Series to Examine Ethics v. Politics in Science, Medicine, Humanities

Scripps College Humanities Institute has announced its spring 2003 program, “BioPowers: Disease, Ethics, Activism,” which will explore the intersection of science, medicine, and the humanities. Under the leadership of Institute Director Julia E. Liss, the series will include three symposia, several lectures, and two roundtable discussions; program guests range from authors to scholars to artists and activists. The opening event is Narratives of Illness and Disease, a one-day symposium that begins on Thursday, February 20, at 4:15 p.m. in the Hampton Room of the Malott Commons on the Scripps College campus. All events in this series are free and open to the public; for more information and a complete schedule of events, please call the Humanities Institute at (909) 621-8326.

Scheduled speakers hail from a range of disciplinary perspectives and expertise and will address issues related to the theme “BioPowers: Disease, Ethics, Activism,” with a particular emphasis on representations of disease and disability, the politics of HIV/AIDS, genetic research, and arts activism. Symposia topics will cover Narratives of Illness and Disease, HIV/AIDS: Activism and the Global Pandemic, and BioPowers: Problems in Bioethics and the Politics of Science.

Director Liss notes: “The theme of BioPowers was fashioned for a number of different reasons. One was in response to faculty interest in the issue of bioethics; another was to focus on problems in medicine as a way to do interdisciplinary work in science and the humanities that involved social policy, the history of medicine, and the arts. Each of the three symposia, then, approach these issues in a different way, both thematically and topically.

“The opening symposium, Narratives of Illness and Disease, will look at how disease is written about and, in the process, how knowledge about the “self” is constructed. HIV/AIDS: Activism and the Global Pandemic will examine different forms of activism through the arts (theater, film, painting, and photography), through the study of race and gender issues, and through local and international NGOs. The final symposium, BioPowers: Problems In Bioethics and the Politics of Science, will focus on ethical issues in scientific knowledge, medical practice, and popular culture-specifically in the context of the Human Genome Project, stem cell research, disability studies and identity politics, and popular culture narratives about bioengineering.”

Other issues to be explored during these discussions include how social and cultural forces influence science and medicine; the “social” and “medical” constructions of disease and disability; the body as a site of representation, power, and resistance; the relationship of global inequalities, international intervention, human rights and health; biotechnologies; illness and identity; and the role of biomedical understandings of race and difference.

Among the scholars and guests participating in events will be: Gayle Greene, Department of English, Scripps College; Helen Deutsch, Department of English, UCLA; Timothy Halkowski, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, School of Medicine; Alice Wexler, Center for the Study of Women, UCLA; Wende Marshall, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia; David Román, Department of English and Program in American Studies, USC; Michael Kearns, Actor/ Director/Playwright; Sheila Tlou, HIV/AIDS Coordinator, University of Botswana; Len Rubenstein, Executive Director, Physicians for Human Rights; Lee E. Klosinski, Director of Programs, AIDS Project Los Angeles; Susan Rankaitis, Fletcher Jones Chair in Studio Art, Scripps College; Patrick Hebert, Associate Director of Education, AIDS Project Los Angeles; Lisa Avery, Scripps alumna, Class of 2002; Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Institute for Women’s Studies, Emory University; Paul Rabinow, Department of Anthropology, UC Berkeley; R. Alta Charo, Professor of Law and Bioethics, University of Wisconsin, Madison; Tobin Siebers, Program in Comparative Literature, University of Michigan; Priscilla Wald, Department of English, Duke University.

For a full schedule of events, please contact the Humanities Institute at (909) 621-8326.