Research Interests: History of biology; Twentieth century US history; Cold War science; history of the American family; 1970s US activism; feminist science studies.
An anthropologist by training, Nayanika’s research brings together histories of Cold War science, postwar biological determinism, and science critique. Her dissertation examines the emergence of a political critique of science in the context of the US sociobiology debates of the 1970s and 1980s. The sociobiology debates were prompted by the publication of EO Wilson’s Sociobiology — that popularized gendered evolutionary theories of male dominance, xenophobia, hierarchy, and violence — in 1975. When critics in the life sciences mobilized their resources to oppose what they argued was a return to pre-war genetic determinism, what ensued was a larger conflict over science, politics, and justice. In documenting the opposition, she posits that the study of a political critique of science emerged from the efforts of scholars and non-university actors embedded in feminist, antiwar, labor, and antiracist activism in the 1970s. She ends this history in the late 1980s, when, from this critique, emerged reformulations of scientific objectivity and value neutrality. Her work has been supported by the American Philosophical Society, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory's Center for Humanities and History of Modern Biology, and the Consortium for History of Science, Technology, and Medicine.
“Exclusion: A History of the Schism between Science and Ideology in Postwar United States.” History of Science Society Annual Meeting, Chicago IL, November 17-20, 2022.
“Sociobiology as Cold War Propaganda: What Can the History of Nuclear Science Offer the History of Organismic Biology.” Joint Atlantic Seminar in the History of Biology (JAS-Bio), jointly hosted by Harvard University and MIT, April 8-9, 2022
“Synthesizing Sexual Selection into Mainstream Evolutionary Theory: Sociobiology vs. Academic Feminism in the History of Biology.” Joint Atlantic Seminar in the History of Biology (JAS-Bio), University of Pennsylvania, April 9-10, 2021
BA (Psychology-Anthropology), St. Xavier's College, Mumbai (India)
MA (Anthropology), Queen's University, Belfast (UK)