusal to disambiguate the two. Others suggest that sex is merely gender dressed up in the authoritative language of the biological sciences.
During a year at the Wissenschaftskolleg, I hope to develop a philosophically sophisticated account of "sex" that presses beyond this divide. Through historically and philosophically sensitive analyses of the concept of "sex" as it is operationalized in particular biological research programs, I argue that the concept of sex is an indispensable one in biological research; at the same time, I understand sex as a contested theoretical construct pinned to research context and open to conceptual debate. Conceptualizing sex in this way, I argue, opens terrain for arguing for more apt and reflective uses of the concept.

Recommended Reading

Richardson, Sarah S. and Hallam Stevens, eds. Postgenomics: Perspectives on Biology after the Genome. Durham, London: Duke University Press, 2015.
Richardson, Sarah S. Sex Itself: The Search for Male and Female in the Human Genome. Chicago, London: University of Chicago Press, 2013.
Lee, Sandra, Barbara Koenig, and Sarah S. Richardson, eds. Revisiting Race in a Genomic Age. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2008.

Publikationen aus der Fellowbibliothek

Richardson, Sarah S. ( 2015)
Opinion : focus on preclinical sex differences will not address women’s and men’s health disparities

Richardson, Sarah S. ( Durham [u.a.], 2015)
Postgenomics : perspectives on biology after the genome

Richardson, Sarah S. ( Chicago, 2013)
Sex itself : the search for male and female in the human genome

Richardson, Sarah S. ( 2010)
Sexes, species, and genomes : why males and females are not like humans and chimpanzees

Richardson, Sarah S. ( New Brunswick, N.J [u.a.], 2008)
Revisiting race in a genomic age Studies in medical anthropology

Workshop 21.02.2019

Female leadership in mammalian and human societies: integrating biological and social science perspectives

more about the workshop