Nature/Culture Boundaries and Transgressive Encounters

Background

In the last decade, the natural sciences and gender studies have produced new understandings of sex and gender that in many ways have led to increasing tensions between these scientific fields. Since its foundation in 2003, Uppsala Centre for Gender Research has developed into a unique meeting place unprecedented in Sweden, for scientists and students from a range of disciplinary backgrounds. From the very start, concrete and focused efforts have made it possible to transgress traditional organizational and scientific boundaries.

From the beginning, the Centre for Gender Research was commissioned to “carry out research and teaching within the field of gender studies. Both teaching and research should include social as well as biological perspectives on gender” (UFV 2001/1378). The Centre has a unique organization of appointments, with continual advertisements of new posts, aimed at all faculties. The result is a dynamic staff makeup where many researchers have also remained at the Centre. We also have a number of PhD candidates, situated at the Centre, but affiliated to other departments. The fact that the unique organizational design of the Centre is attractive for researchers is reflected in the fact that the total assets have increased by 66 percent in its first two years. The Centre has also extensive seminar and training activities aimed at students at undergraduate and graduate levels, senior researchers and teachers, in the humanities, social sciences, medicine and natural sciences.

A first evaluation of the work of the Centre for Gender Research has been made by Uppsala University and the result was very positive. Among other things the Centre is described as a “dynamic and productive research environment,” and it is said that “the interface between social and biological understandings of sex and gender has become a characteristic and a competitive advantage for CGR, since they have come a long way to pursuing research in all fields …” (Utvärdering av verksamhetens vid Centrum för genusvetenskap [Evaluation of the Work of the Centre for Gender Research], Uppsala University, UFV 2005/1621).

The Centre for Gender Research has thus come a long way to bridging organizational and scientific divides and in this way offering a university-overreaching meeting place for researchers and students in a way that is unique in gender research. Drawing on our experiences from these research and educational efforts to create sustainable interdisciplinary meetings and networks between the humanities and the sciences, we applied for funding from the Swedish Research Council and its 2006 announcement for Centres of Gender Excellence (CGEx). We wanted to further develop and consolidate an already strong research environment, to reach an international level of competitive research excellence based on transgressive meetings between nature and culture in research, theory and teaching.

The Swedish Research Council’s support of strong research environments (Centers of Gender Excellence, CGEx) was announced with the purpose of ”supporting creative gender research teams with a potential for producing research with internationally high standards.” (www.vr.se/forskning/bidrag (web document viewed on May 29, 2006) In November 2005, after a statement of opinion by an international review panel, Uppsala Centre for Gender Research, as one of three research environments, was awarded funding with SEK 20 million over a period of five years.