'Critical Juncture' conference examines the space where identities collide

Emory Report | April 5, 2016

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Full Radius Dance, an Atlanta-based physically integrated professional dance company, performs Friday, April 8, as part of the "Critical Juncture" conference. Photo by Bubba Carr.

Established and emerging scholars from around the globe will converge on Emory this week to discuss the complex social identities surrounding race, gender and disability.

"Critical Juncture: Exploring the Intersections of Race, Gender, and Disability" will take place April 8-9 at the Rollins School of Public Health, with a focus on the body and how it is represented in those different identities as well as in the arts and the sciences.

"There is value in making these connections across disciplines and realizing we are having different discussions, different perspectives, on the same issue of bodies," says Lindsey Grubbs, an English doctoral candidate who is organizing the event with RSPH graduate student Ilana Raskind, with help from Kellie Vinal, a doctoral candidate in microbiology and molecular genetics.

Grubbs already has developed a similar cross-discipline connection with Karen Rommelfanger, neuroethics program director at the Center for Ethics.

The two paired on a chapter in the forthcoming "Routledge Handbook of Neuroethics" that Rommelfanger is editing. In it, Grubbs contributes a cultural understanding to the science of "invisible illnesses" such as psychogenic movement disorder, which can present as Parkinson's Disease.

The conference looks to expand on similar overlaps. For instance, sociologist Tatsiana Shchurko of Belarus will talk about reproductive technologies in that Eastern European nation, and connect it to the kinds of bodies seen as ideal.

Keynote speaker Ellen Samuels, an associate professor of English and gender and women's studies at the University of Wisconsin, will discuss her research on environmental disasters and the subsequent media coverage — after, for example, Agent Orange — on genetic abnormalities.

Samuels' lecture begins at 4:15 p.m. Friday, April 8, in the Klamon Room on the 8th floor of the Claudia Nance Rollins building.

The event also features several workshops led by prominent Emory scholars, including Sander Gilman of the ILA and Sherman James, a research professor of epidemiology and African American studies.

Organized by Laney Graduate School students, the conference also features a performance by Full Radius Dance, an Atlanta-based physically integrated professional dance company, following Samuels' presentation Friday night.

The performance will be followed by a documentary on the troupe by ILA doctoral student Anastasia Klupchak and a question-and-answer session.

"This is the third year Emory has hosted Critical Juncture and I have been fortunate to watch it grow from a one-room conference to this year's conference with concurrent events, a poster session, a performance and wonderful seminars," says Jennifer Sarrett, a lecturer in the Center for the Study of Human Health and faculty adviser for the conference, who co-organized the first event in 2013.

The conference is free and open to the public. For more information or to register, visit the Critical Juncture website

Those interested can also follow the event live on Facebook and Twitter.