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Experimenting with Gender: How Science Constructs Difference

Emily Ngubia Kuria


Gender/sex plays a significant role in discussions around education and science for policy makers, educators and heads of institutions of higher learning working towards increasing the number of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects. In recent times, evidence-based educational reforms have been championed by education psychologists. Neuroscience and gender studies are two disciplines heavily engaged in this discussion, each attempting to explain whether and/or why males outnumber females in higher-level research and business. While neuroscience approaches the problem from biology to behaviour, gender studies exposes the various ways in which power relations create difference. This paper sheds some light on what happens in a neuroscience laboratory when experimenting on gender/sex difference, elucidating the process through which experimental systems enable the appearance of gender difference and validate it within the hetero-normative norm. Taking the standpoint that gender/sex differences in cognitive performance result from a process that carefully assigns meaning to abstractions based on laboratory tools and components, this paper explores the constructedness of gender/sex differences by integrating perspectives from three disciplines namely neuroscience, science studies and gender studies. The article concludes with an analysis of the implications of these practices.




education, neuroscience, policy

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