As I’m on the plane headed to give my first talk of the academic year, I’m looking at my speaking schedule delighted at the variety.
Later today I’ll be giving the Keynote at the annual faculty conference of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (The FIRE), a group whose work I value highly and am happy to support. I’ll be speaking on some of the themes covered in my recent viral Chronicle of Higher Education essay, “Take Back the Ivory Tower,” but also digging down into questions about what faculty can do to stem the triple threat to academia: shout-downs from the left; shut-downs from the right; and corporatization and branding by university administrations.
Next week I head to Toronto where I’ll be giving the Keynote at the University of Toronto’s Wilson Centre Research Day. The Wilson Centre is a multidisciplinary research unit that studies education in the health professions. My talk is entitled, “How Should We Think about Activist Responses to Medical Research and Medical Care?” Here’s the abstract:
“Patient empowerment is something we often speak of as an unmitigated good. But how should we think about criticisms, claims, and demands coming today from individuals who say they speak for various groups of patients and medical research subjects? This talk—offered by an historian of medicine who has been both a medical activist and a target of activists—will consider this problem historically, politically, and ethically. Case studies will be drawn particularly from the history of medical approaches to sex, sexuality, and gender.”
While I’m at the University of Toronto, I’m also taking a little time to visit with folks in the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science. I’ll be leading a research seminar discussion on a chapter I’ve written for a book that I’m editing with Francoise Baylis for Cambridge University Press, Bioethics in Action. My chapter is on working as an historian and patient advocate with the intersex rights movement for about twenty years.
Later in October I head back to Chicago for the annual conference of LION Publishers (Local Independent Online News), where I’ll be speaking on East Lansing Info. “ELi” is a citizen-reported nonprofit news organization I founded to address the local “news desert” problem in the city where I live. Now in its fourth fiscal year, sustained entirely by reader donations, and expertly led by Managing Editor Ann Nichols, ELi has turned over one hundred ordinary citizens into nonpartisan local reporters. We’ve changed East Lansing into a news-hungry, news-consuming town that understands the value of nonpartisan factual news. I am psyched to be giving my first national talk on this model and on our success.
Early in November, I go back to Toronto to deliver the Elizabeth Paris Lecture on Socially-Engaged History of Scienceat the annual History of Science Society meeting. This is a huge honor for me, because it is a core lecture of the meeting of my home disciplinary society. My talk there is entitled “Moral Witnessing in the History of Science.” Here’s a bit from the abstract:
“In this lecture, I’ll draw on my own work as well as that of other historians of science who have labored in the history of research, biomedicine, and environmental and climate science, to raise some considerations about socially-engaged history of science that includes moral witnessing. It seems especially important for us to explore these issues as we enter a period of righteousness about science, and it seems especially important for us to think about how harmful are simplistic histories of good and evil, particularly in the History of Science.”
A week later I head off to the Netherlands where I’ll be giving the Keynote for the annual “Night of Descartes” at the University of Utrecht. There I’ve been asked to speak on the issue of battles between scientists and activists—and on the question of whether scientists should ever be activists. This relates back to the work I developed in Galileo’s Middle Finger.
Later that week, I’ll be speaking at Maastricht University, also on Galileo’s Middle Finger. The abstract: “What values should activists and researchers share? How should we think about the relationship between the twin pursuits of truth and of justice? And what is the role of journalists when disputes between activists and researchers break out? The speaker is an historian of science who has twenty years’ experience of being on both sides of activist-researcher battles. She will argue that the pursuit of evidence should be understood as the most important ethical imperative of our time.”
January holds a special treat: returning to Northwestern University—the university from which I resigned over censorship—to talk about censorship of sex research. I was invited to speak on this to Northwestern’s Queer Pride Graduate Student Association by the current President of the Group, David Miller, whose work I have admired. I’ll touch on what happened to lead to my resignation but talk more generally about moves to limit and censor sex research and how this negatively impacts the lives of lesbian, gay, bi, transgender, queer, and intersex people.
In February, I’ll spend a couple of days as a Visiting Professor in Bioethics and Obstetrics and Gynecology for the University of Pittsburgh and Magee Women’s Hospital. In addition to talking with the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program about the intersex patient rights movement, I’ll be delivering a lecture entitled, “Prenatal Dexamethasone for CAH: How Safe Are Pregnant Women and Fetuses in Our Medical System?”
The abstract: “For over 30 years, prenatal dexamethasone has been used to try to prevent intersex development in 46,XX fetuses with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). The intervention starts as early as week two of pregnancy, and dexmathasone is used because it crosses the placental barrier and changes fetal development. The use has come to be seen as ‘standard of care’ in spite of no animal studies of the use, no controlled trials, and almost no prospective long-term data collection. How did OB/Gyns come to be told this was ‘safe and effective,’ and what does it tell us about how well the medical/research protection systems are working for pregnant women and fetuses?”
In March, I will have the honor of serving as the Ryan Bioethicist-in-Residence at the Southern Illinois University School of Law and School of Medicine. This involves a series of three lectures, including one at the School of Law (“Who Should Count as a Woman on the Playing Field? The Question of Intersex and Trans in Sports”), one at the School of Medicine (“Should We Try to Engineer Physical ‘Normality’ in Children?”), and one for the hospital Bioethics Committee and community members (“The Trouble with Pursuing Normality through Medicine”).
Shortly after that I’ll head to Winona State University in Minnesota to be the Keynote speaker for the campus’s Common Book Project, which this year is using Rebecca Skloot’s book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. I’ll be speaking on informed consent and the question of which kinds of people have been disproportionately used for medical experimentation and medical research in the U.S. I’ll also talk some about the laws, regulations, and agencies that are supposed to protect us and often don’t, something about which I’ve written relatively recently for Aeon magazine.
After that, I lay off the work travel for a while. It is my son’s senior year in high school, and I am looking forward to spending the Michigan spring and summer with him before he launches off to some campus that hopefully has a green-light rating from The FIRE.
Thanks to all the folks who have worked on making all these visits possible! I am excited about them and looking forward to them all.