What makes us human? How do we define the Other?
I'd like to invite you to join me and a panel of 6 others from the Greater Philadelphia area as we discuss these and other queries on humanity in an experimental, interdisciplinary public conversation on Thursday, April 28, 7:30pm at Swarthmore College.
Panelists to include:
Bringing the Panel Together: <Jess Wright> calls them "Medieval MRIs"
Jess described how her work connected to early Christian conceptions of deviance and the Other, and where in the brain and body 4th century Europeans assumed our capacities for love, thought, and evil were stored. These were like "medieval MRIs," she added.
<Paul Mitchell> Discusses Phrenology:"It was a cutting-edge science..."
Paul's discussion of conceptions of social and biological race was so extraordinarily insightful, that thinking back to our experience in the forensic anthropology labs under his guidance, I began to pull together the title themes of our panel discussion planned for 4/28: morality, race, and the body.
<Emily August> Uncovers Representations of Bodies in Medical Textbooks.
After the Q/A, Emily and I were introduced and she began to tell me about her innovative literary approach to analyzing early Euro-Western medical textbooks. She investigates the ways that bodies are presented and discussed with a view toward these textbooks as literature. Her approach offers an important critique of medicine and the foundational training of physicians, and also connects to notions of scientific racism.
Emily also has additional interests in horror genres, as well as visual and material culture.
<Christina Jackson> Addresses the Evolving Impact of Gentrification.
<Krista Thomason> Explores Race, Morality, and Human Rights.
What is moral? How do we choose wrong from right? These are some of the questions that Krista tackles in her courses, and we've had so much discussing these ideas, that we've even thought about the possibility of co-teaching one day in the future! This week, I'm looking forward to our discussion as a way of bringing our perspectives into closer dialogue.
<Yvonne Chireau> Studies Vodun as Spiritual and Religious Practice.
Together, we watched clips from X-Files Season 2 episode 15 "Fresh Bones," which centered on the strange happenings at a U.S. processing center and military installation for Haitian refugees. As the story goes, a key soldier turns up dead, but then resurfaces as a zombie under the control of the Colonel, who repeatedly demonizes the refugees as "Voodoo practitioners." Even as the Colonel repeatedly denies all knowledge of Haitian religious culture, it later becomes clear that he not only knows its power, but also practices it for his own evil gain.
After reviewing this X-Files episode, we embarked on a collective conversation about Vodun as complex spiritual and collective practice. Yvonne helped us to critically explore notions of agency and control of the human body as these relate to our contemporary imaginings of zombies, cyborgs, and cannibals. She reminded us of the African origins of the zombie as in the Bantu concept of nzambi (god, deity, spirit).
Stay Tuned for More: Video From the Panel Event
If you can't make it, afterwards we'll post video of the discussion online. I'll be sure to make the link available here!