Dr. Gregor Wolbring wins the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal

November 11, 2013, Dr. Gregor Wolbring was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in recognition of his contributions to Canada!

The award was created in 2012 to mark the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the Throne as Queen of Canada. To ensure that a variety of fields of activity were recognized, partner organizations were invited by the Government of Canada to nominate candidates from their community or organization for this national honour.

The Diamond Jubilee Medal program closed on February 28, 2013. Once all the information is compiled, a searchable database of all 60,000 recipients and their locations will be available online.

This is what Gregor’s new award looks like!

Diamond_Jubilee_Medal_web

Gregor expressed his gratitude by posting this message:

Yesterday night I was speechless, today its time to thank many of the people who are responsible for I being who I am. Receiving this award is the results of the action of many people throughout my life that saw beyond the wheelchair and the non-conformity of my body. There are of course first and foremost my parents without their lack of prejudice toward my bodily reality I would never be in the privileged position of income, employment and advanced education I am in today. And indeed I published a piece “Parents without Prejudice” many years ago to pay homage to them. However there are others. In my two high schools these were two teachers Elizabeth Schlipkoeter and Pater Klaus; in my undergraduate degree at University of Tuebingen it was Professor Eisele (I was the first wheelchair person in the biochemistry degree there and it needed some getting used to me  ); then there was Professor Rabin at University College London (UK) who allowed me to do my German Diploma thesis work in his laboratory and Valerie and Chris Dadson with whom I stayed for that time and who helped me to navigate London (I cannot express my gratitude sufficiently, my time with them was some of the best times I had in my life!!!); Nobel Laureate Prof. Hartmut Michel and his group leader Dr. Neil Cook at the Max Plank Institute for Biophysics in Frankfurt who took me as a PhD student after over 100 letters of inquiries with other places in Germany simply were answered negatively mostly claiming they were not accessible and finally there is Prof. Paul Schnetkamp in Calgary who I met when he visited our Lab in Frankfurt and who said he would take me as a Post-Doc and well without him I would not have moved to Canada.

And then there are many friends that made and still make life livable. From elementary school, first high school and onwards Johannes Schmitt, Roland Kaemmerer, Christoph Bauer and Franz Wilhelm Koch; my second high school and onwards Richard and Kornelia Schlombs, Alfred Nottlemann, Ralf Tillmann und Tine, Agnes Schwerhoff and Kerstin Wichmann; then University and onwards Thomas Ilg, Gerd Winter, Joerg Hendle and Regina Link and then here in Calgary Robert Szerencsei and Jeff Bjorge. And there are many more who I encountered as part of my advocacy and academic work that became friends too many to list them here (hope you forgive me here). So without all of these people I would not have received the award as I would not be very likely in the privileged position from where I can do the activities that led to the award. Now as to the ceremony yesterday I want to thank Zaheed Damani for the brilliance of how he introduced me to the crowd and to my students who made up the whole first row and who are an inspiration to me (I will post that picture with them soon). So thanks to all the people in my life that made this surprise possible!

Gregor gets a medal

The members of the WolbPack who could make it (all students of the WolbPack are just amazing inspirational and simply funhttp://www.crds.org/research/faculty/Gregor_Wolbring.shtml)

The Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada Research Team congratulates Gregor!

Future Past: Disability, Eugenics, & Brave New Worlds

Future Past: Disability, Eugenics, & Brave New Worlds. A public symposium on the history and ongoing implications of eugenics ideologies and practices for people with disabilities.
Why do these issues matter? How can we address them in teaching and pedagogy, in policy and activism, and in art?

On November 1, 2013 at San Francisco State University, Seven Hill Conference Center from 9:00 am – 8:00 pm.
The Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada is co-sponsoring a conference, dinner and reception plus the screening of FIXED: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement. Conference organizers include: Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability, Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada, and the Center for Genetics and Society.

Registration is free:  geneticsandsociety.org/futurepast

Future Past is the result of a cross-national collaboration among advocates and academics interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the long and tangled relationship between disability and eugenics, and the contemporary implications of genetic technologies to the lives and futures of people with disabilities.

