Our Post-Human Futures Conference

Living Archives team member, Gregor Wolbring, will be speaking on the body and prosthetics at the “Frontiers in Research: Our Post-Human Futures” conference at the University of Ottawa on November 15, 2011.

The University of Ottawa is pleased to present the thirteenth annual Frontiers in Research lectures. This year’s theme is Our Post-Human Future .

During the past decade, human perfection and even immortality have become topics of renewed interest due to groundbreaking scientific advancements, and are now much more tangible and potentially achievable goals. The quest for human improvement through biomedical means appears to be unstoppable in the developed world. But this drive towards the “post-human” has also given rise to discussion, debate, conflict and a great deal of research on where to take the human species.

Frontiers in Research: Our Post-Human Future will explore these questions in light of developments in the fields of genetics, neuroscience and prosthetics, and their social, political, economic, ethical and religious implications.

For more information on the conference, click here.

Eugenics and contemporary disability studies

from Natalie Ball, working with Gregor Wolbring at the University of Calgary on the Living Archives on Eugenics project:

People with disabilities often were targeted by the state for eugenic intervention. Such policies and practices continue to impact the lives of people with disabilities. The word ‘eugenics’ often invokes thoughts of forced sexual sterilization mandated by a governing body. It recalls to mind 19th and 20th century ideas about a ‘master’ race, the Holocaust and ‘forgotten crimes’. Yet, eugenics often is seen as a dark era of the past, a regrettable fragment of history, beliefs, ideas and practices from which modern society progressively has distanced itself. But is eugenics truly limited to the past?

Eugenics is not just an historical experience. It is, arguably, a contemporary and future topic of concern for people with disabilities and for disability study scholars. To understand why we need only look at how the concept and practice were understood by Sir Francis Galton, the person who coined the term, and the way in which eugenics practices have changed over time. In his 1883 book Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development, Galton introduced the term as follows: “the investigation of human eugenics – that is, of the conditions under which men of a high type are produced.”

You can read the full article at the FEDCAN blog here

or

http://blog.fedcan.ca/2011/07/14/eugenics-and-contemporary-disability-studies/

Court Decision Could Have Implications for the Living Archives Project

A decision by a Federal Court judge last week could have implications for the Living Archives project.

The decision, which can be found in its entirety here, gives Library and Archives Canada 90 days to reconsider its decision to withhold parts of a secret RCMP dossier on Tommy Douglas that was requested by journalist, Jim Bronskill, over 6 years ago.

For more on this, check out the Canadian Press article printed in The Toronto Star and available here.

In his decision, Justice Simon Noel notes that “this case highlights the importance of transferring information to the public domain for the benefit of present and future Canadians as well as our collective knowledge and memory as a country.”

It’s unlikely that this decision will have an immediate impact on the way those who control access to the information about our past will operate, but it sets a significant precedent that recognizes the importance of maintaining and building collective knowledge and memory about the past.

Hat-tip to Baldwin Reichwein for bringing this story to our attention.

Two Edmonton Fringe Plays on Eugenics and Ableism

The Edmonton International Fringe Festival is all set to do its thing.  This year, there are two plays related to, and sponsored by the What Sorts Network and the Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada project.  If you’re going to the Fringe, you might want to check them out.

“The Book of Jobes” is a play by LAE team member, Dr. Heidi Janz, and is being performed by Lone Sparrow Productions.  Here’s the blurb:

Based on the lived-experience of playwright Heidi Janz. “The Book of Jobes” is a Biblical allegory in which the protagonist, Rachel Jobes, a woman who has Cerebral Palsy, seeks to make sense of her life, her identity, and the infinite quirkiness of Providence, in the wake of a random attack.

You can see the schedule and order tix, here.

“Aleugenta” is a play that originated in Chad Drever’s early interest in LAE work a few years ago, a play that drew on his interactions with LAE team members Leilani Muir and Judy Lytton, both of whom lived at the Provincial Training School for Mental Defectives during the 1950s and 1960s.  Zephyr, the collective who have developed the play and will perform it, describe it as follows:

Dot my t’s and cross my eyes all we know are dirty little lies. Join Zephyr as they recreate the feebleminded threat that allowed a province to involuntarily sterilize children which it deemed “unfit”. However, don’t ask us to hold your hand, because God knows where we will take you.

You can order tickets for Aleugenta, and see when it is playing, here.

Some of us will be going to Jobes on Sunday, 14th August, 4.45pm, and to Aleugenta on Tuesday, 16th August, at 2.30pm.  Email me on rwilson.robert@gmail.com if you want to join us; we’ll go for a beer afterwards to discuss the plays.

FIXED: a Kickstarter plea

Aimee Mullins' Legs

Some of Aimee Mullins' legs

Oakland-based filmmaker Regan Brashear is launching her film FIXED: The Science / Fiction of Human Enhancement and is running a Kickstarter campaign to help with funding for the film’s clean-up.  You can start with donations of $1 and up–details about the campaign and film here.  The campaign runs until 9.03am EDT, August 31, so donate NOW.  A brief excerpt from the site:

What’s the film about?  What does “disabled” mean when a man with no legs can run faster than many Olympic sprinters? With prenatal screening able to predict hundreds of probable conditions, who should determine what kind of people get to be born? If you could augment your body’s abilities in any way imaginable, what would you do and why? From pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to neural implants and bionic limbs, researchers around the world are hard at work developing a myriad of technologies to fix or enhance the human body, but what does it mean to design “better humans” and do we want to? FIXED follows three remarkable people: Continue reading

A Couple of Edmonton Fringe Plays Worth Checking Out

At this year’s Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival, there are a couple of plays with ties to the Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada project.

Below is some information on how you can catch these plays.

Continue reading

Carl Elliott on Human Subjects and Big Pharma

from the NYT, July 28th, an Op-Ed piece by bioethicist Carl Elliott:

LAST month, the Archives of Internal Medicine published a scathing reassessment of a 12-year-old research study of Neurontin, a seizure drug made by Pfizer. The study, which had included more than 2,700 subjects and was carried out by Parke-Davis (now part of Pfizer), was notable for how poorly it was conducted. The investigators were inexperienced and untrained, and the design of the study was so flawed it generated few if any useful conclusions. Even more alarming, 11 patients in the study died and 73 more experienced “serious adverse events.” Yet there have been few headlines, no demands for sanctions or apologies, no national bioethics commissions pledging to investigate. Why not?

Here is the complete article.

North Carolina Eugenics Task Force, Preliminary Report

The preliminary report of The Governor’s Task Force to Determine the Method of Compensation for Victims of North Carolina’s Eugenics Board (available beneath the fold) was delivered today. In it, North Carolina State Representative Larry Womble says, at the final meeting of the committee, held three weeks ago:

Eugenics [is] a fancy name for sterilization. I am very compassionate about this issue and have worked on it for 10 years. If I’ve been involved for 10 years, what do you think about the victims themselves and it is a shame and disgrace what has happened to them. I thank the Task Force for all their work. But at the same time, I cannot be timid about this, I can’t be Mille mouthed. I cannot be cute about this because it’s not a cute and nice subject. We did to humans what we do to animals, we spade and neuter animals not people. And we did this to children 10 and 11 and 12 years old, they were not criminals, they did nothing wrong. We talk about we are the land the free and the home of the brave and when we do this to children and I’m wondering how sincere we really are. Continue reading