"Beyond the Natural Body" presents an episode in the history of life sciences that is essential to our current understanding of sex and the body and the relations between gender and science. Since the early decades of this century, the notion of the hormonally-constructed body has become the dominant mode of conceptualizing bodies, particularly female bodies, to such an extent that we now assume that it is a natural phenomenon. This book challenges the idea that there is such as thing as a "natural" body, and demonstrates that it is the process by which scientific claims achieve universal status that constructs such discourses as natural facts.
"Beyond the Natural Body" tells the fascinating story of scientists' search for the many tons of ovaries, testes and urine that were required in experiments to develop the hormonal body concept. It traces the origins of sex hormones and follows their development through mass-production as drugs to their eventual transformation into the contraceptive pill. Nelly Oudshoorn argues that the power to control sex and the body is not restricted to the domain of texts and ideologies. In addition, she discusses the chasm that exists between the scientific ideal of universal knowledge and the feminist recognition of cross-cultural differences among women, making the case for localized and user-specific applications of science and technology.
"Oudshoorn ... fits a crucial piece into the puzzle of the related histories of reproductive medicine and the cultural construction of gender ... thorough research ... Excellent illustrations and notes."
-M. L. Meldrum, UCLA
"This is the book we have been waiting for! We' are cultural critics who always suspected the uncertainties and negotiations behind scientific definitions of sex. We' are also feminists looking for a clear guide to the transformations of that abstract scientific power into the material forces of technology and medicine. Oudshoorn's book is that clear guide for historians, scientists, and all who wonder where our world of cyborg medicine originated."
-Diana Long, Women's Studies Program, University of Southern Maine
..."Nelly Oudshoorn presents a fascinating social history of early twentieth-century sex hormone research... provides a careful, detailed account of the cultural-material means of knowledge production that led to the making of the hormonal body, and its construction as female."
-"American Anthropologist Nelly Oudshoorn...provides a fascinating archaeology of the development of sex hormones and the reconceptualizing of the body as "hormonal."