Program – November 1, 2013

9:00 – 9:15: Welcome

  • Provost Sue Rossier, San Francisco State University
  • Catherine Kudlick, Director, Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability

9:15 – 9:30: Table Introductions

9:30 – 11:30: What? Eugenics and Disability: Past and Present

Many people are unaware of the history of eugenics movements in North America, yet they are disturbingly relevant today.

Presenters:

  • Alexandra Minna Stern (moderator), Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology, American Culture, and History at the University of Michigan.
  • Marcy Darnovsky, Center for Genetics and Society
  • Glenn SInclair, Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada
  • Nicola Fairbrother, Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada

Table Discussions

11:30 – 12:30 : Lunch

12:30 – 2:30: So What? The Consequences of Misremembering Eugenics

What are the social and ethical consequences of omitting eugenics from historical memory or misrepresenting it? What is the price of the pursuit of “human betterment” for reproductive and disability justice?

Presenters:

  • Marsha Saxton (moderator), World Institute on Disability
  • Rob WIlson, Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada, University of Alberta
  • Troy Duster, Warren Institute for Law and Society Policy, University of California, Berkeley
  • Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Emory University

Table Discussions

2:30 – 3:00: Break

3:00 – 5:00: Now What? Looking Ahead to Brave New Worlds

What is being done – and what can be done – to increase public and student understanding of the legacies of eugenics through teaching, activism and art?

Presenters:

  • Milton Reynolds (moderator), Facing History and Ourselves
  • Gregor Wolbring, Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada, University of Calgary
  • Kate Wiley, Lick-Wilmerding High School
  • Patricia Berne, Sins Invalid

Table Discussions

5:00 – 6:30: Dinner and Reception

6:30 – 8:00 Sneak-preview screening

FIXED: The Science/FIction of Human Enhancement

Producer/DIrector Regan Brashear will answer questions

 Future Past Nov 1

Alberta Eugenics Awareness Week (AEAW) 2013 ~ Oct 16 – Oct 22, 2013

Please join us in Edmonton at the University of Alberta for a series of events throughout Wednesday October 16 to Tuesday October 22, 2013 that mark:

Alberta Eugenics Awareness Week (AEAW) 2013 ~ Oct 16 – Oct 22, 2013

Wednesday Oct 16 – Rob Wilson, University of Alberta, Standpoint Eugenics.  Brown-bag lunch co-sponsored with the Dept. of Educational Policy Studies.  Noon-1:30pm, 7-102 Education North.

Thursday Oct 17 – Eugenics and Indigenous Perspectives.  Discussion panel co-sponsored with the Faculty of Native Studies.  Panelists: Tracy Bear, Joanne Faulkner, Jerry Kachur, Noon-1:00pm, 2-06 Pembina Hall.

Friday Oct 18 – 1) Persons’ Day Panel: Feminism, Motherhood and Eugenics: Historical Perspectives. Panelists: Wendy Kline, University of Cincinnati, Erika Dyck, University of Saskatchewan, and Molly Ladd-Taylor, York University. Noon – 1:00 pm, Henderson Hall, Rutherford South. Wheelchair accessible. 2) Wendy Kline, University of Cincinnati, “The Little Manual that Started a Revolution: How Midwifery Became a Hippie Practice”, 3:30 – 5.00pm, Assiniboia 2-02A, co-sponsored with the Departments of History and Classics, and Women’s and Gender Studies. 3) FIXED: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement. A documentary by Regan Brashear www.fixedthemovie.com, co-sponsored with the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine and the John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre. Telus Centre 150.  Doors at 6:30 pm, film at 7:00 pm. Q&A with Dr. Gregor Wolbring (who is featured in the film) following the film. Wheelchair accessible and closed captioned.

Saturday Oct 19 – Team Meeting, Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada.  2-02A Assiniboia Hall (9:00 am – 4:30 pm) Lunch provided; please RSVP to moyra@ualberta.ca by Noon Oct 16th.

Monday Oct 21 – 1) Joanne Faulkner, University of New South Wales, The Politics of Childhood and Community Identity.  Noon – 1:00 pm in 7-152 Education North.  Co-sponsored by the Departments of Educational Policy Studies and Human Ecology.  2) World Premiere “Surviving Eugenics in the 21st Century: Our Stories Told” 7:00 pm – 9:15 pm Metro Cinema at the Garneau, 8712 – 109 Street NW, Edmonton. Trailer: http://youtu.be/QoM12GAJm8I; closed captioned and ASL interpretation; wheelchair access through the alley entrance.  Please sign up in advance at Facebook to help us with numbers!

