Identity 2010

December 2010: IDENTITY

Alice Dreger, PhD
Alice Dreger, PhD
Rick Kittles, PhD
Rick Kittles, PhD

How do you define yourself? By gender? Race? What about sexuality, origin, or even income? Join us and explore how advances in genetic and sociological research are redefining who we think we are.

Event videos available now.

View photos from the event on Flickr.


About

About TEDxNorthwesternU
Part of Northwestern University’s mission is to cultivate the spread of innovative ideas and reliable information throughout the community. With this aim in mind, we present our first TEDxNorthwesternU event, designed to bring those from inside and outside of the University together to explore the concept of identity from social and scientific perspectives. We invite you to join this exploration and discussion. Watch the videos from the event here.

About TEDx, x = independently organized event
In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized. (Subject to certain rules and regulations.)

About TED
TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. Started as a four-day conference in California 25 years ago, TED has grown to support those world-changing ideas with multiple initiatives. The annual TED Conference invites the world’s leading thinkers and doers to speak for 18 minutes. Their talks are then made available, free, at TED.com. TED speakers have included Bill Gates, Al Gore, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sir Richard Branson, Nandan Nilekani,Philippe Starck, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Isabel Allende and UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The annual TED Conference takes place in Long Beach, California, with simulcast in Palm Springs; TEDGlobal is held each year in Oxford, UK. TED’s media initiatives include TED.com, where new TEDTalks are posted daily, and the Open Translation Project, which provides subtitles and interactive transcripts as well as the ability for any TEDTalk to be translated by volunteers worldwide. TED has established the annual TED Prize, where exceptional individuals with a wish to change the world are given the opportunity to put their wishes into action; TEDx, which offers individuals or groups a way to host local, self-organized events around the world, and the TEDFellows program, helping world-changing innovators from around the globe to become part of the TED community and, with its help, amplify the impact of their remarkable projects and activities.

Follow TED on Twitter or on Facebook.


Speakers

Alice Dreger, PhD, is a professor of clinical medical humanities and bioethics in the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago. For seven years, she served as chair of the board and director of medical education for the Intersex Society of North America (ISNA), a non-profit policy and advocacy organization for people born with atypical sex. Dreger’s scholarship and patient advocacy have focused on the social and medical treatment of people born with norm-challenging body types, including intersex, conjoinment, dwarfism, and cleft lip. She has frequently collaborated with health care professionals on improving the care of families with children whose bodies vary from the average.

Dreger is the author of numerous medical and medical humanities articles and has published three books, including two with Harvard University Press, most recently One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal, which has received positive reviews in the New Yorker, Nature, the London Review of Books, and the New England Journal of Medicine. One of Us was also named the book of the month by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. Her essay “Lavish Dwarf Entertainment” was chosen for Norton’s Best Creative Non-Fiction volume of 2009. Dreger’s essays on science, medicine, and life have been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the Chicago Tribune. She has appeared on dozens of broadcasts, including Good Morning America, HBO, Discovery Health, National Public Radio, CNN International, ESPN, and the Oprah Winfrey Show. She is a regular columnist for the Hastings Center’s Bioethics Forum, and a blogger for Psychology Today. Under the auspices of a Guggenheim Fellowship, she is currently completing a book on science and identity politics in the Internet Age.

Rick Kittles, PhD, received a BS in biology from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1989 and a PhD in biological sciences from George Washington University in 1998. He then helped establish the National Human Genome Center at Howard University. Currently, Kittles is an associate professor of medicine in the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), as well as the associate director of the UIC Cancer Center.

Kittles is well known for his research of prostate cancer and health disparities among African Americans. He has also been at the forefront of the development of ancestry-informative genetic markers, and how genetic ancestry can be used to map genes for common traits and disease. His work on tracing the genetic ancestry of African Americans has brought light to many issues, new and old, which relate to race, ancestry, identity, and group membership.

Kittles’ high profile research and his strong ability to communicate genetic concepts and issues eloquently and understandably to the lay public has been featured over the past decade in five PBS and BBC network documentaries related to human biological diversity, race and disease. His work has been featured on CNN and the CBS show 60 Minutes where he was interviewed by Leslie Stahl. In addition to his research, he is scientific director and co-founder of African Ancestry, Inc., a private company that provides DNA testing services for tracing African genetic lineages to genealogists and the general public around the world. Kittles has published more than 85 research articles on prostate cancer in the African American population, race and genetics, and health disparities.


