I have been torn between the natural sciences and humanities for a long time. In fact, this book has probably been in the works since the day I sent in my acceptance to pursue a doctoral degree in molecular biology and reproductive neuroendocrinology. By accepting that admissions offer and extremely rewarding academic path, I declined an offer from an environmental studies program where my plan was to study bioethics, environmental justice, and women’s reproductive health movements. At my side while I made this difficult decision about my academic trajectory was a cadre of feminists who encouraged me to stay in the “hard” sciences, to become a feminist scientist, to learn the science that was being used to develop new reproductive and genetic technologies, and to participate in the creation of scientific knowledge. A long time coming, this book is a direct result of that encouragement.
At any given point in my intellectual journey, I have been unbelievably fortunate to have many generous feminist mentors at my side. Several of them welcomed me into their midst while I was just an undergraduate student studying microbiology. Laura Sky introduced me to some of the most fierce and eloquent scholar-activists I have ever come across, including Shree Mulay, Karen Messing, Sunera Thobani, and Elizabeth Abergel. As a master’s student studying in a cancer biology lab at McMaster University, my supervisor Andrew Rainbow supported my interdisciplinary tendencies; when I had finished required course work in genetics and radiobiology, he encouraged me to take a directed reading course in the philosophy department. For this opportunity, I am forever grateful. Through this course, Elizabeth Boetzkes introduced me to the work of Sandra Harding, Helen Longino, Nancy Tuana, Alison Wylie, and Joseph Rouse. Reading their work as a graduate student gave me a sense of what becoming a feminist scientist would actually entail. I never imagined that one day I would have the opportunity to meet and share my ideas with these feminist philosophers in person.
As a doctoral student, I had the chance to study with one of the very few female professors in the Department of Physiology at the University of Toronto. I am thankful to my supervisor, Denise D. Belsham, for sharing her scientific curiosity and her love of molecular biology research with me. I am grateful to Neil MacLusky, Ted Brown, and Bernardo Yusta for their guidance and support during my doctoral research. I want to acknowledge my lab mates Arawn Therrian, Tarranum Shakil, and Monica Antenos for their friendship and support. I also want to acknowledge the many nonhuman actants in the lab for their role in teaching me about molecular biology. It was, however, the course I took with Margrit Eichler in medical sociology and reproductive technologies at the University of Toronto that led me to my interdisciplinary career path. I can never thank Margrit enough for allowing me to audit her graduate seminar, introducing me to the field of feminist science studies, requiring me to write a final paper for the course, and encouraging me to submit that paper to the journal Hypatia while I was still a graduate student. I was so fortunate to receive this mentorship as a young scholar, and I am inspired to try to do the same for my own students. Through Margrit I was invited to join the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council–funded group Biology As If the World Matters (BAITWorM), where Linda Muzzin and the late Peggy Tripp-Knowles showed me that social justice work and scientific research can go hand in hand.
This brief exposure to the field of feminist science studies and my participation in a science and social justice organization made me take a gamble and apply for a tenure-track position in a women’s studies department. What reason my colleagues in the Women’s Studies Department at San Diego State had to take a gamble on me, I will never know. I am forever grateful to Huma Ahmed-Ghosh, Irene Lara, Susan Cayleff, Pat Huckle, Anne Donadey, Doreen Mattingly, Oliva Espin, Esther Rothblum, Bonnie Zimmerman, and Bonnie Kime Scott for supporting me while I trained to become a women’s studies scholar. Around this time I was invited into an incredibly supportive community of feminist science and technology studies (STS) scholars. Two particular events during this period stand out. First, while giving a talk at the inaugural Feminist Epistemologies, Methodologies, Metaphysics and Science Studies (FEMMSS) conference in Seattle, I had the good fortune of meeting Sandra Harding and Karen Barad. Both of these influential feminist thinkers asked me extremely difficult questions after my talk; to this day, they continue to generously engage in and support my work. Second, I was invited to join the Next Wave in Feminist Technoscience group by Jennifer Terry and Kavita Philip at the University of California–Irvine, where I was introduced to Banu Subramaniam and Michelle Murphy, both of whom became thoughtful interlocutors. Thanks to these mentors, I developed a vocabulary in feminist STS.