Tuesday Oct 22 - 1) Joanne Faulkner, University of New South Wales, The Coming Postcolonial Community: Political Ontology of Aboriginal Childhood in Bringing Them Home.  4.00 – 5.30pm in Assiniboia 2-02a.  Co-sponsored with the Departments of Philosophy and Sociology.  2) Difference and Diversity: An Evening of Performances.  Featuring CRIPSiE (formerly iDance), a reading by Leilani Muir, the art work of Nick Supina III, and much more.  Education North 4-104. Doors at 6:30 pm, performances at 7:00 pm.  Please sign up in advance via Facebook to help us with numbers!

ASL Interpretation can be arranged for events, please contact moyra@ualberta.ca prior to the event.

All Events are FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!

All events are at the University of Alberta, Edmonton.

FIXED:The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement

How do technologies that claim they will change our bodies and minds challenge our views of disability and normalcy? How might this affect what it means to be human in the twenty-first century?

These are the questions tackled in FIXED: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement. It’s a haunting, subtle, urgent documentary that takes a close look at the drive to be “better than human” and the radical technological innovations that some are advocating we embrace. Producer/director Regan Brashear has working on labor, race, youth, LGBTQ, and disability issues for over twenty years through documentary film, union organizing, community forums, and grassroots activism. She is co-founder of Making Change Media, which produces videos for non-profits and labor unions, as well as independent long-form documentaries such as FIXED.

Regan will be interviewed by Gina Maranto, Director of Ecosystem Science and Policy at the University of Miami’s Leonard and Jayne Abess Center, and author of Quest for Perfection: The Drive to Breed Better Human Beings.  Please join us on Thursday October 3 at 11 am PT/ Noon MST / 2 pm ET for Talking Biopolitics a live web-based interview and conversation with Regan Brashnear, Gina Maranto, and you.

Registration is required! You can register here: registration. You can read more about the film and Regan and Gina here

The Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada is hosting the Alberta Premiere of FIXED: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement with co-sponsors the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine and the John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre, University of Alberta, on Friday October 18, 2013 at the Telus Centre 150, University of Alberta. Doors at 6:30 pm, film at 7:00 pm. Dr. Gregor Wolbring will join us after the film for questions and answers via SKYPE. Admission is FREE and this event is open to the public! Plan to attend!

Alberta Eugenics Awareness Week (AEAW) 2013 – whats planned so far

This year Alberta Eugenics Awareness Week (AEAW) will take place October 16 through October 22, 2013.

Our bi-annual Team Meeting will be held at the University of Alberta in Assiniboia Hall 2-02A (our regular room) on Saturday October 19th from 9:00 – 4:30 (time will be confirmed closer to the date). Please save the date and plan to attend.

We will also be holding an event on Friday October 18th to mark Person’s Day. Living Archives Team Member Dr. Joanne Faulkner from the University of New South Wales will be giving a talk along with other team members.

We are currently planning other events and talks with the Faculty of Native Studies and the Department of History at the University of Alberta throughout the week.

Sunday October 20 we will be showing FIXED, a movie that features Team member Dr. Gregor Wolbring. Gregor will be on hand following the film for discussion and questions. You can see a short trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84TaYi15vps
Location and time will be announced shortly!!

On Monday October 21, 2013 we will be presenting the premier of our interview videos in a short film presentation called: “Surviving Eugenics in the 21st Century: Our Stories Told” . This will be held at Metro Cinema 8712 109 St, Edmonton. More details will be forth coming.

On Tuesday October 22, 2013 we will be holding An Evening of Performances (still working on the title) at the Arts-based Research Studio (4-104, Education North). CRIPSiE (formerly iDance) will be performing and Leilani Muir will be reading from her book. We have several artists that will be performing – one team member will be showing us her skills with hula hoops (yes that’s correct hula hoops!).  Rumor has it that a Belly Troupe made of up of all ages, sizes and abilities will be performing, but you will have to attend to find out if this is only a rumor. We have other performers who have expressed interest but are not finalized yet so more details will be announced soon.

