Previous Events, 2002

Genetic Engineering and Eugenics: Facing Old Issues that Never Went Away
November 14, 2002

Dr. Paul Lombardo, Dir. Law & Medicine Ctr. for Biomedical Ethics
Dr. John Fletcher, Professor Emeritus of Biomedical Ethics
Dr. John C. Herr, Dir. Ctr. for Research in Contraceptive and Reproductive Health
Dr. Ravindra S. Khare, Dept. of Anthropology, Dir. CCHSI, (moderator)
Ms. Holly Donahue, Dept. of Anthropology, graduate student
Dr. Farhat Moazam, Religious Studies, graduate student/visiting physician

The daily news is filled with stories on the “new genetics” ranging from stories about human cloning, to regular updates concerning potential new cures for old diseases. A regular topic for discussion is “genetic engineering”-a phrase used not only to describe tinkering with DNA for medical purposes (such as developing therapeutic interventions at the molecular level), but also manipulation of the process of conception. At one level, genetic engineering might involve an artificial combination of genetic material to produce new types of animals, or even new types of human beings.
Some prominent scientists have proposed that we will be able to use this technology in the foreseeable future to treat genetically based diseases or choose favorable (or eliminate unfavorable) characteristics for our unborn children.
Similar suggestions concerning “population quality control” were made during the heyday of the eugenics movement of 1900-1940. Do concerns commonly expressed about “eugenic” thought also apply to the “new genetics” and promises of genetic engineering?

Suggested reading for presentation: The Return of Eugenics: Ideographic Fragments and the Mythology of the Human Genome Project

Information coming soon concerning the event on October 24, 2002.

Organ Transplant and Women: Issues in Medical Ethics, Law and Culture, with a talk by Dr. Farhat Moazam on “Traversing Moral Worlds”: An Encounter with Renal Transplantation in Pakistan
October 29, 2002

Addresses issues associated with organ transplantation with respect to both women’s issues and ethics in the law and culture of Pakistan.

April 11, 2002
Date: April 11, 2002
Time: 11:00 to 1:00
Place: Board Room

Speakers and Presenters:
Angelika Malinar, Associate Professor Institute of Indian Languages, Literature and Art History, Free University, Berlin Topic: Contested Centers of Tradition: Modern Gurus and Sectarian Reorganization
Helene Basu, Associate Professor, Institute of Ethnology, Free University, Berlin. Topic: Embodying the Goddess: Ascetic Careers of Women in Gujarat, India
Student Presenter of Visual Materials on Culture and Education from Tamil Nadu: Wilson Manoharan, School of Education Sponsored by the Center on Critical Human Survival Issues, University of Virginia.

In addition, for information on the Symposium on “Alternative Forms of Memorialization”
April 23rd and 24th, 1999, click here for Program Details

“Blaming and Scapegoating as Responses to Terror and Violence”
March 27, 2002

As I told you earlier, I would like to address myself to Derrida’s reading of “Specters of Marx”; the issue of blame (blaming Marx and Marx blaming the phantasies, phantoms and phantasmagoria of capitalism and ideology) is very much at center of his analysis of the duplicity of Marxist text. This duplicity will have to be considered as a structural element of (ac-)culturation, a feature that also haunts and determines the construction of culture in Nietzsche and Freud. Perhaps the following title can be announced: “Violence and the Hauntology of Culture: Remarks on Marx, Nietzsche and Freud.”


Here are couple of thoughts I would like to share at our round table discussion: After the collapse of the Soviet Union deep anxiety was stimulated by political changes, by the depressed economy, and by future uncertainty. This triggered regression to primitive psychological defense mechanisms and in many cases the non-indigenous groups (including immigrants) quickly became the displaced targets of economic frustration and the recipients of unwarranted projections.

Blame and scapegoat are terms that assume a binary functionality, a two-term relation of causality, such that the cause of violence is then blamed for that violence. In many cases, however, violence leads to other violence. Such is the case when the blaming process itself takes on violent forms. In such a case the discursive problem emerges of how to justify or reconcile the secondary violence–which is often perpetrated by agents associated with the cultural “Self”. I’d like to explore this issue with reference to a cycle of violence/retributive violence that occurred in Israel while I was doing my fieldwork. I might call my presentation (if we need a title) something like “Cycles of Violence, Cycles of Blame, Cyclical Discourses.”

My comment will address “Scapegoating in Recent Communal and Terrorist Violence in India.” I will briefly outline, first, some relevant Indian concepts and conceptions of blame, and next show how Hindu and Muslim exploit it for their own political ends. It is claimed that the Indian media (particularly Satellite TV) is now breaking down earlier boundaries, creating a heightened state, political and religious concern. People are saying and seeing what they earlier could not in print journalism. The cycles of blame and scapegoating are also accordingly expanding, prompting concern for greater retaliatory violence.

The “Culture” of Human Rights
March 19, 2002

Herbert (Tico) Braun, Professor of Latin American History
Volker Kaiser, Professor of German Literature Spencer Moore, Anthropology, German Immigration Policy
Chris Colvin, Anthropology, South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission

The culture concept has long been considered by anthropologists to be one of their unique fields of expertise, while the concept of human rights has mostly been the province of those philosophers and political activists committed to the kinds of progressive reforms demanded by a theory of human rights. In recent years, however, governments and politicians themselves have been trying to find ways to foster the creation of the kind of civil society that would respect human rights. The question of what a “culture of human rights” might look like has become central to their efforts to foster peace and ensure survival in numerous parts of the world struggling to overcome recent histories of extreme violence and political and economic chaos.

The roundtable asks: Can a culture (of human rights, or of anything else) be “created?” What “parts” of culture might be considered essential to guaranteeing human rights? Is there only one “culture of human rights?” Who gets to create this new culture? This new moment provides specialists in culture and specialists in human rights another chance to learn from each other without, hopefully, getting caught in the perennial trap of universal humanism versus cultural relativism. The discussion will examine the intersection between anthropological notions of culture and the discourse of human rights that has become so important. It attempts to give those working for human rights a new angle on recent anthropological innovations in the concept of culture while challenging anthropologists to critically examine their own notions of culture in light of the massive upheavals in peoples’ lives and communities brought to our attention by human rights activists.

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