Bodies and Boundaries
April 2-3, 2015
This two-day mini-conference will brought together researchers, policy makers, and activists from top East-Coast educational and policy-influencing institutions to examine the different ways that human bodies interact with and exceed boundaries.
People constantly move throughout... walking, biking, driving, or taking transit. Yet a variety of hidden boundaries such as laws, urban design, and physical limitations shape how we move about the urban space. This engaging discussion focused on rethinking how individuals move through cities.
Thursday, April 2, 2015
Documentary Screening, Panel Discussion, Reception
Through a focus on transportation systems, especially bicycling and walking, this session explores the ongoing tensions inherent in planning the urban boundaries that shape everyday life as people move into and out of the city. The session will begin with a short documentary film, Every Speed, Lindsey Martin and Julia Fuller, which examines the interaction between human bodies and urban space.
Every Speed is an experimental short documentary that looks at the meaning of movement for people with and without physical disabilities - both in terms of design and accessibility of cities and transportation as well as personal experiences of movement - in the context of a culture that places value on independence, speed, and physical ability. Written by Julia Fuller.
Friday, April 3, 2015
The Human Body and the Urban Plan
The first workshop continues the theme from the Thursday night session, considering the pivotal role of the urban spatial plan in promoting or undermining human bodily health. Examples include the development of the nineteenth century and twentieth century city plan as a political and public health response to cholera and malaria epidemics; the implication of suburban spatial planning in obesity and depression; and the urban cordon-sanitaire and spatial lockdowns of slum precincts as an attempt to contain west African Ebola outbreaks.
Technological Bodies, Between Physiological and Psychological Boundaries
How does one measure and draw boundaries around an idea? What happens when on-the-ground reality necessitates action by exceeding the boundaries imposed by ideas? The second mini-workshop builds on the social “idea” and physiological reality of hunger to explore the way that concepts are bounded and implicated in public and private action.
The final mini-workshop investigates the ways that sensorial knowledge such as tasting and smelling complicate public health discourse. Building on a case study of the recent water contamination crisis in West Virginia, this section of the workshop examines how human sensorial knowledge bounds public health discourse, complicating the relationship between scientist, regulator, and consumer.
The conference goal was to better understanding how human life is shaped and transformed by the real and imagined boundaries around them, while providing a forum for public outreach and engagement with policy making.
Kim Fortun, Professor, Department of Science and Technology Studies, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Trained as a cultural anthropologist, Kim Fortun’s research and teaching focus on environmental problems, and on ways ethnographic and experimental methods can be used to address the complexities of the contemporary world. Her research has examined how people in different geographic and organizational contexts understand environmental problems, uneven distributions of environmental health risks, developments in the environmental health sciences, and factors that contribute to, and reduce, vulnerability to environmental risk and disaster.
“Environmental problems are cultural problems, as well as scientific and political problems,” Fortun said. “To understand environmental problems, many of the assumptions of industrial culture must be set aside – assumptions about health, prosperity and security; assumptions about how science should be conducted and used in governance,; assumptions about how complex problems play out and can be addressed. My research and teaching aims to advance our ability to think through and constructively engage the cultural dynamics of environmental and other complex problems.”
Fortun's undergraduate teaching contributes to RPI's new Sustainability Studies Program, and to the development of student capacity for independent research. Her graduate teaching focuses on research design and methods, on cultural analysis of science and technology, and on critical theories of language, knowledge, and communication.
Her current work includes research for a book titled Making Environmental Sense, which examines how information technology, theory and culture have shaped the environmental field over the last two decades; The Asthma Files, a collaborative, web-based project to draw together and explicate multiple perspectives on asthma – from different scientific disciplines, policy arenas, health care settings and communities where asthmatics live; and Strategizing Transdisciplinarity: From Exposure Assessment to Exposure Science, a NSF-funded study of environmental exposure science.
