The ”Female Turn” in Evolutionary Biology – a science study of shifting canonical knowledge 1980-2000

Funding source

Swedish Research Council - Vetenskapsrådet (VR)

Project Details

Start date: 01/01/2017
End date: 31/12/2019
Funding: 2040000 SEK


This project explores how the international evolutionary research community radically shifted perspectives on the role of females in evolutionary biology. The project aims at understanding the histories, social dynamics and epistemological norms producing this shift in canonical knowledge.

Sexual selection, the evolutionary theory concerning sex differences, is both an expansive and controversial field. Theoretically, females were long expected to gain no benefit from mating with more than one male. Since 1980, evolutionary biologists' views have undergone a radical shift following the findings that females often mate with multiple males. Early polyandry research was male-focused, followed by increased interest in questions pertaining to females. This ”Female Turn” may be conceived as a controversy coming to a closure. In this three-year project, I will use methods developed in Sociology of Scientific knowledge, specifically controversy studies and boundary-work, to analyze scientific publications, scientific debates and oral history interviews. My theoretical point of departure is feminist science studies, sociology of science, science philosophy, history of evolutionary biology, and gender studies.

This project will illuminate the interaction between society and the scientific process of evolutionary research on sex at a hitherto unexamined crucial turn, thereby contributing significantly to the international forefront of feminist science studies.

Last updated on 2017-04-10 at 12:05