Notes from Prague: Probing the Boundaries of Reproduction

Origins, Bodies, Transitions, Futures

The day dawns bright on the first day of my second inter-disciplinary conference. Probing the Boundaries of Reproduction seeks to explore the boundaries of reproduction, not merely as physical birth but more broadly as an agent of change, of bodily, sexual, cultural (and even viral) transitions. From iconic images of the incarnation to depictions of monstrous births, the cultural rituals and mythologies of reproduction continue to fascinate us. Bodies that copulate, bodies that reproduce, bodies that replicate, change, decay—or divide—produce anxiety about the boundaries of self and identity.

Reproduction, like evolution, reminds us that we are ever in flux, that change is inevitable. Birth, like death, forces us to acknowledge the limits of our bodies and our ‘selves.’ Additionally, this age of epidemics and viral warfare incites dystopic visions of a future where the effective reproducers are micro-organisms, where humans have been replaced by a replicating other.  We seek to explore not only the biological imperative of preserving a species, but also our search for origins, our search for ourselves, our desires, our sexual identities, our gods.

May 12, 2013

Session 1: Pathological Reproduction: Birth and Death

Death In Birth: Historical Perspectives on Infant, Mother, and Fetal Death in Early America
K. A. Woytonik
University of New Hampshire, USA

Pandemic Preparedness and the Emergent Frontiers of Viral Reproduction
Gloria Chan-Sook Kim
Hobart and William Smith Colleges, USA

Reading Anorexia in the Family Crypt Jen Craig Writing and Society Research Centre, University of Western Sydney, Australia

Session 2: Monstrous Conceptions, Conceptual Monsters

Conception of the Clone: Metaphorical Rebirths of Clones as Cultural Strategies of Repair and Boundaries of Cultural Reproduction
Stefan Halft
University of Passau, Germany

Laws’ Embryo: Reproducing Fears of Modern Monsters
Wayne Rumbles
Faculty of Law, University of Waikato, New Zealand

Conjoined Twins: Monstrosity, Technology & Separation
Claire Fletcher
University of Wollongong, Australia

We hope you will join us here again on May 13 for more–and please follow us at #IDnetR!

Notes from Prague: the conference ends

IMG_9145editToday was the last day of our conference, Making Sense of Pain. An interesting point was raised during these last few sessions, and one that I think is well worth repeating. We have not necessarily “made sense” of  pain, but we have shared in it, share in the stories of pain, the language of pain. While our individual experiences of pain my differ, we are united in those very differences, a unique “body” collectively exploring and expanding the definition of pain, embodiment, and identity.

May 11, 2013

We began the day with cognition, and found once again that the papers built upon the previous days’ exchanges. Particularly, we were able to draw connections between cognition, metaphor and a new framework of experience for “moving through” pain.

Session 7: Painful Realities: Psychology, Cognition, and Suffering

Psychological Pain: Metaphor or Reality
David Biro
SUNY Health Science Center, Brooklyn, USA

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you think about it”: Exploring the Cognitive Processes Underlying Resilience Following Adversity
Karisha George
University of York, United Kingdom

Although Unseen, Chronic Pain is Real—A Phenomenological Study
Tapio Ojala
Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, Finland

Session 8 also helped us to re-define pain, first in terms of its potentially positive political statement and second in terms of non-western ideas of pain. From these, we were reminded that experiencing pain and speaking about it can be varied within a single culture and context.

Session 8: Voices: Managing, Coping with, and “Celebrating”Pain

Celebrating the Pain – Female Singer-Songwriters and the Beauty of Gloomy Images
Daniela Chana
Independent Researcher, Vienna, Austria

Perspectives on Coping with Acute and Chronic Pain in Botswana: Patients Voices
Nicole Monteiro and Kagiso Thlabano
University of Botswana, Botswana

The diversity of “voices” continued with our last session and with our open business meeting, which was, in fact, a wrap-up discussion in which ideas for next year’s conference were promoted.

Session 9: Palliative and Pain: Disease, Diagnosis and Treatment

Managing Babies Pain: An Ethnography of Daily Care Practices inside a Neonatology Intensive Care Unit in Switzerland
Line Rochat Noël
University of Lausanne, Switzerland

Pain as a New Social Determinant of Health
Maria Stella Guadagnoli-Closs
Faculty of Health, York University, Canada

The Normal You: Tales of Malformations and Habilitations
Davide Ticchi
Tallinn University, Estonia (David is to be thanked for his flexibility in moving up to Session 9–his abstract may be found here).

I hope you will look for more of the fascinating work being done at IDnet–and please do stay tuned for the next Probing the Boundaries conference (starting tomorrow): Probing the Boundaries of Reproduction!


Notes from Prague: the conference continues

rainRain fell on Prague today–a lot. But at the palace, the international ID.Net ( conference continues. Today was another fascinating group of papers (four panels in all), each providing further explorations of our shares experiences of pain. We began the day with an eye-opening look at love and danger:

May 10, 2013

Session 3: Love and Pain: Erotics, Desire, and Damage

Absent Pain: Exploring the Nexus of Pain, Pleasure and Representation in Sadomasochistic Fiction
Amalia Ziv
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel

BDSM: Ars Erotica Between Pain and Pleasure
Nicoletta Landi
University of Bologna, Italy

A Book of Love and Pain: The Monster’s Desire for Human Relations in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Shun-liang Chao
National Chengchi University, Taiwan

Our fourth session took a look at sexual politics and sexual pain–as well as 19th century conceptions of race and distortions of the torture debate.

Session 4: Sexual Politics, Sexual Pain

Savage and Civilized Pains: Race, Class, and the Pain of Childbirth in Nineteenth-Century Medical Literature
Miriam Shoshanna Rich
Department of the History of Science, Harvard University, USA

Making Sense of the Pain of Sexual Intercourse: Personal Accounts of Hong Kong Chinese Married Women Who have Experienced Difficulty in Vaginal Penetrative Sex
Anna Ng Hoi Nga
Caritas Institute of Higher Education, Hong Kong

Distortions of the Torture Debate: Pain and Suffering
Thomas W. Simon
Johns Hopkins University, USA

You will notice, I think, that our group is highly diverse; these presenters come from many disciplines, many countries, and many cultures. By sharing the perspectives of law, literature, medicine, social work, performance, and more, we have been able to make fascinating connections between materials. (And, of course, the space between is something many of us focus on as inter-disciplinary scholars.) Our fifth session dealt even more specifically with the way we communicate pain:

Session 5: Reading, Writing, and Speaking Pain

The Effects of Pain on Communication
Didem Ozsenler
Faculty of Communication, Ege University, Turkey

Case Studies in Therapeutic Writing
Roy Fox
University of Missouri, USA

Talking about Pain: Occurrences, Abstractions, and Frustrations
James Moir
University of Abertay Dundee, Scotland

Finally, session six for today dealt with performance and pain, but also with the ritual aspects of grieving (and even of rage).

Session 6: Visible Suffering: Performance and Pain

Extremely Up-in-the-Air: Flesh Hook Suspension and Performance
Julie Rada
School of Theatre and Film at Arizona State University, USA

Funeral Rites in the 21st Century Dress in England: Pain in Bereavement
Jules Findley
Royal College of Art, United Kingdom

The ‘Presence’ of Suffering within the Photographic Representation of both Victim and Soldier
Paul Tebbs
University of Arts, London, United Kingdom

I hope you will tune in for more of the fascinating work being done here–and please do follow the hashtag on Twitter! #IDnetP