Fortun’s book Advocacy After Bhopal: Environmentalism, Disaster, New Global Orders. (University of Chicago Press, 2001) was awarded the 2003, biannual Sharon Stephens Prize by the American Ethnological Society. From 2005 to 2010, Fortun co-edited (with Mike Fortun) Cultural Anthropology, one of the most highly ranked journals in the field, published by the American Anthropological Association.
Victoria Kiechel, AIA and LEED AP O+M, ID+C, Practicing Architect
Victoria Kiechel, AIA and LEED AP O+M, ID+C, is a practicing architect and native Washingtonian. It’s no wonder that her courses in AU’s Global Environmental Politics Program always include a real-world, local project in sustainable design. When not in the classroom at SIS or the architectural studio or feeding her teenage children, Vicky works for the Cadmus Group, Inc., an environmental consultancy. At Cadmus she leads research work for the Appalachian Regional Commission, sustainability consulting for the Smithsonian Institution, and consulting and review teams for projects seeking LEED certification. She worked for the U.S. Green Building Council on LEED v.3, and advises the U.S. EPA’s ENERGY STAR commercial and industrial branch as Higher Education sector lead on issues ranging from energy benchmarking to curriculum development and workforce training in energy efficiency. Vicky was the first-ever recipient of AU’s Most Innovative Green Teacher of the Year award.
Kim Lucas, Transportation Management Specialist, Washington DC Department of Transportation
Kim Lucas works at the District of Columbia’s Department of Transportation where she manages the Capital Bikeshare and Bicycle Parking programs. With over 300 stations and approximately 2,900 bikes available system-wide, nearly 10 million trips have been taken by Capital Bikeshare members since its launch.
Prior to joining DDOT, Kim worked in the San Francisco Bay Area after completing her Master’s degree in City Planning at the University of California, Berkeley. In the over twelve years since she began her transportation career as a student bus driver at the University of Virginia, she has worked in the cornerstones of transportation planning: the public and private sectors, advocacy and research. She is an active member of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals, Young Professionals in Transportation, and the Women’s Transportation Seminar.
Phil Olson, Assistant Professor, Department of Science and Technology in Society, Virginia Tech
Phil Olson is an assistant professor in the Department of Science and Technology in Society. He works at the intersections of bioethics, environmental ethics, medicine in culture, technology studies, and gender studies. His current research focuses on funeral technologies, and on relationships between the medicalized body and the funeralized corpse. In Phil’s research, the dead human body and funeral technologies serve as research sites for studying the interaction of religious, commercial, medical, governmental, cultural, and environmental interests. His most recent work (forthcoming in Science, Technology & Human Values) examines various body concepts deployed by actors who have a stake in the development of alkaline hydrolysis, a form of funerary disposition that has begun to take hold in the US. Phil is currently working on projects having to do with “necro-waste,” the classification of funeral technologies, the gender politics of caring for corpses, and the roles of technology in organizing and controlling funeral work.
Phil’s interest in funeral work comes from his experiences growing up in a family of funeral directors, and from working in funeral homes in Minnesota and North Dakota. Deciding not to pursue the family business, Phil earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy from Emory University in 2007 and joined the STS Department in 2012. He has taught courses in epistemology, theoretical ethics, bioethics, feminism, pragmatism, and the philosophy of religion. He also teaches courses on medical and funeral technologies.
Phil serves on the Board of Trustees/Directors of the Funeral Consumer Alliance of the Virginia Blue Ridge, a local non-profit, all-volunteer organization devoted to providing our service area with information about local funeral options and requirements.
Recently, Phil organized a public screening of the award-winning documentary, Dying Green, which was followed by a panel discussion about the growing “green burial” movement.
Gabe Rousseau, Bicycle and Pedestrian Manager, Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation
Gabe Rousseau is a ten-year veteran of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and helped set up the Safe Routes to School Program when SAFETEA-LU was enacted in 2005. Now, as Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Manager in the FWHA Office of Human Environment, Gabe will have a hand in Safe Routes funding again through oversight of the Transportation Alternatives Program. An avid cyclist and walker, Gabe walked to school as a child and now cycles to work at US DOT, where he started a bike commuter group in 2007. We’re grateful to Gabe for taking the time to thoughtfully answer our questions on all things walking, biking and SRTS.
