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warfare incites dystopic visions of a future where the effective reproducers are micro-organisms, where humans have been replaced by a replicating other.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!


“Time Travel”: A Writer’s Guide to Rambling

Timelines have become (a la Facebook) very popular I notice. And it is no surprise that one of the most popular uses is the tracking of where (as well as when) we’ve been. For Tuesday’s Fiction Reboot, I’ll be taking a look at travel writing and “time travel”–not in the science fiction sense exactly, but in the sense that almost all of our writing is reflective, a way of reaching backward as well as groping forward in the strange twilight of literary creation. Today’s discussion: What to pack? And don’t forget to check the end of the blog post for ANNOUNCEMENTS!

The Writer’s Guide to Rambling

#1: What to Pack?

Unless, cruise style, you are going someplace where you unpack belongings once and repack only before you get on the plane, some size restrictions are probably in order. Many of my travels require living out of the suitcase night to night, so I have to think about what goes in and what stays at home.

Utensils. And I don’t mean forks. Every writer is different, but I usually need a computer (mine is a small netbook) and at least one moleskin journal with durable pen and pencil. I sketch as well as write in those, so unlined is best–and they pack very flat.

Walking shoes. You can’t write if you can’t ramble.

Clothes. People stare if you go around naked.

Books. This is where the choosing gets difficult…but one must read to write (or I must, anyway). I have not yet broken down and purchased a Kindle, but I see real potential here. At present, I just opt for books over clothes, much like Desiderius Erasmus: “When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes. And now for the really hard part..

Characters: Yes. I really mean that. Which of your multitudinous, omnipresent, loud and rowdy gaggle of constantly niggling characters do you bring with you on your trek? Personally, I find my villains always come along. It’s their innate inferiority/superiority complexes and obsessive desire for control. They just can’t let you go off an have fun all by yourself. Jaydeun of Witchwood is particularly bothersome in this respect… But to be honest, sometimes you need a selfish, sarcastic ex-dictator who quips entirely in Shakespearean insults. I managed to employ a brilliant harangue in a bad restaurant once, due largely to his bitter whisperings. I find that my teenage un-vampire, Jacob, also turns up. He talks a blue-streak, but he’s a jovial sort. Nice on those long train rides. And of course, the unsinkable Sarah helps buoy the spirits with optimistic chatter about recipes and how to save the planet (all in a heavy Scottish brogue).  Now, add to that a brooding heroine that looks a great deal like me at age 16, a talking mirror and his best mate, a smattering of intelligent animals, and one nefarious hematologist… It’s a bit of a traveling circus, really.

But then, that is the fun of it. We travel best in company (real or imaginary). We need those best-souls to share our experience, and so, become part of our past–as well as our present–company.

Now, with your pack partly empty and your head over-full–
with your bytes and bits, your writer’s tools–
Your beat-up walkers and your best frock-coat;
Your faded scarf, your canvas tote;
Your nearest thoughts–your far abode;
My dear, you’re ready to hit the road.

Stay tuned for next Tuesday’s “Time Travel.” We’ll talk a bit about the watery boundaries between ongoing experience and past remembrance…and the way all of this works into the fabric of reflection, journaling, fiction.

Tweeted by Lucienne Diver: D. B. Jackson is doing a great blog & giveaway for his upcoming release THIEFTAKER