Wednesday, November 5, 2008


The following may be of interest. A great deal of cultural studies at the moment seems to be alighting on the 'bio', partly inspired by Agamben and, ultimately, that old chestnut, Foucault. They claim that "We are not necessarily nominalists", although, of course, they are - certainly at this stage. In general, they may be seen to be going in the right direction, albeit in a series of detours and backtracking. I flag this up to give an indication of what the prefix 'bio' is currently entailing. Announcement follows:

Bio/Cultural Studies
[Individuals interested in participating in this Cultural Studies Association seminar should contact Bernice Hausman at or Brad Lewis at Deadline: 14 November 2008.]
Seminar Description:
Lennard Davis and David Morris, in their “Biocultures Manifesto” that opens the summer 2007 special issue of New Literary History on Biocultures, argue that the field of intellectual endeavor encompassing biocultural studies exists but needs a name. They write, “We are not necessarily nominalists, but we do believe in the power of a name to consolidate scattered research agendas and to generate change.” Their manifesto is a clarion call to begin to reconceptualize the existing cross-fertilization of scientific investigation with cultural inquiry, broadly construed.
We are interested in a more pointed version, or subfield, of biocultures that sets cultural studies against, or into, biomedicine. Some of the more interesting variants of this field explore biopsychiatry and detail the emergence of the “neurochemical person” (N. Rose) and/or the “pharmaceutical person” (E. Martin). The bio/cultural studies approach to medicine cannot rest on a “cultural critique” of science and its objectified research paradigms. Instead, biocultures demands a kind of interpenetration of objectives from both fields, assuming that the alleviation of suffering is approached authentically in both cultural analysis (where the goal is often social justice) and medicine (where physical suffering begins the diagnostic enterprise and ending it is the goal). In this way, bio/cultural studies is about critique but also collaboration; as a paradigm it insists on new research questions that straddle the edge of the “two cultures” so famously described by C. P. Snow.
Seminar Requirements:
This seminar is for scholars and scholar-activists interested in learning more about what we are calling bio/cultural studies and in developing research questions and projects in this field. We will circulate a set of texts to seminar participants in February, and ask for brief (5-page) descriptions of projects, research areas, or developed research questions in mid-March. These will be shared with all seminar participants in late March. The object of the seminar itself will be to workshop these projects and questions to aid participants in the development of their projects, and to establish an ongoing research network of scholars. We will also discuss funding opportunities and cross-discipline collaborations that will allow research in this field to impact medical practice, biomedical research, and public health initiatives both nationally and globally. It is our belief that bio/cultural studies is not a project enclosed within academic contexts but one that should reach out to affect practices and policies worldwide.
Seminar Moderators:
Bernice L. Hausman, PhD, is professor of English at Virginia Tech and a teaching affiliate in Women’s Studies and Science and Technology Studies. Educated in feminist and critical theory, she has spent her career studying medicine, gender, sexed bodies, and motherhood. Her research addresses how human embodiment has become both a problem for, and a project of, modernity. Her books include Changing Sex: Transsexualism, Technology, and the Idea of Gender (1995) and Mother’s Milk: Breastfeeding Controversies in American Culture (2003).
Bradley Lewis, MD, PhD is an assistant professor at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study with affiliated appointments in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis and the Department of Psychiatry. He has dual training in humanities and medicine (with a psychiatric specialty), and he writes and teaches at the interface of cultural studies, medicine, and humanities. Lewis is the author of Moving Beyond Prozac, DSM, and the New Psychiatry: Birth of Postpsychiatry and is associate editor for the Journal of Medical Humanities.
Contact information:
Bernice L. Hausman, English Dept. (0112), Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061; 540-231-5076;
Bradley E. Lewis, Gallatin School of Individualized Study, New York University, 715 Broadway, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10003-6806; 212-998-7313;

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