Program

TEDxNorthwesternU “Identity” took place on Wednesday, December 15.

To view videos from the event, click here.

7:00 – Welcome
Michael Kennedy, PhD; Northwestern University

7:05 – TED video talk

7:25 – “The Biology of Race in the Absence of Biological Races”
Rick Kittles, PhD; Department of Medicine, Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Illinois at Chicago
Defining “race” continues to be a nemesis. Knowledge from human genetic research is increasingly challenging the
notion that race and biology are inextricably linked, engendering tremendous ramifications for human relations,
identity and public health. It has become fashionable for geneticists and anthropologists to declare that race is a social construction. However, there is little practical value to this belief since few in the public believe and act on it. Thus race is mainly a social concept which in the US has been based on skin color and ancestry. Yet biomedical studies continue to examine black/ white differences. I will discuss why using race in biomedical studies is problematic using examples from U.S. groups which transcend “racial” boundaries and bear the burden of health disparities.

7:45 – TED video talk

8:05 – “Democracy After Anatomy”
Alice Dreger, PhD; Medical Humanities and Bioethics, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University
America’s democratic institutions have historically been restricted – and then opened up – based on appeals to anatomy. Voting, for one, was first essentially restricted to white men. Over time, groups with other anatomies struggled their way into being seen as “created equal.” Civil rights movements of all sorts – for sex equality, racial equality, dis/ability equality – have tended to be based on the idea that our common anatomy is more important than our anatomical differences. Yet even today, many legal restrictions are based on anatomical distinctions: age in voting and drinking, viability in abortion and withdrawal of life support, and sex where marriage and the draft are concerned.

As our democracy has matured, it has still retained an ancient reliance on anatomy as deeply meaningful. Yet at the same time, science has been dissolving the bright lines between anatomical categories. So what’s next? What could – what will – democracy look like after anatomy?

8:25 – Close and reception


Location

McCormick Tribune Center

Northwestern University

1870 Campus Drive

Evanston, IL

Free parking is available after 4:00 PM in most University lots. The lot closest to the McCormick Tribune Forum (MTC) is the Lakeside Parking Structure, located to the east of MTC.


Contact Us

For more information, please contact Beth Herbert, assistant director of Science in Society, at 847-467-2059 or e-herbert@northwestern.edu


Videos

Videos from Northwestern’s first TEDx event, “Identity,” are now available. We were proud to host Alice Dreger, professor of medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern, and Rick Kittles, associate professor of medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Pre-recorded TEDTalks from Spencer Wells, project director of National Geographic’s Genographic Project, and Nina Jablonski, professor of anthropology at Penn State, were also shown.

Photos from the event are available on Flickr.

TEDxNorthwesternU – Rick Kittles: The Biology of Race in the Absence of Biological Races
Defining “race” continues to be a nemesis. Knowledge from human genetic research is increasingly challenging the notion that race and biology are inextricably linked, engendering tremendous ramifications for human relations, identity and public health. Kittles discusses why using race in biomedical studies is problematic using examples from U.S. groups that transcend “racial” boundaries and bear the burden of health disparities.

TEDxNorthwesternU – Alice Dreger: Democracy After Anatomy
As our democracy has matured, it has still retained an ancient reliance on anatomy as deeply meaningful. Yet at the same time, science has been dissolving the bright lines between anatomical categories. So what’s next? What could – what will – democracy look like after anatomy?

TEDTalk – Spencer Wells: Building a Family Tree for All Humanity
All humans share some common bits of DNA, passed down to us from our African ancestors. Geneticist Spencer Wells talks about how his Genographic Project will use this shared DNA to figure out how we are — in all our diversity — truly connected.

TEDTalk – Nina Jablonski: Breaking the Illusion of Skin Color
Nina Jablonski says that differing skin colors are simply our bodies’ adaptation to varied climates and levels of UV exposure. Charles Darwin disagreed with this theory but, as she explains, that’s because he did not have access to NASA.

Sebastian Seung: I Am My Connectome
At our 12/15 event, we explored how advances in genetic and sociological research are changing how we view identify ourselves. In the TEDTalk below, Sebastian Seung introduces another shaping influence – our connectome. What’s a connectome? Watch and find out!