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October 4, 2023+Team HxA
+Open Inquiry+Research & Publishing+Viewpoint Diversity

UNCANCELED: Heterodox Academy to Host Virtual ‘Canceled’ Panel on Sex in Anthropology on November 8

Heterodox Academy (HxA), a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to improving institutions of higher education by advocating for principles of open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, and constructive disagreement, will host a virtual version of a conference panel that was vetted and approved by two major anthropology societies in July, then canceled last week. The five scheduled panelists, all female professors in socio-cultural anthropology, archaeology, and biological anthropology, will use the virtual event to build a broader audience for their scholarly arguments. The controversy has drawn international media attention from outlets including The New York Times, Newsweek, and more.

Heterodox Academy’s live virtual event, featuring the panel talks as originally prepared, will be presented to our members, supporters, and the public on November 8, 2023 from 4:00 - 6:00 pm ET. The two-hour online event will feature introductory opening remarks by HxA President John Tomasi and the panelists’ presentations with Carole Hooven as a discussant, followed by a Q&A period with the audience. Four papers will be presented in English and one in French, with a translation provided to viewers.

The event is open to the public for registration via Zoom webinar, but seats are limited. The event will also be livestreamed on YouTube, but only webinar registrants will have access to Q&A with panelists during the event.

The conference symposium was planned as a series of talks titled, “Let's Talk About Sex Baby: Why Biological Sex Remains A Necessary Analytic Category in Anthropology.” It was accepted by the joint conference of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) and the Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA) in July. But on September 25 the societies sent the panelists a letter informing them that the panel was removed from the conference out of “respect for our values, the safety and dignity of our members, and the scientific integrity of the program.”

The panel, organized by Kathleen Lowrey, Associate Professor at University of Alberta, challenges the “increasingly common” tendency to substitute ‘sex’ with ‘gender’ despite there being “multiple domains of research in which biological sex remains irreplaceably relevant to anthropological analysis.”

While the panelists do not dispute the anthropological relevance of gender and related concepts, their academic papers, to be presented, point to the knowledge that would be lost when sex is no longer considered an important analytic category. Rather than the science on the topic being “settled” the expert panelists argue that, “the transition from sex to gender in anthropological scholarship deserves much more critical consideration than it has hitherto received in major disciplinary fora like AAA / CASCA.”

“Heterodox Academy is stepping in to enable us to share our research, but more importantly, providing us a platform will allow others to hear our talks,” said panelist Elizabeth Weiss. “I think that those who attend the webinar will learn a great deal, disagree with some of our views, agree with others, and realize that sharing diverse viewpoints, especially around contentious issues such as sex and gender, enriches academia.”

In their open response letter, the panelists express their disappointment with the removal of their panel at a major scientific meeting, “as the decision to anathematize our panel looks very much like an anti-science response to a politicized lobbying campaign.” 

Rather than shutting down open inquiry and constructive disagreement, Heterodox Academy is pleased to embrace it, and we invite our members and supporters to do the same.

“De-platforming distinguished scholars for having ‘harmful’ ideas about their own fields of expertise is a political action, not one of an academic society,” said John Tomasi, President of Heterodox Academy. “Heterodox Academy is proud to offer another way for these papers to be heard and judged on their own merits. As Americans and Canadians wrestle with questions of sex and gender in human relations, our scholars should work to advance science by asking uncomfortable questions — not trying to shut them down.”

The HxA mailing list will have first access to registration for the event late next week. You can subscribe here to not miss the invitation.

Talks to be presented at the November 8 event:

  • With The Return of Grand Narratives, What Are Anthropologists Still Not Saying About Sex? by Kathleen Lowrey, Associate Professor at University of Alberta

  • No Bones About It: Skeletons Are Binary; People May Not Be. by Elizabeth Weiss, Professor at San José State University; Heterodox Academy Faculty Fellow

  • A Survey of Property Relations: How Tech Bought Into Gender Ideology and Sold Out Women by Kathleen Richardson, Professor at De Montfort University

  • Comment L'utilisation Idéologique de Concepts Anthropologiques Peut Soutenir L'exploitation (How the Ideological Use of Anthropological Concepts Can Support Exploitation) by Michèle Sirois, Présidente de PDF Québec. Note: This talk will be delivered in French, with an English translation provided to viewers.

  • The Intriguing Disappearance of Sex In Education Against Sex-Based Oppression by Silvia Carrasco, Professor at Autonomous University of Barcelona

Talks to be followed by discussion with Carole Hooven, Senior Fellow at AEI and Fellow at Harvard Psychology, and an audience Q&A. 


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