Humanities Institute

UT Humanities Institute Announces 2018 Symposium on Health, Well-Being, Healing

Fri, January 19, 2018
UT Humanities Institute Announces 2018 Symposium on Health, Well-Being, Healing
Health & Humanities Pop-Up Institute

The University of Texas  Humanities Institute is excited to announce the 2018 Faculty Fellows Symposium on Health, Well-Being, Healing, featuring a keynote lecture by Dr. Alondra Nelson, President of the Social Science Research Council and Professor of Sociology at Columbia University. Dr. Nelson will speak on “The Social Life of DNA,” on Thursday, February 1 at 7PM in the Avaya Auditorium of the Peter O’Donnell Jr. building. The Symposium will continue on Friday, February 2 with panel talks featuring our 2016-18 Faculty Fellows. The panels will be held in the Governor’s Room of the Texas Union. Both the keynote lecture and the panels are free and open to the public as well as students, faculty, and staff across the university.

The Humanities Institute Faculty Fellows Seminar has brought together faculty from across campus to consider interdisciplinary approaches to their research since HI’s founding in 2001, and is a core element of HI’s mission to promote intellectual collaboration and collegiality across departments, colleges and schools. Every two years, the Humanities Institute selects a new theme to inform the topic of our Faculty Fellows Seminar. The seminar concludes with a one-day symposium featuring the results of the Faculty Fellows’ research and deliberations. The theme of the 2016-18 Humanities Institute Faculty Fellows program is “Health, Well-Being, Healing.” This theme, chosen to celebrate the opening of the Dell Medical School, was designed to engage faculty, students, visiting lecturers, and the broader community in a wide-ranging discussion of the health humanities, broadly understood, including the history of medicine; philosophies of embodiment, suffering, and wellbeing; bioethics; narrative medicine; social medicine; comparative healing practices; healthcare relationships; health and the environment; spirituality and healing; the arts and healing; death and dying; and disability studies.

HI’s two-year inquiry into “Health, Well-Being, Healing” will culminate with a full-day of panels from UT faculty from the College of Liberal Arts, College of Fine Arts, Moody College of Communication, and Steve Hicks School of Social Work. Panel topics include “Race, Ethnicity, and Health Disparities,” “Technology, Political Economy, and Health,” “Mental Health and Disability,” “Religion, Spirituality, and Healing,” and “Aesthetics and the Healing Arts.” The Symposium will include with a reception and performance of excerpts from “The Mamalogues: Parenting While Black and Middle Class in the Age of Anxiety,” a new play by Lisa B. Thompson (Associate Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies).

The keynote lecturer, Alondra Nelson, is Professor of Sociology and the inaugural  Dean of Social Science  at Columbia University. On September 1, 2017, she  became President of the Social Science Research Council, an independent nonprofit that for more than nine decades has been dedicated to advancing research for the public good. She is the author of  The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation after the Genome  and  Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination, which was recognized with  multiple scholarly awards. Chair-elect of the Science, Knowledge and Technology Section of the American Sociological Association, her books also include  Genetics and the Unsettled Past: The Collision of DNA, Race, and History and  Technicolor: Race, Technology, and Everyday Life. In 2002, she edited “Afrofuturism,” an influential special issue of  Social Text

Dr. Nelson will deliver a talk on “The Social Life of DNA.” DNA is considered a master key that unlocks medical and forensic secrets, but its genealogical life is revelatory. This billion-dollar industry has spawned popular television shows, websites, and a booming heritage tourism circuit. African Americans' interest in genetic ancestry testing has been especially robust.  DNA-based techniques are being used to grapple with the unfinished business of slavery: to foster reconciliation, to establish ties with ancestral homelands, to rethink citizenship, and to make legal claims for slavery reparations. As Nelson will describe, for good and for naught, the double helix has wound its way into the heart of some of the most urgent contemporary social issues around racial inequality. 

While this Symposium celebrates the culmination of HI’s Faculty Fellows Seminar on Health, Well-Being, Healing, HI will continue to explore the intersections between the humanities and medicine with a newly NEH funded project, “Communities of Care: Documenting Stories of Healing and Endurance.” Collaborating with UT faculty and researchers, medical professionals, and community organizations, HI will collect and digitally curate health narratives from members of underserved Central Texas communities in order to foster a deeper understanding of the human struggle to create healthy families and communities and build a more caring society. HI has also received funds from the Vice President for Research to hold a Health and Humanities Pop-Up Institute in May 2018

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