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Messengers of Sex


  • 3 b/w illus.
  • Page extent: 248 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.399 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521681971)

Since the early twentieth century, hormones have commonly been understood as 'messengers of sex'. They are seen as essential to the development and functioning of healthy reproductive male and female bodies; millions take them as medications in the treatment of fertility, infertility and ageing. However, in contemporary society, hormones are both disturbed and disturbing; invading our environments and bodies through plastics, food and water, environmental estrogens and other chemicals, threatening irreversible, inter-generational bodily change. Using a wide range of sources, from physiology textbooks to popular parenting books and pharmaceutical advertisements, Celia Roberts analyses the multiple ways in which sex hormones have come to matter to us today. Bringing feminist theories of the body into dialogue with science and technology studies, she develops tools to address one of the most important questions facing feminism today: how is biological sex conceivable?

• Introduces and discusses important recent developments in feminist theories of the body • The first feminist science studies book to discuss environmental estrogens • Analyses a diverse set of case studies, from physiology textbooks to popular parenting books and pharmaceutical advertisements.


Introduction: Feminism, bodies and biological sex; Part I. Hormone Histories: 1. Folding hormonal histories of sex; Part II. Hormonal Bodies: 2. Articulating endocrinology's body; 3. Activating sexed behaviours; Part III. Hormone Cultures: 4. Elixirs of sex: hormone-replacement therapies and contemporary life; 5. The messaging effects of HRT; 6. Hormones in the world; Conclusion: Hormones as provocation.


'This is an excellent book that rigorously and thoughtfully argues that sex hormones still matter today. Although 'gene talk' has currently become an important discourse to conceptualise biological life, Celia Roberts convincingly shows how hormones still function as important scientific, cultural and political resources for answering persistent questions about sex, gender and the body. Bridging two distinct fields of research - feminist theories of the body and science and technology studies - Messengers of Sex provides new, critical tools in order to think through how technoscientific discourses are interwoven into women's and men's lives.' Nelly Oudshoorn, Professor of Technology Dynamics and Health Care, University of Twente, The Netherlands

'What is the relationship between hormones and sex, between the biological and the social, and between sex and gender? In this engagingly written book Roberts develops an elegant and complex - yet entirely accessible - argument that deserves to command the attention of theorists working in history, philosophy, science and technology studies, cultural studies, anthropology, sociology and feminist theory. This is one of a handful of truly exceptional recent books to emerge from informed and responsible interdisciplinary research.' Professor Moira Gatens, Research Professor, University of Sydney

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