The University Record, January 25, 1993

Conference will examine Utopian quest for physical perfection

By Kate Kellogg
News and Information Services

The utopian quest for physical perfection will be the topic of “The Utopian Body: Medicine, Technology, and Ethics,” a conference sponsored by the Institute for the Humanities on Saturday (Jan. 30) in the Assembly Hall, Rackham Building.

The free, public conference will bring specialists in medicine and the humanities together to discuss ethical issues related to efforts to refine and perfect the human body, according to the Institute.

“Advances in medical technologies—reconstructive surgery, organ transplants, and even advances in athletic training—raise thorny questions even as they offer new options for overcoming physical limitations. How accessible, for example, should we make costly medical procedures that may promise physical beauty, eternal youth, or other idealized visions of the body?”

The conference schedule is as follows:

Session I: 9 a.m.–noon.

Introduction, James A. Winn, director, Institute for the Humanities.

“The Aesthetics of Medical Ethics,” an examination of Western social and artistic conventions that shape the image of the body, by Barbara M. Stafford, professor of art history, University of Chicago. Respondent: Joel D. Howell, associate professor of internal medicine, of health services management and policy and of history.

“Between Two Utopias: Changing Ideas About Angina Pectoris” by Robert A. Aronowitz, professor of medicine, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Respondent: Michael P. MacDonald, professor of history.

Lunch and informal discussion, noon–1:30 p.m., Institute Common Room.

Session II: 1:30–4:30 p.m.

“Utopian Bodies/Dystopian Minds: Depression, Pain and Disability” by David Morris, author of The Culture of Pain. Respondent: Fred Busch, Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute.

“The Emergence of the Dynamic-Athletic Body” by John Hoberman, professor of Germanic languages, University of Texas at Austin, and a sports journalist. Respondent: David Black, Institute of the Humanities fellow.

Conference wrap-up: Fred L. Bookstein, Institute faculty fellow and Distinguished Research Scientist, Center for Human Growth and Development.

Those who wish to attend the lunch should register in advance by calling the Institute at 936-3518.

The conference is sponsored by the Jill Harris Memorial Fund, the Institute for the Humanities, and the Medical Center Program in Society and Medicine.