“What a pleasure it is to be in your Spotlight! The Indiana University School of Liberal Arts is proud of our long association with the Indiana Humanities Council, and very happy to have the opportunity provided by the IHC to feature some of the outstanding work of the faculty and students in our humanities departments and centers. For more information and other interesting programs and events, please visit us at liberalarts.iupui.edu.” – William Blomquist, Dean, IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI
IUPUI may be the ideal place to discover the uses of the humanities in a medical context. Centers and programs in the School of Liberal Arts are being developed in collaboration with the nearby IU School of Medicine to experiment with literature, ethics, history and other humanities disciplines as active agents in the education and experience of doctors, nurses and caregivers – as well as patients.
The Medical Humanities-Health Studies (MH-HS) Program, directed by historian William H. Schneider, is one such effort. In 2009 MH-HS sponsored a “Literature and Medicine” reading and discussion series in cooperation with St. Vincent Hospital. Through reading and talking about short fiction by authors such as Richard Selzer, a surgeon who wrote The Doctor Stories, a group of nurses, physicians, administrators and chaplains shared their thoughts and feelings about the life-and-death situations they deal with every day. (MH-HS received a grant from the Indiana Humanities Council for this project, directed by Dr. Emily Beckman.)
MH-HS has also explored ethical questions. Last year, the center created a Web-based exhibit on the history of eugenics in Indiana. A misguided interpretation of Mendel and Darwin’s ideas, eugenics was the belief that the human race can be improved by selecting those who mate and produce offspring and those who do not. In 1907, the Indiana legislature passed the first eugenics sterilization law in the world. How and why such a thing happened in Indiana is the subject of the website, entitled Fit to Breed?
Another IUPUI unit, the Indiana Center for Intercultural Communication, is bringing its expertise to issues of medical practice and cultural diversity. ICIC is conducting a three-year study to explore the effects of literacy, patient life attitudes, health beliefs and demographic factors on how well Type 2 diabetes patients adhere to prescribed medication. ICIC is directed by Ulla Connor, a leading researcher in intercultural communication and linguistics. Another IUPUI faculty member, Enrica J. Ardemagni, Associate Professor of Spanish, works with faculty in Medicine on language and cultural translation dynamics associated with medical care and patients who are not native English speakers. Dr. Ardemagni chairs the Indiana Commission on Heath Care Interpreters and Translators.
Like the humanities in general, the interdisciplinary field of Medical Humanities offers insight into our human condition, especially in sickness and in health.
In 2006-07 IUPUI decided to invest extra capital in programs named as “Signature Centers,” unique and distinctly identifiable research units. Most of them focus on science, medicine and social issues, but the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture (CSRAC), based in the School of Liberal Arts, devotes its efforts to a better understanding of the relationship between religion and other aspects of American culture. Now with more than 40 Research Fellows, the Center is considered the premier research institute in the nation working in American religious studies.
2009 has been an exciting year for the CSRAC. In June, the Center hosted the First Biennial Conference on Religion and American Culture, bringing nationally known scholars to Indianapolis. Executive Director Philip Goff says that starting an interdisciplinary conversation, which draws on history, sociology, political science, cultural anthropology, and religious studies, was his favorite part of the endeavor. Contrasting viewpoints encouraged audience members, including journalists, to take a closer look at how American religion and American culture impact each other: religious denominations and political affiliation, religious attitudes and the electronic generation, for example. The Center has now compiled the remarks of the conference presenters into Proceedings that can be downloaded from its website.
This year the CSRAC also received a grant of $144,637 from the National Endowment for the Humanities to sponsor a three-week summer institute for high school teachers on the role of religion in American history and life. The institute, designated as an NEH We the People project, will be held in July 2010.
Eastside Story: Portrait of a Neighborhood on the Suburban Frontier tells the story of an Indianapolis neighborhood, but the real story begins with collaboration between the people of Community Heights and the students of an IUPUI anthropology course. Under the direction of Professor Susan B. Hyatt, the 13 students researched the history of the Indianapolis neighborhood, which extends from Emerson Avenue to Arlington Avenue, from 10th to 21st streets. They conducted more than 40 interviews with neighborhood residents; gathered up and scanned old photos and other memorabilia; and carried out archival research. This material was then compiled into a booklet.
“The students understand the enormous responsibility involved in doing this work, but at the same time, they are energized by providing the opportunity for local residents to offer their perspectives and have their voices heard,” Professor Hyatt said.
Grants supported the printing of the Eastside Story booklet and were provided by: The Great Indy Neighborhoods Initiative’s IMAGINE grant, The Community Heights Neighborhood Organization and The Justus Companies, Inc. Justus built many of the distinctive brick bungalows in Community Heights and is now preparing to celebrate its 100th anniversary.
Another program with an urban theme is IUPUI’s upcoming 21st annual Joseph Taylor Symposium on February 25, 2010, will take as its theme, Voices in the City: Language, Literacy, and Urban Life. The symposium invites us to listen to how writers from our city, in diverse ways, shape their identities and respond to the culture through spoken word poetry. In addition, teachers and mentors, affiliated with the National Writing Project, will showcase new approaches to working with language in multilingual, multicultural Indianapolis.
The Joseph Taylor Symposium honors Dr. Joseph T. Taylor, Professor of Sociology from 1965 to 1983 and the first Dean of the School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI, for his many contributions to the university and the community.