Frank Snowden, Andrew Downey Orrick Professor of History & History of Medicine, Yale University
Professor Snowden received his Ph.D. from Oxford University in 1975. His books include Violence and Great Estates in the South of Italy: Apulia, 1900-1922 (1984); The Fascist Revolution in Tuscany, 1919-1922 (1989); Naples in the Times of Cholera (1995) and The Conquest of Malaria: Italy, 1900-1962 (2006). Conquest was awarded the Gustav Ranis Prize from the MacMillan Center at Yale in 2007 as “the best book on an international topic by a member of the Yale Faculty,” the Helen and Howard R. Marraro Prize by the American Historical Association as the best work on Italy in any period, and the 2008 Welch Medal from the American Association for the History of Medicine.
He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Italian history, European social and political history, and the history of medicine.
Alexander Justice Moore, Chief Development Officer, DC Central Kitchen
Alexander Moore holds a MA from Georgetown University in security studies and is author of The Food Fighters: DC Central Kitchen's First Twenty-Five Years on the Front Lines of Hunger and Poverty.
Jody Roberts, Director, Institute for Research, Chemical Heritage Foundation
Roberts’s work explores the intersections of emerging molecular sciences and public policy and the ways in which tensions brought about between the two get resolved. He received advanced degrees in science and technology studies from Virginia Tech where he cultivated an interest in the practice of the molecular sciences and the ways in which they are shaped by internal architecture and design (e.g., technologies of the laboratory) and the politics of the broader world (e.g., chemical regulations). Before joining the CHF staff, he was the Charles C. Price Fellow and Gordon Cain Fellow at CHF. Roberts is a research professor in the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Drexel University and a lecturer in the History and Sociology of Science Department at the University of Pennsylvania. He serves as a Senior Fellow in the Environmental Leadership Program, a national program training the next generation of environmental leaders. Roberts holds an undergraduate degree in chemistry from Saint Vincent College.
Christy Spackman, Molecular Biologist, Food Chemist, and Culinary Instructor
Trained as a molecular biologist, food chemist, and culinary instructor, Christy Spackman is an ACLS-Mellon Dissertation Completion Fellow who studies the making of tastelessness. She will graduate in May 2015 with her Doctorate in Food Studies from NYU-Steinhardt.
Luke Stark, Fifth-Year Doctoral Candidate, Department of Media, Culture, and Communication, New York University
Luke Stark is a fifth-year doctoral candidate in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University under the supervision of Helen Nissenbaum; his dissertation research focuses on the history and philosophy of digital media technology and its use in tracking, modulating and shaping the anxious, everyday emotional lives of users. More broadly, Luke’s scholarship explores the changing nature of human subjectivity in the computational age. Other teaching and research projects have examined the changing dynamics of privacy and security in digital life; the connection between values and design in digital information systems and emerging DIY/maker practice; and the dynamic relationship between notions of the self and poetic forms both literary and computational. A native of Toronto, Canada, Luke holds an Honours BA in History & English and an MA in History, both from the University of Toronto; he has been generously funded by the Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the National Science Foundation, the Government of Ontario, and New York University’s Provost’s Global Research Initiatives. Luke is a Student Fellow of the NYU School of Law's Information Law Institute (ILI), a member of the ILI's Privacy Research Group, and a Principal with PRGLab; he is a member of the Intel Science & Technology Center for Social Computing. Some of Luke's academic pursuits have been complimented by work in Issues Management and Strategic Communications Planning for the Ontario Ministries of Health and Long-Term Care and Natural Resources; other highlights from his eclectic résumé include sleep-away camp counselor, forest ranger, and ranch hand.