Narrative, Health, and Social Justice

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This interdisciplinary and inter-institutional seminar explores the connection between narrative, health, and social justice. If disease, violence, terror, war, poverty and oppression all manifest themselves in narrative, then it is equally true that resistance, justice, healing, activism, and collectivity can be products of a narrative- based approach to ourselves and the world. Narrative understanding helps unpack the complex power relations between North and South, state and worker, disabled body and able-body, bread-earner and child-bearer, subject and researcher, patient and provider as well as self and the other. The seminar will draw from such fields as journalism, performance arts, law, public health, trauma studies, anthropology, sociology, literary studies, medicine, writing, and cultural studies. The common thread will be the narratives we tell as individuals, families, communities, and nations that situate our experience in social, political, and cultural contexts, and that express in so many ways our search for justice in our world and for our world. Our aim is to broaden the mandate of each of our disciplines, challenging each of us to bring a critical, self-reflective eye to our scholarship, teaching, practice, and organizing. How are the stories we tell manifestations of social injustice? How can we transform such stories into narratives of justice, health, and change?

Sayantani DasGupta, MD MPH
Assistant Clinical Professor of General Pediatrics, Columbia University

Marsha Hurst, Ph.D.
Lecturer in Narrative Medicine, Columbia University

Cameron Donald

Meeting dates and locations are subject to change. Please confirm details with the seminar rapporteur.




10/16/2015 Faculty House (64 Morningside Dr)
12:00 PM
Paper Subjects: Disability in Comic Books and Graphic Narratives
Jonathan Gray , John Jay College, CUNY
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Chris Foss, University of Mary Washington
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Notes: Given that disability continues to be a major trope in so many graphic narratives, it is crucial to apply insights offered by disability studies and to theorize potential paradigms for productive critical articulations of disability and sequential art. Chris Foss (University of Mary Washington) and Jonathan Gray (John Jay College / CUNY) will speak to these concerns as well as presenting work from their respective chapters—on autism in Keiko Tobe's popular "With the Light" manga series; and on "Cyborg, Social Death, and Black Disability”—from their forthcoming collection, Disability in Comic Books and Graphic Narratives (Palgrave Macmillan, Literary Disability Series).

Per the request of the University Seminars office, sandwiches are available for order at $25, payable only by check made out to “Columbia University Seminars.” Please inscribe the seminar number (737), the word “lunch” and the date in the memo. You must indicate that you would like to order lunch in your RSVP. Bringing your own brown bag lunch is also welcomed and encouraged.

Please RSVP to by Monday, October 5th. Space is limited for this event.

As always, our seminars are committed to accessibility and inclusivity. If you require disability accommodations, please contact Disability Services at (212) 854-2388.
11/19/2015 Faculty House
7:00 PM
Caregiving in SABBATICAL: Family, Aesthetics, and Personal Cinema - A Conversation with Brandon Colvin and Marcelline Block
Brandon Colvin , University of Wisconsin
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Marcelline Block,
Speaker Link Abstract

Notes: In an engaging discussion with filmmaker Brandon Colvin led by discussant and film scholar Marcelline Block, during this seminar we will explore the relationship between caregiving and narrative through Colvin’s cinematic masterpiece Sabbatical (2014). A work of rigorous form, Sabbatical follows protagonist Ben as he returns home to care for his ill mother and work on a new book. In this setting, Ben becomes increasingly alienated from once intimate relationships with friends, a lover, and family. Ultimately, Ben must confront his looming responsibilities and choose whether to engage or detach.

Sabbatical has been featured in numerous festivals and screening series including the Beloit International Film Festival, the New Orleans Film Festival, the Western Kentucky Film Festival, the Wisconsin Film Festival, and the 2015 Kinoscope screening series at the New School in NYC. Sabbatical was recognized by both the Madison Film Forum and No Film School as one of their top 20 films of 2014.

****A prescreening of Brandon Colvin’s film Sabbatical will be shown at 5:30 pm
12/10/2015 Faculty House
7:00 PM
Erin Wood ,

Kelli Dunham ,

Samantha Plakun,

Heidi Andrea Restrepo Rhodes,

Notes: Join us for a reading, discussion, and presentation on Scars: An Anthology with editor Erin Wood and four of the book’s New York contributors. Copies of the book will be available the day of the Seminar.

Scars: An Anthology examines the range and nuance of experience related to scars of the body. Through various genres and mediums, nearly forty contributors address self-mutilation, creating art, gender confirmation surgery, cancer, birth, brain injury, war, coming of age, pain, and love, all focusing on the central question of what it means to live with physical scars.