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Sex, Science, Politics and Cancer

Lecture at Evanston Public Library to explore attitudes toward HPV Vaccination

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September 29, 2010 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- New medical technologies often are the object of controversy but never more than when they intrude on the politically charged domains of sexuality and morality. In a lecture Tuesday, Oct. 26, a Northwestern University professor considers the case of Gardasil, a vaccine designed to prevent human cervical and other cancers by stopping the spread of a sexually transmitted infection.

The lecture by Steven Epstein, John C. Shaffer Professor in the Humanities and professor of sociology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, will take place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave., Evanston. Free and open to the public, it is presented by Northwestern’s Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities.

Epstein is the author of “Inclusion: The Politics of Difference in Medical Research,” which, among other honors, was awarded the Distinguished Book Award for 2009 from the American Sociological Association and 2009 Ludwik Fleck Prize for the best book in science and technology studies from the Society for the Social Studies of Science.

Compulsory vaccination often provokes strong resistance. In “Sex, Science and Cancer: Politics of the Human Papillomavirus Vaccine (HPV),” Epstein will explore why use of the Gardasil vaccine has prompted less opposition from social conservatives than originally predicted. He also will trace the vaccine’s history and look at its advocates and detractors to learn about contemporary American attitudes on risk, health and sexual morality.

Epstein is the director of the Science in Human Culture Program at Northwestern. His research and teaching concern biomedicine, sexuality and social movements. For more about the Oct. 26 lecture, call (847) 567-3970.