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Gender and Ontology Reading Group

ASCA/OSZW Reading Group organized by Alex Thinius

“If the female function is not enough to define woman, and if we also reject the explanation of the ‘eternal feminine’, but if we accept, even temporarily, that there are women on the earth, we then have to ask: what is a woman?” (de Beauvoir 2011 [1949], 4-5)

Gender is troubled and troubling. It is deeply personal, political, and politicized. But what is gender actually? What should we make today of the distinction between sex and gender? How should we understand what sex-gender categories, values, roles, classes, relations, practices, ideals, structures, or labels are and how they relate? What is their relation to how we can lead our lives as concrete people (who in particular?)? Is sex-gender at most about people or should we be able to see it in other phenomena as well, e.g., artifacts, colors, social spheres, or economic distinctions? How does it relate to other elements of a situation, e.g., socio-economic, ableist, or racist inequalities? Can and should an ontology of sex-gender be localized, and how to achieve that? More generally, what does doing justice to sex-gender reveal about the relationship between ontological and normative questions? Is an ontology of sex-gender needed to name, analyze, and undo sex-gender related injustice and oppression, and what would it need to look like? What approach to ontology suggests itself after a critical study of sex-gender? 

The reading group invites people from any relevant background. In the past, it has been particularly interesting for PhD candidates, post-docs, and advanced Master’s students. The idea is to read contemporary and classical texts focussing on the relationship between sex-gender and ontology. The main aim is getting a better idea of different options how to understand sex-gender. In addition to the ontology of gender, we look at the gender of ontology as well.

The concrete program and formate is flexible and up to the interests of the participants.

Topics during the last two years have been or may be things like: de Beauvoir and different readings of her work, constructivist accounts, Marxist feminism, phenomenological approaches, sexual difference approaches, performativity theory, practice theory, dynamic systems theory, queer studies, analytic feminism, (feminist) empiricism, new materialism, Africana feminism, decolonial approaches, black feminism, historical work on 19th century sexology, masculinities studies, pregnancy studies, trans* studies, early- and proto-feminism.

The reading group usually meets on the second-to-last Friday of a month, 16.00-18.00. It is hosted by ASCA/Universiteit van Amsterdam and collaborates in particular with the OZSW study group feminist philosophy. Please email Alex ( at any time to participate, co-organize, or receive more information.