During my time at Emory University, I have been able to carry out several interdisciplinary projects. It is rare to have the support of an institution that doesn’t ask me to justify why I want to bring the humanities and the sciences together, or waste my energy and time making the case that women’s studies and the neurosciences should come together. Instead, I get to spend my time doing what I love. Thanks to my joint appointment in the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) and in the Program of Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology (NBB), I teach women’s studies students about molecular biology and neuroscience, and neuroscience students about feminism. I join communities of learners across campus who appreciate the importance of interdisciplinary pursuits. My colleagues in the Department of WGSS have been unwavering in their support. I thank Lynne Huffer, Pamela Scully, and Elizabeth Wilson for being fearless chairs and generous mentors, and for creating a department culture where academic curiosity and friendship go hand in hand. I also want to acknowledge my WGSS colleagues Carla Freeman, Michael Moon, Irene Browne, Beth Reinghold, Falguni Sheth, Kadji Amin, and Calvin Warren for their support.
To my colleagues in NBB—namely Paul Lennard, Kristen Frenzel, Michael Crutcher, Keith Easterling, Bob Wyttenback, Leah Anderson Roesch, and Gillian Hue—I thank you for your openness to my interdisciplinary wanderings and for supporting feminist STS at the institutional and curricular levels. The administrative staff in both of my academic homes solve problems for me every day, and for this I am truly grateful. They are Neema Oliver, Marybeth Smith, Kashira Baker, Alan Weinstein, and Nadia Brown-Ware. To my many colleagues in the Graduate Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, I thank you for the opportunity to actually practice the art of having difficult conversations and developing shared moments of perplexity. In particular, I acknowledge my colleagues Donna Maney, Ron Calabrese, Shawn Hochman, Yoland Smith, and David Weinshenker in the Neuroscience Program, for supporting my neuroscience research and teaching efforts. I also thank Ichiro Matsumura in the Department of Biochemistry for the lively discussions on synthetic biology, ethics, and life in the lab.
Paul Root Wolpe, Karen Rommelfanger, and Arri Eisen at Emory’s Center for Ethics have supported my research and teaching during my time as a senior fellow. Many more incredible faculty colleagues, working across several different disciplines, have supported my work and extended their friendship, including Yanna Yannakakis, Ben Reiss, Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Aiden Downey, Deepika Bahari, Jonathan Goldberg, Sander Gilman, Stu Marvel, and Cindy Willett. I also thank the students that I have had the great fortune of working with at Emory. In particular, I thank students from my recent WGSS graduate seminars in feminist and postcolonial STS, and my seminar on feminism, Deleuze, and biology. They are Stephanie Alvarado, Jordan Johnson, Lamo Lamaocuo, Allison Pilatsky, Ingrid Meintjes, Samantha VanHorn, Abidemi Fasanmi, Katherine Bryant, Anna Kurowicka, Caroline Warren, Samia Vasa, Lily Oster, Kevin McPherson, and Stephanie Koziej. I also thank my graduate research assistant Dayne Alexander for kindly making sense of unruly lists of keywords and managing to find journal articles to help with my research.
I have received several fellowships and grants over the years. These scholarly gifts have provided me with much needed time to think, research, and write. They include a visiting scholar appointment at the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women at Brown University. I thank Londa Schiebinger and the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University for supporting my research through a faculty fellowship. The actual serious thinking, research, and writing for this book project began, however, when I received a faculty fellowship from the Bill and Carol Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry at Emory. I thank Tina Brownley, Keith Anthony, Amy Erbil, and Colette Barlow for supporting me during that magical year with stimulating conversations and an office fridge that was always full of goodies.
I want to acknowledge the National Academies KECK Futures Initiative for a grant that supported my research on synthetic biology and ethics. I also want to acknowledge the National Science Foundation for my Scholars Award. This book would only be an idea accompanied by some scribbled notes were it not for this award. In particular, I thank my program officer, Wenda Bauchspies, for her support. Thanks also to two graduate research assistants, Ingrid Meintjes and Kristie Garza, who brought their own excitement and expertise to this project. This book contains the theoretical framework I developed to carry out the research for my NSF award. The actual data and results of that NSF project will have to wait for the next book. Segments of this book draw from previously published works. A portion of chapter 2 appeared as the chapter “Feminist Approaches to Inquiry in the Natural Sciences: Practices for the Lab” in the Handbook of Feminist Research: Theory and Praxis (Sage Publications, 2011). Chapter 3 includes an earlier version of work that appeared as the chapter “Science Studies” in The Oxford Handbook of Feminist Theory (Oxford University Press, 2016). An earlier version of chapter 4 appeared as “Should Feminists Clone? And If So, How? Notes from an Implicated Modest Witness” in the Spring 2008 issue of the journal Australian Feminist Studies.
