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Not Essential: The Inherently Unstable Politics of Scientific Facts About Homosexuality

Publié le 3 juin 2014 Mis à jour le 25 septembre 2023

3 juin

Peter Hegarty
(University of Surrey)

En collaboration avec le Centre de recherche en psychologie sociale et interculturelle et Psyceduc (l’école doctorale thématique en psychologie et sciences de l’éducation)

Room Henri Janne, Institut de Sociologie (15th floor), Building S
Avenue Jeanne, 44, 1050 Bruxelles

Is there an ‘essential’ relationship between scientific claims about different kinds of people and their political effects in modern or postmodern cultures? In recent decades, as increasing proportions of people have come to believe that homosexuality - particularly in men - is inborn, psychologists have tended to celebrate how this trend refutes the notion that homosexuality can be tied to sin, cause or blame. Simultaneously, and in contrast, academic scholarship in the humanities has never so strongly emphasized that human sexuality is an irreducibly historical category, and that sexualities are ‘socially constructed’ in various ways.
In this talk, I inform this landscape with historical analysis of a mid-20th century debate about sexuality that shows variability in the relationship between fact and value, and with contemporary psychological evidence that the arguments that sexuality is inborn is in inherently pro-gay is, at best, grossly overstated. I conclude that the relationship between science and politics is far more variable than current psychological models allow, and that such models can only accommodate the landscape of contemporary sexual politics by engaging with scholarship on the history of sexuality and deprioritizing interest in discovering the ‘truth’ about sexuality.

Peter Hegarty is a Reader and Head of School of Psychology at the University of Surrey in the UK. His work cuts across the fields of psychology, history and sociology and aims for impactful informed analyses of how the sexual politics of contemporary science and scientifically mediated cultures are affected by the dynamics of normativity.
His first book Gentlemen's Disagreement: Alfred Kinsey, Lewis Terman, and the Sexual Politics of Smart Men was published by University of Chicago Press in 2013, and he has authored and co-authored 70 other articles which have appeared in such diverse venues as Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Journal of the History of Sexuality, Annual Review of Sex Research (forthcoming), Women’s Studies International Forum, Radical Statistics, and Perspectives on Psychological Science.

Avec le soutien de la Faculté des Sciences sociales et politiques et de l’Institut de Sociologie de l’Université libre de Bruxelles.