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Deboleena Roy

Short Biography
Deboleena Roy was recently appointed Dean for Faculty for Emory College of Arts and Sciences. She is also Professor of Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology (NBB) and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) at Emory University. She also serves as Associate Faculty in the Neuroscience Program, Graduate Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Emory. Roy received her PhD in reproductive neuroendocrinology and molecular biology from the Institute of Medical Science at the University of Toronto. Her research and teaching explore interdisciplinary exchanges between the natural sciences and humanities, and she has dedicated her career to creating new conversations between feminism, philosophy of science, postcolonial studies, reproductive justice, molecular biology, and neuroscience.

Panel Abstract
Molecular Feminisms, Stolonic Strategies, and Microphysiologies of Desire

The in vitro lab method known as splitting, subculturing, or passaging, allows the molecular biologist to keep cell lines alive for use in experimentation. However, unless one is willing and able to deal with an entire population of multiplying cells in culture, it also requires killing a vast number of these cells on a regular basis. As a molecular biologist, I have wondered about the life and death of in vitro cells and the complex sets of events and ontological queries that come forward during the otherwise mundane molecular biology lab practice of passaging cells. How do we learn to pause, reflect, and respond during these entanglements between humans, animals, cells, molecules, and more? This talk draws upon the work of the Bengali biophysicist J.C. Bose and his use of electrical activity as the measure of a physiological response in plants, metals, and animal tissue. His definition of the physiological properties of response and what constituted a “response” versus a simple “reaction” in nonhumans and nonorganic life were contested during his lifetime. More than a century later, however, scientists are returning to Bose’s research to reevaluate the categorical distinctions we have drawn between humans, nonhumans, organic and inorganic life. Bose was the first scientist who convincingly argued that plants not only have a nervous system of their own but that they also have the ability to feel pain. He demonstrated that the physiological ability to respond extends beyond the human to not only animals, plants, and microorganisms but even to rocks, metals, minerals, elements, and anything else capable of experiencing sensitivity to external stimuli. I am drawn to the ontology and ethics that Bose’s approach presents and wish to use his claim of a ‘physiology of response’ to reimagine our own feminist encounters with biology.

Deboleena Roy speaks in Panel III: More-than-human Sensing by Kate Donovan and Christian Schwinghammer.