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Endocrine Economies


Project Design 

The project consists of six work packages (WPs) organized as three subprojects (SPs). Each SP focuses on the ways that hormones are used to regulate, optimize and disrupt the body, in addition to one concluding project. Situated in the intersections of these processes, the WPs analytically seek to capture how Danish hormonal imaginaries emerge and circulate in different empirical sites. The sites are chosen due to their research relevance and accessibility. This includes attention to material practices (embodied effects of sex hormones), affects and language-based practices (discourses, narratives, and normative ideals), and cultural importance (emerging understandings of sex hormones). Each SP employs a unique analytical approach sensitive to the empirical material and the aim to also embrace the intersections between the different WPs.

SP1: Disrupting and Regulating Gendered Bodies 

Based on the premise that hormones and hormone-like chemicals disrupt boundaries associated with generational time, SP1 responds to the question: How do hormones disrupt and regulate ‘properly’ aged bodily developments? The SP contributes to scholarship on the biomedicalization of puberty and aging (e.g. Conrad 2007; Roberts 2015; Roberts & Cronshaw 2017) and critical disability studies (e.g. Goodley 2016) consisting of two parts: The imaginaries of hormones in relation to puberty (WP1) and in relation to andropause (WP2). Both WPs engage analytically with scientific and public media reports, campaigns, televised work, and media accounts.

WP1: “The Too-Soons.” The Onset of Hormones (PIs, 6 months)
In this WP, Kroløkke and Hvidtfeldt follow how chemicals that act-like-hormones are seen to disrupt a “naturalized” hormonal cycle from childhood to adulthood. During recent years, precocious puberty has been a matter of both public and scientific concern in Denmark. Case studies will include the large cross-sectional cohort COPENHAGEN Puberty Study (Aksglaede et al. 2009), the Copenhagen Municipal Choir School study (Juul et al. 2007), ongoing work undertaken by the Center for Endocrine Disruptors located at Rigshospitalet (see email) as well as media reports (from 2007-onwards), and international aesthetic and media productions related to precocious puberty such as international campaigns (e.g. The World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), DetoX. Campaigning for safer chemicals, 2007) and televised representations (e.g. Little Big Girls, 2014). 

WP2: “The Never-Olds.” The Drop in Hormones (Postdoc 1, 24 months)
In WP2, Postdoc NN follows hormones into debates on “andropause” and explores what theoretical insights the growing field of critical disability studies has to offer feminist STS studies by scrutinizing the kinds of social norms and cultural imaginaries that define particular attributes as “impairments” in need of “fixing” (Siebers 2008; Goodley 2016.) Compared to the focus on female menopause, the male body has, however, up until recently escaped much regulatory and medical intervention as well as analysis (Bordo 2000; Rosenfeld & Faircloth 2006). The emergence of andropause indicates a growing interest in men’s aging bodies along with critical discussions of hormone regulation and “natural” alternatives as forms of medical intervention (Kampf et al. 2013). Empirically, through a cross-media analysis, NN will critically investigate how desirable effects of hormone treatment circulate, arise and materialize in and through popular culture e.g. podcasts (e.g. Weekendavisen: “Testosteron og sure gamle mænd” [Testosterone and angry old men], 2020), tv-shows and documentaries (e.g. TV2: “Halløj i hormonerne” [Unruly Hormones], 2013), pharmaceutical commercials, official health campaigns, self-improvement books (e.g. Hartvig & Just, Bliv Mere Mand På 10 Uger [Become more of a man in 10 weeks], 2011) and cook books (e.g. Cadogan, Herrerevolution [Gentlemen’s revolution], 2011) as well as online ethnographic research on social media accounts (Hine 2015). 

SP2: Regulating and Optimizing Gendered Bodies 

Based on the premise that hormones emerge as emancipatory (e.g. “the pill”), as risky agents (e.g. the cause of depression) as well as agents that optimize bodily appearance (e.g. “bikini fitness”), this SP contributes to the ongoing scholarship on how hormones regulate and optimize gendered bodies (e.g. Roberts 2007; Sanabria 2016; Gaudillière 2018) by emphasizing two areas with particular relevance within a Danish context. The PhD candidate and Postdoc2 will respectively undertake substantial multi-sited empirical work in response to the question: How do hormones circulate to regulate and optimize gendered bodies?

WP3: (Un)Making Hormones. Risk-Managing the Reproductive Body (PhD, 36 months)
Ph.D. candidate NN (advisor: Kroløkke) will write a thesis on the ways that hormones turn into contraceptive agents that circulate among young people in Denmark. In contrast to the widespread use of hormonal contraception among women, introduced in Denmark in 1966, a male equivalent has never reached the markets despite decades of research (e.g. Oudshoorn 2003). In order to understand the complex ways in which hormonal birth control entangle in Danish imaginaries of reproductive control, gendered responsibility as well as risks, this WP involves following how the birth control pill has been debated in Danish mainstream media (between 2010-2020), has become mediated in Danish educational materials (e.g. in mandatory sex education), emerges as a troubled gender equalizer on Danish YouTube videos on the male pill (e.g. “Hvor er den mandlige p-pille?” [Where is the male pill?], 2018), and is embedded in the every-day-lives of thirty young Danish women as evidenced in solicited diaries and diary interviews (e.g. Kenten 2010, informants are recruited with the assistance of The Danish Family Planning Association, see email).

