Report on the Inaugural Conference for Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada

On October 22 and 23, the Living Archives project held its first public event since being awarded Community University Research Alliance (CURA) funding earlier in 2010.  For those who weren’t able to attend, and for those who were but who want a reminder, below is a report on the conference proceedings.

Friday morning began with a team meeting.  It was announced that seven people would be joining the team.  The team now includes 31 scholars, advocates, and community members working throughout Canada and internationally. Later in the meeting, team member, Frank Stahnisch, described a workshop on the history of eugenics and brain psychiatry that is to be held in Banff on June 21, 2011.  More information will be sent out as we approach June.  Finally, the team received a presentation from Colette Leung, a research assistant in the Program in Humanities Computing at Alberta, on the five-year strategy for building the Living Archives website.  Work has already begun on the website, and we expect it eventually to become a very valuable resource for information and research on the history of eugenics.  The next team meeting and public event has been scheduled for May 5 – 7 in Edmonton.  Details to come soon. Continue reading

CBC News – Edmonton – Alberta’s sex sterilizations re-examined

from CBC Edmonton, last night, with stacks of comments already.

CBC News – Edmonton – Alberta’s sex sterilizations re-examined.

‘Newgenics’ still rampant in Alberta, conference told

Front page, Edmonton Journal, by Andrea Sands:


‘Newgenics’ still rampant in Alberta, conference told.

Human Kinds–Ray Kurzweil and Uploading: Just Say “No”–Parts 2 and 3

Here Nick moves on to uploading proper, starting with ideas about cochlear implants and the incremental move on to full uploading. Turning minds to technology, the celebration of the arrival of The Singularity in 2045, and then uploading … and why this is a bad idea!

In part 2, we get as far as the outline of Nick’s main argument, taking seriously the possibility that uploading = death. In part 3, we get the deal finished. For both, you might want to have the following handy, using your extended mind:

A = You live; benefit from bioenhancements, but forego other, significant enhancements asociated with uploading

B =You live; benefit from bioenhancements, and avoid death or replacement by a non-conscious Upload

C =You live; benefit from electronic enhancements, disease free, intellectual surge

D = You die; replaced by a machine incapable of conscious thought.

Modern Pursuit of Human Perfection talks: now captioned

In October 2008, the What Sorts Network and the “From Archives to Activism” project in that network cosponsored a public dialogue, The Modern Pursuit of Human Perfection, with three of our community partners: the Alberta Association for Community Living, the Canadian Association for Community Living, and Neighborhood Bridges. The event was held at the University of Alberta on October 23rd, 2008, and was open to the public and filmed. It formed part of a series of public events we put on that continued on Friday and Saturday, including an invited symposium at the Western Canadian Philosophical Association on Philosophy, Eugenics, and Disability in Alberta and Places North that kicked off with this talk from Dick Sobsey, director of the John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre at the University of Alberta and a leading authority on violence and disability. (We’re still in the process of moving from transcripts to captioning for these talks.)

The public dialogue began with some opening comments from our cosponsors, continued with short presentations from our community member panelists talking of their personal experiences with medicine, disability, and social services, and was rounded out by a series of interchanges between audience and panel. All videos now contain both transcripts and closed captioning (thanks to Jackie Ostrem for completing the work needed here), and the videos are also available directly on YouTube. Since the closed captioning has just been added, and will make the videos here more accessible for classroom and community use, we’re running them again on the blog in three or four chunks, the first of which is below and contains all of the short narrative stories at the core of the dialogue. Comments on the blog on any of these posts is still welcome, but we also hope that you’ll find these of interest and use down the track for individual reflection or group discussion. Each video is cut to “Youtube size”, i.e., less than roughly 10 minutes, which, apart from fitting the attention span of the Youtube generation, also packages the discussions here more aptly for classroom discussion.

