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Reflections on Binary Sex/Gender Categorization in Magnetic Resonance Tomography and its Future Challenges

Fitsch, Hannah

Zentrum für Interdisziplinäre Frauen- und Geschlechterforschung

This paper examines the role of technical, methodological conditions in functional magnetic imaging (fMRI) in the production of binary sex/gender differences. The aim is to investigate the scanning process with a focus on the statistical parameter of gendered markers within the technology, in order to make visible the problems entangled in typical research routines. It is especially important to elaborate this because the computer models currently being used and Big Data studies are reproducing and reapplying outdated and rigid concepts of sex/gender differences with the goal of improving science considerably. Therefore, the paper discusses the empirical methodologies and epistemic underpinnings of differentiation through statistics, and argues that counter-counting, weighing and sizing might not help to substantiate the idea of “equality” (not only for the sex/gender category) in brain studies. In relation to the topic of this special issue, I argue that in order to develop an interdisciplinary approach to criticizing dimorphism and differentiation by groups, a wider understanding of the technical and theoretical foundations used in brain research is needed.