Category Archives: Health and Humanities

On Sonic Sovereignty

Dr. Dustin Tahmahkera discusses indigenous sound in HI’s Faculty Fellows Seminar on Health, Well-Being, Healing
By Saralyn McKinnon-Crowley

At last week’s Faculty Fellows Seminar, Dr. Dustin Tahmahkera (Mexican American and Latina/o Studies) discussed his work-in-progress, “Sounds Indigenous” or “Becoming Sound.” Dr. Tahmahkera employs “sound” in its dual meaning, as both auditory stimulus and as wellness or health. His project asks three questions:

  • What are the roles of sounds in indigenous and American cultural histories and identity formations, historically and today?
  • How do we listen to ways of sounding indigenous?
  • How can sound heal and impact the well-being of individuals, communities, and the land?

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Our Contaminated World

Dr. David Crews presents lessons from biology in HI’s Faculty Fellows Seminar on Health, Well-Being, Healing
By Saralyn McKinnon-Crowley

At this week’s Faculty Fellows Seminar, Dr. David Crews (Integrative Biology) spoke about the mutual interdependence of the environment and human biology. Dr. Crews argued that the environment is permanently contaminated by the mass production of synthetic chemicals and other factors, and it is now impossible to return it to pre-Industrial Revolution conditions. Biological effects from human exposure to these chemicals can occur generations after the initial encounter (a process known as synchronicity). The impact of these chemicals can be seen beyond gene expression and, indeed, extends to human psychological and emotional responses. To illustrate these changes, Dr. Crews used the example of endocrine disrupters (EDCs)—chemicals that disrupt the collection of glands that secrete hormones into the circulatory system to be carried to target organs.

Structural formula for polychlorinated biphenyls
Structural formula for polychlorinated biphenyls

Dr. Crews specifically discussed one type of EDC, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), man-made chemicals used widely in industrial and commercial products . Even though the industrialized world ceased use of PCBs in the 1970s, PCB levels are still present in organisms today and have even been found in the Arctic Circle.

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Present/Absent Bodies

Ann Hamilton reflects on the evolution of her public art works in HI’s Faculty Fellows Seminar on Health, Well-Being, Healing
By Clare Callahan
O N E E V E R Y O N E by Ann Hamilton
O N E E V E R Y O N E by Ann Hamilton

Last week’s Humanities Institute Faculty Fellows Seminar on “Health, Well-Being, Healing” hosted internationally recognized visual artist Ann Hamilton to speak on O N E E V E R Y O N E, a public art project commissioned by Landmarks for the Dell Medical School. O N E E V E R Y O N E opened on January 27, and Hamilton was in Austin for the opening. Hamilton’s O N E E V E R Y O N E, as Landmarks describes the project, “is framed by the idea that human touch and intimacy are the most essential means of contact and the fundamental expression of physical care. More than 500 participants in several Austin locations were photographed through a semi-transparent membrane that sharply focused parts of the body that made contact with the material and softly blurred the parts that moved away from it. The optical quality of the material renders touch—something felt, more than seen—visible.”

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Health Care Economies and the Danger of Words

Dr. Phil Barrish discusses the literature of health care in HI’s Faculty Fellows Seminar on Health, Well-Being, Healing
By Clare Callahan

The Humanities Institute Spring 2017 Faculty Fellows Seminar on
“Health, Well-Being, Healing”
has begun! At our first meeting on February 21st, Phil Barrish, Professor of English, presented his work-in-progress, “Environmental Illness and the Future of Health Care,” a literary analysis of Chang-Rae Lee’s first work of speculative fiction On Such a Full Sea. Lee’s On Such a Full Sea imagines three health care scenarios that respond to the long-term effects of human-wrought environmental damage on human health, and more specifically to the uneven distribution of this environmental depredation. The three scenarios present in the novel are based on our contemporary discourse on health care, from “a left-wingers dystopian projection of the health care landscape under a supposed free market system,” as Barrish describes it, to “a right-winger’s nightmare vision of . . . a single-payer government-run system.” Dr. Barrish’s essay, whichon-such-a-full-sea-ppbk examines the representation of the political economy of health care in On Such a Full Sea, builds off of his previously published work, including his essay “Health Policy in Dystopia,” published in Literature and Medicine in 2016 and “The Sticky Web of Medical Professionalism: Robert Herrick’s The Web of Life and the Political Economy of Health Care at the Turn of the Century,” published in American Literature in 2014.

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