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This semester, HHIVE students Chandler Batchelor, Kym Weed, Brandon Rogers, Rachel Warner, and Trisha Remetir will be presenting papers at three conferences. Topics include processes of de-medicalization, the HHIVE falls study, neurogames and trauma theory. Read their abstracts below.

Critical Junctures at Emory University, GA
Chandler Batchelor will be presenting on the process of de-medicalization and how it applies to the Hearing Voices Movement.

The question of how to treat noncompliance in patients with schizophrenia has long been a problem whose solution has eluded and frustrated professionals in the field of mental healthcare. Infamous in this regard, the Hearing Voices Movement (HVM) is a flourishing, largely online, community of voice hearers who advocate for care that is often at odds with current psychiatric treatment recommendations. Many concerned scholars and practitioners listen to these arguments and are alarmed by the rampant de-medicalization that HVM promotes and insist that these messages promote “noncompliance” in patients. This stalemate between physician and patient becomes revitalized, however, when the patient’s refusal is seen not as a lack of insight, but as a different, yet valid perspective of what constitutes illness and recovery. My paper examines the surprisingly commonplace occurrence of de- medicalization, with particular focus on how this process applies to the voice hearers of the HVM. Specifically, I will be applying Ian Hacking’s “seven engines of discovery” to the scientific study and classification of schizophrenia, acknowledge Stuart Blume’s insights on differing therapeutic endpoints, and discuss how communities such as the HVM naturally form by drawing on Zymunt Bauman. I argue that resistance and the push to reclaim and redefine identity as a group is a natural outgrowth of being measured and defined by out-group members. The HVM provides a protective community that preserves critical patient interests that physicians can no longer afford to ignore.

Kym Weed will be presenting her Health Humanities Interdisciplinary Research: The HHIVE Falls Study.

This year, a group of English faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill established an interdisciplinary health humanities lab called the HHIVE. I propose a 10-minute talk that uses the HHIVE Falls Study to examine the benefits and challenges of interdisciplinary research and team research in the humanities.

The HHIVE Falls Study joins English and Occupational Science to solicit and examine narratives about falls or near-fall experiences as told by older adults to a team of graduate and undergraduate occupational therapy and English students.1 While most studies think of falls as strictly bodily, our study privileges the phenomenological experience of falling. To do so, the HHIVE research team pulls together expertise in home visits, interview methods, and rhetorical and literary analysis.

In conceptualizing and implementing this study, the HHIVE team negotiated values and methods within and across disciplines. Team research raises additional questions within the humanities because of the single-author model of scholarship. Collaboration between the humanities and health sciences makes disciplinary values visible and requires thoughtful communication of disciplinary methods to make them legible to a broader audience. I suggest that these moments of disciplinary self-reflection are crucial to developing better research practices and integral to undergraduate and graduate education in the health humanities.

CUNY’s “Way of All Flesh” at CUNY Graduate Center, NY
Brandon Rogers will be presenting his study on The Body Controller: Sovereignty and Subordination in Next-Gen Gamespaces.

Neurogames can be loosely defined as digital games that incorporate the player’s physiological factors such as fluctuations in heart rate, pupil dilation, brain wave emission, and gestures into the gamespace—a cyberspace born of both the digital and physical worlds. The development of “neurogames” blurs not only the lines between physical and virtual spaces but the boundaries between neuroscience and gameplay as well. By incorporating involuntary physiological systems into the gamespace, the “digital body” becomes much less “digital” and exceedingly more “cyborgian.” In other words, virtual reality gives way to augmented reality in virtual spaces.

The spectrum of reality that typically runs from virtual reality to physical reality is further distorted by the development of H2L Inc.’s UnlimitedHand controller. Unlike haptic feedback systems of the past, this device gives the gamespace sovereignty over the player’s autonomous nervous system. Objects in the game hijack bioelectrical pathways and cause the player’s arm to react without initial input from the brain. In doing so, this device yet again redefines the body in digital spaces as a receptacle for digital manipulation of physical spaces—an entity I ambiguously define as the “body controller.”

These games and devices raise questions that often gnaw at existing literature on digital embodiment and the role of the body as a practiced space for perception. The body controller interpenetrates sovereignty and subordination as well as biology and ludology. This augmented body does not exist in the physical or digital realms, but instead wanders in the gamespace between.

ACLA  2016 Conference at Harvard University, MA
Rachel Warner will be presenting on “Literature and the Five Stages: A Medical Humanities Perspective on Grief.”

Literary scholars have long examined how representations of death reflect the socio-cultural attitudes of the people from the time period studied. However, relatively little attention has been paid to how recent literary depictions of grief compare to current theoretical understandings of mourning. In this vein, I seek to use contemporary accounts of grief to determine if there are common insights about the nature of human loss. I will be primarily working with Joan Didion’s A Year of Magical Thinking (2005), which details the sudden death of her husband. I then wish to hold this literary analysis in tandem with modern psychological theories about grief to determine if they confirm or contest each other. Perhaps the most famous of these is Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s 1965 study of dying patients and resulting five-stage framework. Although her results have never been replicated or empirically validated, the stages persist in the cultural imagination. I therefore seek to bring Kübler-Ross’s On Death and Dying (1965) into conversation with the aforementioned literary text to complicate and enrich our understanding of what it means to grieve in contemporary times and determine if there are any universal “stages” or experiences that characterize modern grieving.

Trisha Remetir will be presenting a paper called “The Trauma Narrative Economy in Teju Cole’s Open City.”

Postcolonial critics have long argued that trauma theory does not fully recognize the experiences of those in the margins. As Michael Rothberg says, part of this problem is that trauma theory “distorts the histories it addresses… and threatens to reproduce the very Eurocentrism that lies behind those histories.” In our efforts to move towards a postcolonial view of history and trauma, therefore, we should examine how existing representations adhere to the same structures of economic and social inequality that postcolonial studies seek to dismantle.

My paper explores how literary representations of trauma can become commoditized to preserve a Eurocentric view of history. I focus on Teju Cole’s 2011 novel Open City, in which a cosmopolitan psychiatrist from Nigeria walks around Manhattan “reading” the city’s unrecognized traumas in the forgotten memorials that dot the city and in the testimonies of immigrants. Immediately after its publication, the novel was praised by elitist book circles for, among other things, its sympathy toward marginalized communities and high aesthetic style; yet this sort of praise is precisely what the plot teaches us to deem suspect. My paper reveals how the traumatic testimonies the protagonist collects serve as a type of cultural capital, no different than the pieces of Western art in which he envelops himself; his superficial valuation of these testimonies puts them into an economy from which the traumatized subject is removed. Additionally, by scrutinizing how the book’s reception in the literary world mirrors this erasure, I demonstrate that the Eurocentrism pervading contemporary trauma theory is not just insular to the field; it is also deeply embedded in the social systems that perpetrate these traumas in the first place.

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