AAA/CASCA Executive Program Committee
Executive Session - Oral Presentation Session
In this paper I describe two instances where I have made a case for “situated biologies” to the environmental health scientists with whom I collaborate in a longitudinal cohort study involving working-class mothers and children in Mexico City. I succeeded in the first case and failed in the second. In the first case, I convinced these scientists that participant’s lead exposure might vary by neighborhood. What’s more, I was able to convince them that the effects of similar blood lead levels might differ depending on how residents in different neighborhoods are affected by police violence and inequality. Consequently, these scientists now include neighborhoods in their exposure models. The second case concerns the etiology of menopause. Ethnographically, I have found that the participant mothers, now middle aged, do not experience menopause-related memory loss, although menopausal memory loss is a common complaint among middle-class women in the U.S and Canada. My hunch is that these working class women’s employment, chemical, and relational ecologies account for this difference. The birth cohort neuropsychologist is convinced, however, that these women’s “lack” of forgetfulness is only communicative, not a real difference in bodily experience. So far, my argument about the situatedness of biological processes within class and nation cannot outweigh this neuropsychologist's commitment to universalizing biology. I juxtapose these two cases to reflect on how toxicants, like lead, that come from without might be easier to frame as “situated” than a phenomenon, like menopause, understood as a set of essential hormonal changes that come from within.