María J. Santesmases

Research Professor
Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Instituto de Filosofía


María Jesús Santesmases is a historian of biological and biomedical sciences, its visual cultures and those of women scientists and gender. Her current research involves the laboratory, the clinic and the factory line as landscapes of the past that projected futures of bodies, cells and microbes: women, gender and antibiotic cultures; and the origins of human cytogenetics in agriculture, cancer, and foetuses.



"Practicing with Microbes: Skills and Visual Cultures for a Gendered Genealogy"

My proposal is to offer a genealogy of woman microbiologists that participated in the epistemological feedback of heredity and infection, from bacteriology to microbiology. Microbes circulated widely as research objects, factories of substances and sources of new phenomena. Bacterial characterization, antibiotics, and resistances to antibiotics turned out to be involved in producing both heredity and infection. This combining epistemologies configurate a field in which a wide set of women and gendered skill participated. From Petri dished and microscopes to papers, between the bedside and the factory line, woman skills participated in the hierarchies of knowledge and authority. This included the meanings and low recognized authority attributed to artisanship, the trained eye and the handling of instruments and substances.

All along this trajectory, a centralized distribution of knowledge and authority played between Europe, north America and Japan, English becoming a lingua franca. A focus on non-Anglo-saxon researchers would allow to reflect on the historiographical bias, thus participating in a kind of intersectional approach.