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Trouble with Nature: Sex in Science and Popular Culture

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Trouble with Nature: Sex in Science and Popular Culture Cover

 

Review-A-Day

"In The Trouble with Nature, Roger N. Lancaster reviews a number of studies which attempt to establish that our sexual behaviour is genetically programmed, even differentially inscribed in the brains of men and women. His aim is to criticize, but he does succeed in identifying disabling logical errors, experimental flaws and failures to consider inconvenient facts. And he shows that too often these studies fail to question what it is that they are trying to explain." Sarah Churchwell, Times Literary Supplement (read the entire TLS review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

"A brilliant, wide-ranging, masterful critique of the cultural impact of sociobiology and evolutionary psychology on popular as well as scholarly understandings of gender, sexuality and political economy. There are no cheap, trendy shots at science here, nor grandstand gestures to the prejudices of cultural relativists. Lancaster displays the skills of a science journalist while producing a major cultural studies opus."—Judith Stacey, author of In the Name of the Family: Rethinking Family Values in the Postmodern Age

"For several years now, the unsupported, illogical, and often wacky claims of evolutionary psychology and other offspring of sociobiology have creepingly—and creepily—achieved the status of legitimate science in this culture. Finally, in The Trouble with Nature, we have a book that brilliantly exposes the speciousness of recent—and widely accepted—arguments that gender differences, parental roles, beauty ideals, male violence, and homosexuality are genetically 'hard wired.' But Lancaster's book is not just a refutation of this 'genomania.' It's also a cultural exploration of its emergence and appeal at a time when sexuality, gender, and the family, far from exhibiting some invariant, stable form, are actually in radical flux. And it's also a wonderful read, which draws on popular culture, anthropology, philosophy, history, and scientific studies with equal ease and authority to demonstrate, not that biology plays little or no role in human life, but that cultural plasticity—not uniformity—is the real law of our evolution."—Susan Bordo, author of Unbearable Weight and The Male Body

"'What is a woman, man, homosexual or heterosexual?'—asks Roger Lancaster in this lively, engaging new book. And well may he ask as, once again, academic pop stars hawk their biodetermined creations. Eschewing simplistic caricatures, he offers vivid examples of the ambiguities, contradictions, and complexities that characterize real people, while showing how the biomyths serve to revivify constricting ideologies about sex and family. An original and fascinating book."—Ruth Hubbard, author of Exploding the Gene Myth and The Politics of Women's Biology

"A major advance for the science of human behavior and for thoughtful scholarship generally. Lancaster provides a comprehensive analysis of essentialized ideas about sexuality, gender, and sexual preference that are out there in American popular culture, and—alas!—reinforced by crappy science. He provides an immensely valuable counterpoint to the evolutionary psychology and behavioral genetics that everyone knows about, but that few are competent to consider critically. What a fun book!"—Jonathan Marks, author of What It Means to Be 98% Chimpanzee

"Provocative, witty, illuminating and politically pointed, The Trouble with Nature shows us how the flat-footed fixities of biological reductionism limit and constrain us, and why we need an expansive progressive political imagination to free us."—Lisa Duggan, co-author of Sex Wars: Sexual Dissent and Political Culture

"A funny, ironic, and learned account of a deeply serious topic: how the media and popular culture appropriate facts—real ones and fake ones—about biology in order to make claims about how human societies ought to be organized and understood. One might have hoped that David Hume back in the eighteenth century would have put a stop to such foolishness, but apparently not. Anyone needing an antidote to the current crop of popular socio-biology books flooding the market, anyone who needs convincing of the power of culture, should read this wonderful book."—Thomas Laqueur, author of Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud

"Sex, lies and videotape. Culture wars, science wars, and it's the economy, stupid. With interdisciplinary brilliance and biting wit, Lancaster makes sad sense of sociobiology's contemporary renaissance while dissecting its popular and scholarly practitioners. But Lancaster's decidedly queer perspective connects science to shifting sexuality, family, and economic inequality in the cultural stew of the present. E.M. Forster famously adjured us to 'only connect.' What do Will and Grace have to do with post-Fordist economies? Journalists' 'just-so' stories about ducks and sex with the 9/11 terror? The Trouble with Nature connects us all, in surprisingly new ways."—Micaela di Leonardo, author of Exotics at Home: Anthropologies, Others, American Modernity

"The Trouble with Nature will be a valuable addition to my library. It is a book I will want to share with colleagues and students. A pleasure to read, it is full of insights about the place of sexuality in popular consciousness. Lancaster has written a personal and a political study, while avoiding many of the clichés too common in contemporary cultural criticism."—Lawrence Grossberg, Distinguished Professor of Communication Studies and Cultural Studies, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Synopsis:

Includes bibliographical references (p. 349-420) and index.

Synopsis:

Roger N. Lancaster provides the definitive rebuttal of evolutionary just-so stories about men, women, and the nature of desire in this spirited exposé of the heterosexual fables that pervade popular culture, from prime-time sitcoms to scientific theories about the so-called gay gene. Lancaster links the recent resurgence of biological explanations for gender norms, sexual desires, and human nature in general with the current pitched battles over sexual politics. Ideas about a "hardwired" and immutable human nature are circulating at a pivotal moment in human history, he argues, one in which dramatic changes in gender roles and an unprecedented normalization of lesbian and gay relationships are challenging received notions and commonly held convictions on every front.

