13 April 2018 — 12:00 noon — WAG 316

John Hartigan (UT)

Races of Corn and the Science of Plant Biodiversity”

John Hartigan of the UT Department of Anthropology conducted an ethnography of plant science through a series of settings in Mexico and Spain — scientific sites where biodiversity is a shared subject of interest and concern but that offer divergent perspectives on the constitution of species. In Mexico, the focus is on centers of maize research where genetic techniques are both revealing and manipulating the interiority of species; in Spain, the sites are a series of botanical gardens where similar forms of genetics-based plant science are transforming pressing questions about where species belong. In both countries, biodiversity is invoked to characterize institutional missions and research objectives, but with rather different emphasis.


John Hartigan teaches in UT’s Department of Anthropology and is the Director of the Américo Paredes Center for Cultural Studies. His talk will draw from his most recent book, Care of the Species: Races of Corn and the Science of Biodiversity (Minnesota, 2017). He has written widely on issues surrounding race, including Racial Situations: Class Predicaments of Whiteness in Detroit (Princeton, 1999), Odd Tribes: Toward a Cultural Analysis of White People (Duke, 2005), Race in the 21st Century (Oxford, 2010).

11 April 2018 — 12:00 noon — CLA 1.302B

Neil M Maher (Rutgers University)

“Apollo in the Age of Aquarius: How Grassroots Politics Grounded the Space Race”

In this talk, Neil Maher will describe the surprising relationship between national efforts to place humans on the moon and the more grassroots political struggles of the 1960s era, including those of the civil rights, antiwar, environmental, feminist, and counterculture movements. Maher will pay particular attention to the case study of environmentalism, and explain how this grassroots movement
both influenced, and was influenced by, the space race during and after
NASA’s Apollo mission.


Neil Maher is a professor of history in the Federated History Department at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers University, Newark. His research interests include 20th-century environmental and political history, the history of technology and medicine, and cultural landscapes.

Maher’s new book, “Apollo in the Age of Aquarius,” was published by Harvard University Press in March 2017.

This talk is sponsored by the History Department, the American Studies
Department, and the History and Philosopny of Science Colloquium.


30 March 2018 — 12:00 noon — WAG 316

Chris Babits (UT)

“Born That Way: The Search for a Gay Gene amid the U.S. Culture Wars, 1990–2004”

Starting in the early 1990s, researchers presented an array of data identifying a linkage between biology and homosexuality. In this pre-circulated section of a dissertation chapter, I examine how and why genetic studies on homosexuality became a core part of the nation’s culture wars. More specifically, I argue that genetic research represented a formidable threat to conversion therapists’ (i.e., individuals who aim to change, in some way, someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity) conservative views of gender and sexuality. To many, genetic explanations about gay men and lesbians being “born that way” seemed more concrete than nebulous psychiatric theories that had long pathologized homosexuality. To counter these biological studies, conversion therapists relied on the testimonials of their patients. By the mid-2000s, though, a majority of Americans believed scientific research over the lived experiences of “ex-gays.”  Examining the search for a gay gene amid the culture wars is key for giving context to and understanding present-day debates regarding conversion therapy.


Chris Babits is a fourth year PhD candidate in History and one of UT’s Andrew W. Mellon Engaged Scholar Initiative Fellows. In his dissertation, “To Cure a Sinful Nation: ‘Conversion Therapy’ and the Making of Modern America, 1920– Today,” he explores the cultural and political battleground of “conversion therapy,” a broad range of therapeutic and counseling practices that aim, in some way, to “cure,” “change,” “redeem,” “restore,” or “repair” a person’s attractions to the same sex and/or their gender identity. In addition to fellowship and grant support from the UT History Department, Chris’s research has been funded by Harvard, Yale, Cornell, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archive, the Virginia Theological Seminary, and other archives and cultural institutions.