In addition, segments of this book have been presented by way of several invited talks while still in preparation. For the opportunity to share my work, I am thankful to the following: the Compassionate Knowledge Working Group at Hampshire University, the Gender Research Institute at Dartmouth University, the Program on Science and Technology Studies at Harvard University, the Neuroscience Lecture Series at Georgia State University, the Center for the Humanities at Wesleyan University, the Institute of Women’s Studies and Gender Research at Johannes Kepler University, and the Life Un(Ltd) Lecture Series at the University of California at Los Angeles.
I have looked forward to writing these acknowledgments for some time. Even when it was unclear where the chapters of this book would take me, the support that I received from so many friends was always clear. To my STS, feminist STS, and feminist philosophy of science friends, I thank you for the stimulating discussions and for inspiring me to become a better thinker. You are Jenny Reardon, Anne Pollock, Jennifer Singh, Nassim Jafarinaimi, Jennifer Hamilton, Carol McCann, Ruha Benjamin, Rachel Lee, Aimee Bahng, Kalindi Vora, Neda Atanasoski, Angie Willey, Sara Giordano, Moya Bailey, Catherine Hundleby, Alexis Shotwell, and Sharyn Clough. To my feminist and postcolonial STS working group friends, I thank you for the many nourishing conversations. You are Laura Foster, Kim TallBear, Sandra Harding, and Banu Subramaniam. To my friends in the NeuroGenderings Network who are both feminist neuroscientists and scientist feminists, you have taught me how to ask difficult questions, but more important you have shown me how to have fun while we try to answer these questions together. You are Anelis Kaiser, Isabelle Dussage, Sigrid Schmitz, Catherine Vidal, Cynthia Kraus, Rebecca Jordan-Young, Cordelia Fine, Emily Ngubia Kessé, Victoria Pitts-Taylor, Daphna Joel, Gina Rippon, Sari van Anders, Gillian Einstein, Cordelia Fine, Robyn Bluhm, Hannah Fitsch, Giordana Grossi, and Christel Gumy.
At the University of Washington Press, special thanks go to my extremely patient series editors, Banu Subramaniam and Rebecca Herzig, and my editor, Larin McLaughlin. Thank you so much for believing in this book even before I did. Also, I would not have been able to bring this book to its final form without the help of my copyeditor Amy Smith Bell and Beth Fuget and Julie Van Pelt at UW Press. For providing insightful and generous comments, I thank the two anonymous readers. I also want to specially thank a new friend, Sushmita Chatterjee, who falls into a category of her own. Despite only having known me for a month, Sushmita not only agreed to read my entire manuscript but also gave me an idea for the conclusion. She joins the many other feminists who are committed to the political work of academic community building. I am lucky to call you my friends.
I must end by acknowledging my family for their encouragement as I wrote every sentence in this book. To my partner’s parents, Cynthia and Peter Meighoo, thank you for asking me about my work on a regular basis and for supporting my scholarly pursuits. Your generosity and kindness has helped me balance having a career and a family. To my own parents, Ila and Manick Roy, thank you for encouraging me to become a scientist from a young age. Yet, all the while you did this, you both also exposed me to the worlds of poetry, music, and dance. As a child of Bengali immigrants in Canada, I learned to sing an endless number of songs from Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitabitan (1960), and as I did, my mother would carefully translate the meaning of each song from Bengali to English for me. My favorite Tagore songs were those that turned to the lives of birds, cows, forests, flowers, and clouds to glean some of life’s most important lessons on love, desire, devotion, and beauty. I’m not blaming my parents, but they might be responsible for my constant meanderings between the sciences and humanities. To my late brother, Atanu Roy, losing you when we did taught me to find meaning in my work and to treasure the people around me. Thank you for these hard life lessons. To my sister, Madhumeeta Roy, thank you for figuring out the importance of following your passions from a very young age. I have learned by your example. Thank you for being my partner in perseverance. Your role in seeing this book through, by way of constant encouragement, is worthy of coauthorship. To my children, Kheyal and Koan Roy-Meighoo, your love sustains me and your creativity inspires me. Watching you grow has been a humbling experience, and I am perpetually in awe of how you encounter the world around you through curiosity and joy. In fact, as I write these acknowledgments, The Lollipops are jamming in the room beside me. Your version of “Heads Will Roll” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs is nothing short of fierce.
Lastly, to my partner, Sean Meighoo, thank you for making time to read and comment on this manuscript and making it the first item of business on your to-do list during your post-tenure leave. Thank you for being a feminist, for introducing me to the scholarly field of women’s studies, and for supporting me in my own feminist pursuits. Thank you most of all for putting together an awesome soundtrack for our lives together.