If you plan to attend from out of town please contact Moyra. For those of you in Edmonton and planning on attending we need volunteers throughout the week, please contact Moyra: (moyra@ualberta.ca)

All events are FREE and OPEN to the PUBLIC. Save the dates and plan to attend! Bring your friends and families and spread the word. Posters will be distributed soon!

Let’s make a baby: Pushing the boundaries of conception – CBC Radio One

CBC Radio One is exploring the ethical ramifications of cutting-edge reproductive technologies, such as three parent in-vitro fertilization and post-menopausal pregnancy. From June 25, 2013 through August 29, 2013 on CBC Radio One, Tuesday at 7:30 pm and Thursday at 9:30 pm. All ten episodes are available online here: http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/2013/08/06/lets-make-a-baby-pushing-the-boundaries-of-conception/

Special Issue of the International Journal of Disability, Community & Rehabilitation (IJDCR) with the theme What Sorts of People Should There Be?

Special Issue of the International Journal of Disability, Community & Rehabilitation (IJDCR) with the theme What Sorts of People Should There Be?
Edited by Gregor Wolbring, Associate Professor Community, Rehabilitation and Disability Studies, Department of Community Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Canada is now available.

Continue reading

Haraway and the (Im)possibility of Cyborg Eugenics – Presentation by Joshua St. Pierre

Last week, on March 23, 2012, Joshua St. Pierre, one of the summer interns from the Living Archives Project who is currently working on his MA in Philosophy at the University of Alberta, gave a presentation entitled, “Haraway and the (Im)possibility of Cyborg Eugenics.”

His abstract from the conference is as follows:

While the discourse of so-called “new eugenics” is becoming increasingly popular in cyberculture, I argue that new eugenics is discussed as a mere technological overlay of pre-existing eugenic ideologies, ideologies undercut by “A Cyborg Manifesto.” Donna Haraway’s cyborg resists the natural and essential properties (racial, class or genetic purity, normalized categories such as “feeble mindedness,” or binaries like primitive/civilized) which made twentieth century eugenic programs, and by extension new eugenics, possible. However, Haraway’s politically and eugenically resilient cyborg opens the possibility for a “cyborg eugenics” proper.

Instead of essential properties, Haraway argues that human diversity and biotic components must be conceived of in terms of “design, boundary constraints, rates of flow, systems logics, costs of lowering constraints” (162). Thus, the Harawaian cyborg translates the modern concepts of ‘eugenics’ and ‘perfection’ to the concepts of ‘population control’ and ‘optimization’ (161).  While the terms ‘optimal’ and ‘population control’ lack the totalizing ideological overtones of a “master race” or the “feeble minded,” such categories force the choice of what sorts of people there should be, fragmented or not, and therefore what sorts of people there should not be.

Paralleling Hannah Arendt’s account of the banal holocaust logistician Adolf Eichmann, I argue that cyborg eugenics arise indirectly from the non-reflective fixation of the cyborg on optimizing technical problems. The Harawaian cyborg thus resists forms of eugenics rooted in claims of nature, telos or purity, but is seemingly unaware of the dark eugenic possibilities latent in the language of instrumentalization and optimization.

 It was a very interesting presentation, that provided a lot to think about in terms of the role of eugenics as modern technology evolves and becomes incorporated in the human, and the role of eugenics in posthuman literature.

A Prequel to Gattaca?

The 1997 film Gattaca, written and directed by Andrew Niccol, portrays a futuristic society where babies are genetically engineered according to parental references.  The film features a society that consists almost exclusively of such artificially built individuals, with those who are born in the archaic, natural manner occupying the fringes of this society.  In order to protect the rights of what are referred to as the “valids” and thereby keep out the inferior “invalids,” each individual’s genetic material is constantly sampled and monitored.  Every person’s DNA is stored in a database, making multiple scans and random genetic sweeps in the workplace very efficient.  The story follows an “invalid” who has a dream of becoming an astronaut, a job open only to the genetically enhanced elite.

