The Brain′s Body

Neuroscience and Corporeal Politics

The Brain′s Body

Book Pages: 192 Illustrations: Published: March 2016

Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Science and Technology Studies > Feminist Science Studies, Sociology > Social Theory

In The Brain's Body Victoria Pitts-Taylor brings feminist and critical theory to bear on new development in neuroscience to demonstrate how power and inequality are materially and symbolically entangled with neurobiological bodies. Pitts-Taylor is interested in how the brain interacts with and is impacted by social structures, especially in regard to race, class, gender, sexuality, and disability, as well as how those social structures shape neuroscientific knowledge. Pointing out that some brain scientists have not fully abandoned reductionist or determinist explanations of neurobiology, Pitts-Taylor moves beyond debates over nature and nurture to address the politics of plastic, biosocial brains. She highlights the potential of research into poverty's effects on the brain to reinforce certain notions of poor subjects and to justify particular forms of governance, while her queer critique of kinship research demonstrates the limitations of hypotheses based on heteronormative assumptions. In her exploration of the embodied mind and the "embrained" body, Pitts-Taylor highlights the inextricability of nature and culture and shows why using feminist and queer thought is essential to understanding the biosociality of the brain. 


"The Brain’s Body’s relevance and importance lie not only in this re-positioning of affect in neuroscience, but also in that... it deeply challenges the very presuppositions of the science itself, and how they function, in a burgeoning discipline that codifies our bodies and mind more intricately than ever before." — Promise Li, Hong Kong Review of Books

"Rather than embrace research on brain plasticity as telling an agreeable tale of human freedom, flexibility, and adaptability, Pitts-Taylor considers findings that clearly matter—the effects of childhood poverty on the neurological development of language systems—and shows just how entangled this research is with imaginings of social 'others.'" — Steven Epstein, Los Angeles Review of Books

"This is an important book. . . . Pitts-Taylor’s focus on the corporeal politics of multiplicity should contribute to a range of areas in medical sociology." — Des Fitzgerald, Sociology of Health & Illness

"The Brain’s Body is one of those books so incredibly useful for the work it does to help us understand and describe where it is we are—at a historical juncture where the stakes of feminist scientific literacy and engagement are high." — Angela Willey, International Feminist Journal of Politics

"This book breaks new ground in feminist studies of neuroscience. ... [Pitts-Taylor] offers a glimpse of what social neuroscience might be if it took embodiment and social relationship seriously." — Robyn Bluhm, American Journal of Sociology

"As we continue to wrestle with how the brain informs our sociological awareness and investigation, we will look to The Brain’s Body as a blueprint to help us untangle fully the sociological usefulness, uncertainties, and risks in exploring the relationships between our brains and sociality." — Oliver Rollins, Contemporary Sociology

"Resonates . . . in its aim to bring a deeper political awareness to neuroscience by making difference and variation a central tenant. . . . Should be read carefully and thought about yet more carefully." — Stephen T. Casper, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences

"Pitts-Taylor expertly navigates both the politically dangerous and redemptive qualities of current neuroscientific understandings of the relationship between brain, body, and society. . . . The connections she makes among a diverse body of interdisciplinary scholarship is no small feat, and more than anything reveals the importance of evolutionary ontogeny for understanding relations between brain, body, and society not as fixed and deterministic, but as plastic and contingent." — Brandon Jones, New Genetics and Society

"An exciting book, The Brain's Body adds wonderful new dimensions to the fruitful but still limited conversation between neuroscience and feminism while introducing readers to new literatures, novel interpretations, and exciting interweavings of arguments on key debates about neuroscience from a variety of fields. In generous and creative ways, Victoria Pitts-Taylor mines contemporary neuroscience for its nonreductionist potential, pointing out some of its clear resonances with feminist epistemologies. No one else has yet tackled in such depth the ways that emerging research regarding brain plasticity provide a strong empirical bridge between 'mainstream' science and feminist theory."  — Rebecca M. Jordan-Young, author of Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences

"The Brain’s Body brings clarity and sociological finesse to current debates about the role of neuroscientific data in public and intellectual life. With remarkable fluency, this book places the embodied specifics of race, class, disability, gender, and sexuality at the center of our responses to the brain sciences. This will be an indispensable and widely read guide for how to work with neurological data in the social sciences."  — Elizabeth A. Wilson, author of Gut Feminism


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Victoria Pitts-Taylor is Professor of Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Wesleyan University and the author of Surgery Junkies: Wellness and Pathology in Cosmetic Culture.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix

Introduction: The Social Brain and Corporeal Politics  1

1. The Phenomenon of Brain Plasticity  17

2. What Difference Does the Body Make?  43

3. I Feel Your Pain  67

4. Neurobiology and the Queerness of Kinship  95

Conclusion: The Multiplicity of Embodiment  119

Notes  129

References  153

Index  177
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Winner, 2017 Robert K. Merton Award, presented by the Science, Knowledge, and Technology Section of the American Sociological Association

Winner, 2016 PSA Women's Caucus Prize in Feminist Philosophy of Science

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6126-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6107-7
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