Let’s talk about sex, sexuality, and reproductive bodies in fieldwork

Authors: Araby Smyth*, University of Kentucky, Manon Lefevre*, Yale University
Topics: Feminist Geographies
Keywords: feminism, embodiment, positionality, fieldwork
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 15
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Feminist scholars have argued that research must always begin from a situated perspective, one that recognizes knowledge as shaped by complex dynamics of gender, race, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, age, (dis)ability, nationality, and more. As feminist scholars, we are continually inspired by these longheld feminist commitments to embodiment, positionality, and critical reflexivity in research, and we are grateful that they have become the methodological norm across the social sciences. We wish to build on the foundation of this epistemological shift by discussing aspects of our own identities and lived experiences while conducting academic research. In particular, we contend that bringing critically reflexive analysis and discussion of sex, sexuality, and reproduction into academic writing, unsettles the Cartesian masculinism within science that privileges mind/body. In this paper, we draw on our own experiences as two cis-gendered white women who do fieldwork in the Global South, to interrogate lingering discomforts around embodied experiences and to call for a renewed commitment to placing the sexual and reproductive body in fieldwork and research. In doing so, we recognize the ways in which our embodied experiences of sex while in the field, and our reproductive and sexual bodies, are as integral to our research findings as our experiences of gender, race, ethnicity, and beyond. Embracing this lingering discomfort as profoundly generative, we center these oft-excluded experiences, and the sexual-reproductive body itself, as a methodological and theoretical intervention to open up new conversations in feminist research.

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