From the New York Times news section:
Organizers said the session did not have scientific merit and was harmful to transgender members. Critics of the move say the discipline is unfriendly to dissenting views on the subject.
By Vimal Patel
Sept. 30, 2023, 5:02 a.m. ET
For a big annual conference on anthropology, Kathleen Lowrey, an associate professor at the University of Alberta, put together several panelists around a controversial theme: that their discipline was in the midst of erasing discussions of sex, which they believe is binary—either male or female.
Dr. Lowrey invited a slate of speakers and called the discussion, “Let’s Talk About Sex Baby: Why Biological Sex Remains a Necessary Analytic Category in Anthropology.”
Let’s not talk about it, conference organizers said this week, removing the panel that was accepted preliminarily in July.
In a joint statement on Thursday, the two sponsors of the conference, the American Anthropological Association and the Canadian Anthropology Society, said that they wanted to protect the transgender community: “The session was rejected because it relied on assumptions that run contrary to the settled science in our discipline, framed in ways that do harm to vulnerable members of our community.”
The statement also compared the panelists’ views to eugenics.
“The function of the ‘gender critical’ scholarship advocated in this session, like the function of the ‘race science’ of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, is to advance a ‘scientific’ reason to question the humanity of already marginalized groups of people,” the statement said.
The headline read: “No Place for Transphobia in Anthropology.” …
Agustin Fuentes, an anthropology professor at Princeton, was consulted by the American Anthropological Association about the panel and supported the group’s decision. He said current research in anthropology had shifted toward the term “gender/sex” instead of “sex.”
Biological sex, he said, is itself fluid, citing those born with XXY chromosomes, for instance.
And anthropology, he said in a statement with two other academics, “tends to resist universal arguments in favor of understanding humans in all of their variation. Therefore, the over-prescription of the idea of a biological binary for something like sex not only ignores the evidence, but goes against the most basic empirical underpinnings of our field.”
Cultural anthropologists tend to have professional prejudices in favor of the extreme splitter end of the lumper-splitter axis that’s an inevitability in all intellectual endeavors. They love “ethnographic dazzle” about how the Wangnuzee tribe’s customs are TOTALLY DIFFERENT from the Nuzwangee tribe’s customs, so therefore accredited anthropologists should be fully funded to study both. They are professionally prejudiced against lumping kind of thinking (except of course for White Man Bad–type thinking about vast, vague forces like Systemic Racism).
… One of the panelists, Elizabeth Weiss, a physical anthropologist at San Jose State University, said her position was that sex is binary but gender is not.
Her plan was to deliver a presentation titled, “No bones about it: Skeletons are binary; people may not be.”
In an interview, Dr. Weiss said that while discussions about both sex and gender were important and valuable, “our panel’s unifying theme was that it was important to treat them separately sometimes. Not always. But sometimes.” …
For her part, Dr. Weiss said that Dr. Pérez’s call for unification was “chilling” because unity was not necessarily good for a scientific conference.
“Today it’s the trans issue,” she said. “Tomorrow it might be something else. We’re on a slippery slope of starting to basically censor disagreeing viewpoints. And some of those disagreeing viewpoints might actually be right.”