But my intention here is not to provide a synopsis of the film, which is very good and is certainly well worth the time it takes to watch.  Rather, I wanted to Continue reading

A reply to Allen Buchanan on Cognitive Enhancement

The interview with Allen Buchanan has spawned numerous discussions throughout the web, including Brendan Foht’s response. In it, Foht looks to address Buchanan’s claim that the nature of our evolution in some sense justifies cognitive enhancement, and the existence of other technologies.

It is strange that Buchanan thinks that opponents of genetic engineering who find something worth preserving in our nature must believe that evolution is analogous to some sort of “master engineer.” Considering that evolution is a slow process by which biological order spontaneously emerges from highly complex networks of highly conserved genes, there would seem to be an obvious analogy for it in the conservative view of society.

Another article on the topic by Allen Buchanan can be found here. And you can watch a lecture by Buchanan through Youtube, titled “Using Biotechnology to enhance normal humans: Why nature isn’t good enough.” 

“Why Cognitive Enhancement is in Your Future (and Your Past)”

For those interested in transhumanism, cognitive enhancement, and the potential ethical problems that follow, this interview with Duke Philosophy Professor Allen Buchanan might be of interest. Buchanan has written extensively on the ethical implications of human enhancement, notably in his book Better than Human, and has argued forcefully in favour of pursuing cognitive enhancements.

Buchanan disagrees with critics who suggest that cognitive enhancement should not be pursued, in part, because it’s antithetical to human nature. In fact, he argues that the desire to improve our capacities, and our ability to do so, constitutes an important part of our nature.

I think that any appeal to the notion of human nature, on either side of the enhancement debate, is tricky and problematic and has to be handled with care. Yes, in one sense we might say that it’s part of human nature to strive to improve our capacities. Humans have done this in the past by developing literacy and numeracy, and the institutions of science, and more recently we’ve done it with computers and the Internet. So, yes, if an alien were looking at humanity and asking “What is human nature?” one of the ingredients is going to be that these beings seem quite concerned with improving their capacities and they seem to have a knack for doing it.

Check out the complete, and lengthy, interview for more discussions on this topic, the films Gattaca and Limitless, the potential to exacerbate social inequalities, and other ethical debates surrounding cognitive enhancement.

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t fix It, But What if It’s Enhanced?

Gary Karp, who sustained a spinal injury in 1973, which prevents him from using his legs states that although his spine is technically broken, he is not.  Although he confesses that he would want to walk again, he clarifies that he would not want to do so at any cost.  He writes (click here for the entire blog post):

Well, it’s not about whether I want to walk. Of course I want to walk. That is, if I could walk the way I did before my injury. Easily, without fatigue, secure in my balance, painlessly. That’s a pretty tall order (especially given that I’m six foot two!).

The problem with paralysis, Gary argues, is that it is viewed as a thing to be fixed and thus people with injuries like Gary’s are viewed as damaged or broken.  He writes:

If the prevailing view of paralysis—or having a disability of any kind—is that the most important thing is to try and fix people (because, of course, what else could broken people want?), then how will I be viewed as the whole person I am—in the context of my paralysis? If I’m damaged goods, then I’m a person whose life can only be improved—much less be a meaningful and satisfying life—if someone repairs my brokenness.

His view on technological advancements like the exoskeleton is this:

What, then, of the exoskeleton? I don’t see it as something that will fix me, that will fill in something horribly missing in my life. After 38 years I’m so thoroughly adapted that not being able to walk is normal. For me.

The exoskeleton, however, is just a hint of what is possible.  What lies beyond is far from mere fixing; the possibilities point to enhancement.  If Gary and others like him decided to “upgrade” their legs with some future technology inspired by the exoskeleton, would those with “regular” legs be in need of fixing?  In a world of enhanced humans, would all people be born damaged or broken?

Oscar Pistorius is a contemporary example of what may one day be possible.  Oscar is a double amputee and a world class sprinter.  His legs, which were made by the same company the CEO of Ekso Bionics worked for at the time, have been the cause of the IAAF’s ruling making him ineligible for competitions conducted under its guidelines.  This decision was eventually reversed, but the reasons for reversal were not that the use of artificial legs is not an issue, but rather that they do not give him any advantage over other competitors.