The Trouble with Nature takes on major media sources—the New York Times, Newsweek—and widely ballyhooed scientific studies and ideas to show how journalists, scientists, and others invoke the rhetoric of science to support political positions in the absence of any real evidence. Lancaster also provides a novel and dramatic analysis of the social, historical, and political backdrop for changing discourses on "nature," including an incisive critique of the failures of queer theory to understand the social conflicts of the moment. By showing how reductivist explanations for sexual orientation lean on essentialist ideas about gender, Lancaster invites us to think more deeply and creatively about human acts and social relations.

About the Author

Roger N. Lancaster teaches anthropology and cultural studies at George Mason University, where he directs the Cultural Studies Ph.D. program. He edited (with Micaela di Leonardo) The Gender/Sexuality Reader (1997) and is the author of Life Is Hard: Machismo, Danger, and the Intimacy of Power in Nicaragua (California, 1993), which won the C. Wright Mills Award and the Ruth Benedict Prize.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Acknowledgments

Introduction. Culture Wars, Nature Wars: A Report from the Front

ORIGINS STORIES

1. In the Beginning, Nature

2. The Normal Body

3. The Human Design

4. Our Animals, Our Selves

ADAM AND EVE DO THE WILD THING: THE SCIENCE OF DESIRE, THE SELFISH GENE, AND OTHER MODERN FABLES

5. The Science Question: Cultural Preoccupations and Social Struggles

6. Sexual Selection: Eager, Aggressive Boy Meets Coy, Choosy Girl

7. The Selfish Gene

8. Genomania and Heterosexual Fetishism

VENUS AND MARS AT THE FIN DE DIECLE: EVOLUTIONARY PSYCHOLOGY AND THE MODERN ART OF SPIN

9. Biological Beauty and the Straight Arrow of Desire

10. Homo Faber, Family Man

11. T-Power

12. Natures Marriage Laws

VARIETIES OF HUMAN NATURE: THE VIEW FROM ANTHROPOLOGY AND HISTORY

13. Marooned on Survivor Island

14. Selective Affinities: Commonalities and Differences in the Family of Man

15. The Social Body

16. The Practices of Sex

PERMUTATIONS ON THE "NATURE" OF DESIRE: THE GAY BRAIN, THE GAY GENE, AND OTHER TALES OF IDENTITY

17. This Queer Body

18. The Biology of the Homosexual

19. Desire Is Not a "Thing"

20. Familiar Patterns, Dangerous Liaisons

THE ENDS OF NATURE: THE WEIRD ANTINOMIES OF POSTMODERN MASS CULTURE

21. "Nature" in Quotation Marks

22. Moneys Subject

23. History and Historicity Flow through the Body Politic

24. The Politics of Dread and Desire

25. Sex and Citizenship in the Age of Flexible Accumulation

An Open-Ended Conclusion

Notes

Index

Product Details

ISBN:
9780520236202
Editor:
Lancaster, Roger N.
Publisher:
University of California Press
Editor:
Lancaster, Roger N.
Author:
Lancaster, Roger N.
Location:
Berkeley
Subject:
Americas (North Central South West Indies)
Subject:
Human Sexuality
Subject:
Sexual orientation
Subject:
Science news
Subject:
Sex in popular culture.
Subject:
Pseudoscience
Subject:
Anthropology - General
Subject:
Gay Studies
Subject:
Psychology : General
Subject:
Gender Studies
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series Volume:
#801
Publication Date:
20030531
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
35 b/w illustrations
Pages:
455
Dimensions:
9 x 6 x 1.5 in 22 oz

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Related Subjects

Health and Self-Help » Psychology » General
History and Social Science » Anthropology » General
History and Social Science » Gender Studies » General
History and Social Science » World History » General
Religion » Eastern Religions » Philosophy General

Trouble with Nature: Sex in Science and Popular Culture Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$16.50 In Stock
Product details 455 pages University of California Press - English 9780520236202 Reviews:
"Review A Day" by , "In The Trouble with Nature, Roger N. Lancaster reviews a number of studies which attempt to establish that our sexual behaviour is genetically programmed, even differentially inscribed in the brains of men and women. His aim is to criticize, but he does succeed in identifying disabling logical errors, experimental flaws and failures to consider inconvenient facts. And he shows that too often these studies fail to question what it is that they are trying to explain." (read the entire TLS review)
"Synopsis" by , Includes bibliographical references (p. 349-420) and index.
"Synopsis" by ,
Roger N. Lancaster provides the definitive rebuttal of evolutionary just-so stories about men, women, and the nature of desire in this spirited exposé of the heterosexual fables that pervade popular culture, from prime-time sitcoms to scientific theories about the so-called gay gene. Lancaster links the recent resurgence of biological explanations for gender norms, sexual desires, and human nature in general with the current pitched battles over sexual politics. Ideas about a "hardwired" and immutable human nature are circulating at a pivotal moment in human history, he argues, one in which dramatic changes in gender roles and an unprecedented normalization of lesbian and gay relationships are challenging received notions and commonly held convictions on every front.

The Trouble with Nature takes on major media sources—the New York Times, Newsweek—and widely ballyhooed scientific studies and ideas to show how journalists, scientists, and others invoke the rhetoric of science to support political positions in the absence of any real evidence. Lancaster also provides a novel and dramatic analysis of the social, historical, and political backdrop for changing discourses on "nature," including an incisive critique of the failures of queer theory to understand the social conflicts of the moment. By showing how reductivist explanations for sexual orientation lean on essentialist ideas about gender, Lancaster invites us to think more deeply and creatively about human acts and social relations.

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