Thanks to all participants: Anna Macquarrie, Bruce Uditsky, Dick Sobsey, Wendy Macdonald, Sam Sansalone, Colleen Campbell, Anne Hughson, and Simo Vehmas. And thanks to Grant Wang and Lee Ramsdell at the Arts Resource Centre at the University of Alberta for the filming and post-production work; to John Simpson for organizational assistance; and to Jackie Ostrem for the transcriptions and captioning.

Introduction (Anna Macquarrie and Bruce Uditsky)

My doctor, my child (Wendy Macdonald)

Living with trisomy 13, part I (Sam Sansalone)

Living with trisomy 13, part II (Sam Sansalone)

When disability meets social welfare (Colleen Campbell)

Talking about cognitive disability and moral philosophy

As readers of this blog will know, in September there was a relatively large, special topic conference called “Cognitive Disability: A Challenge to Moral Philosophy”, organized by Eva Kittay and Licia Carlson (and I think Sophia Wong), held in New York City.  In some recent comments here, Shelley Tremain has said the following about the roster of speakers for this conference, particularly the inclusion of Peter Singer and Jeff McMahan:

I would like to know when disability theorists, activists, and our allies came to regard it as beneficial, indeed, laudable, to have Peter Singer and Jeff McMahan speak about disabled people, especially cognitively disabled people. … Giving this kind of attention to nondisabled white, male bioethicists whose awful, dominant views about disabled people are in the public domain (and quite familiar to many of us) serves to further marginalize the work of authors in Disability Studies who are attempting to unravel the misunderstandings and prejudices the views of the former entail for concrete human beings; it marginalizes disabled theorists; it marginalizes feminist disability theorists.

Continue reading

Beware: Berube Sighted in American Airspace!

Having honked around to see who might be able to report on the recent conference on cognitive disability held at Stony Brook’s Manhattan campus (ahem), I was mega-pleased to find that no finer a soul than Michael Berube was “wandering back in” to his own part of American Airspace with a post on this very topic. But that was last week. Now cooching over there, just as a way to take one final deep karmic breath, I find a post that, no kidding, had me laughing so hard that I cracked a rib and damaged several internal organs: Ground Control to Major John. Just don’t read it aloud with a friend: it hurts too much. Why can’t Canadian elections be this much fun?

Maybe it is better to burn out than to fade away, … but only if you’re a phoenix.

Posts on Cognitive Disability: A Challenge to Moral Philosophy

If anyone has any reactions to talks they’ve heard at the Cognitive Disability conference in NYC sponsored by SUNY Stony Brook and run by Eva Kittay and Licia Carlson that has just finished, please post away, either as a comment here (anyone) or in your own post (if you’re a What Sorts blogger). Kristina’s link to her Autism Vox post on Ian Hacking’s talk is a start.


Anyone reading this have any experience with Citizendium? At the Minds and Societies summer institute today I went to a talk by Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger on Citizendium, which aspires to be “the world’s most trusted encyclopedia and knowledge base”. Citizendium is Sanger’s alternative to Wikipedia, the outcome of his unsuccessful arm-wrestle to reform Wikipedia from within. Citizendium chiefly distinguishes itself from Wikipedia by two features: its privileging of editorial expertise (over the pandemonic egalitarianism of WP) and the removal of anonymous authorship. While they sound like relatively small and sensible changes to the structure that Wikipedia has, from the presentation, question period, lunch, and other conversation I got the distinct impression that Citizendium is likely to be significantly more stodgy and less fun than Wikipedia, even if it also contains fewer whacko and misleading articles. It may become Eliteopedia or Boringopedia if the governing council doesn’t loosen or liven up a little, but it’s likely to remain Radicallyincompletopedia for more than a while: it bats at around 7000 articles now, very few of which have been approved by the knowledgable editors that Citizendium prides itself on using, in contrast to Wikipedia, which prides itself on being the encyclopedia that Homer Simpson contributes to (and which also has around 2.5 million articles … just in English, and not all by Homer). Continue reading