Of course, there must be some restrictions set on competitions.  For instance, using a bicycle or a motorized vehicle to win the 100m dash certainly does not seem to be in the spirit of that particular sporting event and so the use of mechanized legs can surely lead to questions.  However, the issue of advantage in sport due to technological advancements does not begin with Oscar Pistorius.  Shouldn’t better running shoes fall into this same category?  What about better diets and certain dietary supplements?  What about the advancement in training efficiency?  Are these not technological improvements?  I doubt that Coroebus of Elis, who won the stadion race in 776 B.C.E., would be a match for Usain Bolt, who won several races at the 2008 Olympic Games.  Does fairness dictate that athletes should have equal access to advantage conferring technologies?  So, in the case of the IAAF’s objections to Pistorius,  was the underlying issue of fairness related to the fact that his legs were not equally accessible to other athletes?  What about Usain Bolt’s physiology?  Is it on par with mine?  If I trained as he does, ate as he does, slept the same amount of time he does, etc., would I also be able to run 100m in 9.72 seconds?  I doubt it!  Does Bolt have an unfair advantage over me?  Insofar as he is better predisposed than I for such great sprinting performance, I guess he does have an unfair advantage.  Do I need fixing?  Am I broken?  Well, no.  I’m not a sprinter, so I don’t need fixing, right??  What about Coroebus of Elis?  Was he broken?  Well, no.  He won the first ever recorded Olympic race!

I am certainly not making claims about the IAAF’s decision, nor about the reversal of the IAAF’s decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.  I also am not questioning the logic behind the rules and boundaries in sporting events.  What I question, however, is whether any competitors can truly be said to be advantage-less?  And I think the answer is no!  If that is the case, however, then it would seem that the point of contention about Pistorius’ alleged “edge” over his co-competitors might actually stem from a deeper apprehension about what our society considers to be abnormal.  Could it be that both Gary (who cannot walk) and Oscar (who can outrun much of his “normal” competition) are somehow viewed in terms of being in need of “fixing” because they are abnormal?  If this is the case, then it’s not merely an ableist fear because Oscar Pistorius, to my mind, is more than able to win races against “normal” sprinters.  Perhaps people are suspicious of difference?  I just hope they never figure out that taller people take bigger steps when they sprint.

One Child, Three Biological Parents – End of Diseases?

Last week, The Telegraph announced that within three years, it will be possible to have three biological parents for any one embryo using in-vitro fertilization.  Why would anyone pursue such a technique?  To “eradicate hereditary disease.”  You can read the full artcle below:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/9025121/Babies-with-three-parents-possible-within-three-years.html

This controversial method proposes that transferring a tiny fraction of DNA from a different donor than only the parents will result in a child without mitochondria-related diseases.  (Mitochondrial diseases are often severe and incurable, including muscular dystrophy and ataxia).  Researchers believe they can wipe out such diseases within a generation.  Children would also retain DNA from both their mother and their father.  The genetic implant of a third person is described as being “as minimal as changing the batteries in a camera.”

Researchers are also placing great emphasis on needing public support, before current laws (which would prevent such an operation) become changed.  Strong opposition comes from “groups who oppose embryo research and claim genetic engineering can result in serious defects.”

What is perhaps equally interesting to the article itself is the poll available on the website.  The Telegraph asks: Continue reading

Limelight Film Festival: Edmonton

The Limelight Film Showcase, Day 2, is TOMORROW, i.e., Tuesday 18th October, 2011, at the University of Alberta campus in Edmonton.  All events are in Myer Horowitz Theatre in the SUB Building, and the festival runs from noon until around 10pm and includes not only short and feature films, but also live dance and movement performances.  Check out the schedule via the festival page here.  All events are free and open to the public.

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/

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

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.

Stem cells give sight to blind mice, raising hope for aging humans

High above the downtown clamour, in one of Toronto’s shiny glass towers, modern medicine’s pioneers have put a whole new spin on an old nursery rhyme.

Using stem cells salvaged from the retinas of human cadavers, researchers with the University of Toronto have restored sight to the eyes of, well, three blind mice. The feat, aside from indicating a quirky sense of humour, has been repeated several times over the last year and marks an important step toward the goal of restoring sight in people.

Continue reading