WP4: (Re)Making Bodies. Hormones as Optimizers (Postdoc 2, 18 months)
By following the ways that sex hormones, in the case of bodybuilding, are used to optimize the physical body, Postdoc NN traces the ways that hormones are consumed by female bodybuilding participants prior to competing, embodied during bodybuilding competitions, and ascribed meaning in the aftermath of competitions (e.g. Athletic Fitness, Classic bodybuilding contests). Employing a sensory ethnographic approach (Pink 2009), NN participates in training together with participants, archives the physical and affective environment in which hormones becomes a matter of optimization and engages in “train-and-talk” interviews with 20 female participants (e.g. Kusenbach 2003). In this manner, NN follows the ways that participants navigate the economies of both the black market, the competitions as well as various forms of gendered embodiment (e.g. Campbell et al. 2021; Tajrobehkar 2016).

SP3: Optimizing and Disrupting Gendered Bodies

Based on the premise that sex hormones disrupt our understandings of sex-segregation in sports and become formative in transgender lives, this SP contributes to ongoing feminist scholarly conversations (e.g. Stryker 2008; Sverkersson et al. 2020) and responds to the question: How do sex hormones optimize and disrupt normative imaginaries of gendered bodies? The SP will empirically engage with the institutional and legal contexts as well as, in the case of WP6, ethnographic material.

WP5: Reinforcing Gender/Doping Gender (Postdoc 2, 6 months)
In this WP, Postdoc NN follows the ways in which hormones, in competitive sports, disrupt an understanding of a binary gender system. This entails following how sex hormones, since the 1960s, have been the focal point in public and institutional debates on rules of sex-segregation in sports in Denmark. Case studies include the entanglement of the 2015 and 2018 International Association of  Athletics Federations (IAAF) testosterone rules, changes associated with the controversies surrounding “hyperandronism,” the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as well as the Danish and International Rugby foundations decision to respectively in- and exclude transgender women (Lindner 2012; Erikainen 2019; Takemura 2020). Moreover, to foreground mediated accounts, NN tracks the contemporary mentions of sex hormones in relation to female athletes and in debates on Danish social media and in news articles (2015-2022).

WP6: Recoding and Reimagining Gender (Postdoc 3, 18 months)
In WP6, Postdoc NN follows hormones into the realms of transgender healthcare to investigate the Danish cultural and institutional frameworks that inform the use of hormones in trans and queer bodies. Departing in the so-called “hormonal crisis” of 2012 (Amnesty International, 2016) that preceded a larger amendment of the law on legal gender recognition and transgender healthcare (Bach 2020; Dietz 2018), the WP draws on multi-sited ethnographic work to study the (in)availability of hormonal treatment in Denmark as well as the embodied experiences of gender affirmative hormonal treatment and its effects. This comprises following hormonal and gender imaginaries in ‘the paper trail’ left behind by the legal (re)organisations along with interviews with doctors, Danish government officials and activists. To further explore the embodied experiences of hormones including the practices of micro-dosing (Preciado 2013) and community imaginaries of DIY-hormones (Edenfield et al. 2019; Tsang 2017), that negotiate pharmaceutical and industrial logics, 5 workshops applying focus group principles (Babour 2007) and the art-based method of body mapping (e.g. Furman et al. 2019; Orchard 2017) will be conducted. A minimum of 20 self-identified transgender individuals will participate in these workshops that will be held in collaboration with the national NGO LGBT+ Denmark (see letter of confirmation).

Concluding Project (CP): Endocrine Economies (PIs) 

The two PIs will bring the empirical and theoretical finds from WP1-6 together to theorize the cultural imaginaries that emerge when sex hormones circulate to regulate, optimize and disrupt gendered bodies. Whereas hormones, in the case of endocrine disrupters (WP1) and transgender transition (WP6), may disrupt and disturb gendered bodies; when it comes to female bodybuilding (WP4) and athleticism (WP5), sex hormones are continually debated as embodying yet also endangering the “female” body. Meanwhile, sex hormones circulate across all WPs in and out of various affective, legal and illicit economies. By developing endocrine economies as a cultural analytical framework and relying upon our assemblage and biomedicalization theoretical frameworks along with multi-sited and multimodal empirical approaches, we aim to make a key contribution to the ongoing international dialogue on humanistic understandings of sex hormones

Sidst opdateret: 21.02.2024