Fishing for Affinity: Gender Benders and Indirect Environmental Activism in Contemporary China

On Wednesday, January 30, Janelle Lamoreaux, PhD Candidatea at the UC Berkeley/UCSF Joint Medical Anthropology Program, will present her work on ‘Gender Benders and Indirect Environmental Activism in Contemporary China’ as part of the DAHSM Diana Forsythe Dissertation Seminar.

In January of 2011, China’s Department for Environmental Protection announced that nonylphenols (NPs) would be added to their list of toxic chemical substances whose import and export must be regulated through the government. This announcement came as a welcome surprise to those environmental activists and toxicology scientists who had been working for the regulation of NPs and other so-called endocrine disrupting chemicals. Based on archival and ethnographic research in Beijing and Nanjing, the research work of Janelle Lamoreaux explores the means through which the hard sought regulation of toxic chemicals in China came about. Activists and scientists alike achieved policy change not through direct claims to scientific facts or international precedent. Instead environmental activists relate intersex fish found in China’s most symbolically laden and heavily polluted river to the growing number of rapidly maturing and androgynous Chinese youth, tracing and thereby producing a fear of “gender benders,” whether chemical, fish or human. Lamoreaux’ talk criticizes the gender normative nature of such activism, but also offers a more hopeful rendering of the possibilities for affinity opened by the way endocrine disrupting chemicals are studied and protested in China.

On Wednesday, January 30, from 3:30 – 5:00 pm at Laurel Heights Campus, Conference Room 474.

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Last modified: January 18, 2013