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Primate Sexualities: Beyond the Binary

(Coordinated by Volker Sommer & Kathleen Bryson)

WHERE AND WHEN: Alternate Wednesdays in term 1, 4-6pm, Room 224 (Volker Sommer’s office)
FIRST MEETING:
Wednesday 8 October, 4-6pm, Room 224 (Volker Sommer’s office)

Black and white, raw and cooked, sick and healthy, we and them, animals and humans, good and bad: we have a strong tendency to pigeonhole our world in dualistic categories. This is particularly true with respect to dimensions related to gender and sexuality. Who doesn't think in "male and female" or "straight and gay"? Such a binary approach to life is certainly practical, allows us to make fast decisions and provides some sense of security. However, dichotomous structures are social constructs and do not correctly reflect physical or biological realities. The "real world" is fuzzy, full of gradualism.

Our reading group aims to explore the roots of our tendency to view the world in opposites. For this, we will engage with historical, philosophical and psychological contexts and concepts. Venturing into the field of evolution of cognition, we will also try to understand if and how other animals "construct" their worlds, in particular our closest living relatives, monkeys and apes. It will probably lead us to question concepts such as "species" and "sex" upon which much of current biological and sociological theorizing is built. With this, we will hopefully arrive at an informed understanding of alternative concepts, currently engendered by the fashionable term "queerness".


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