Minding the Body: Dualism and Its Discontents

full name / name of organization: 
The Graduate Center of The City University of New York, English Student Association

"The BRAIN—is wider than the sky—"

-Emily Dickinson

The turn towards the influence of affect and emotions on "rational decision making" as response to the false separation between mind and body – what neuroscientist Antonio Damasio calls "Descartes' Error" – has had wide appeal in recent years in the humanities and other fields. This conference intends to explore recent theoretical frontiers that address the mind-body problem through interdisciplinary perspectives. How can we continue to think about mind-body relations, connections, or disruptions in new ways across disciplinary boundaries?

If psychoanalysis offered the major framework for considering mind and body in the twentieth century, then neuroscience and pharmacology have become the models for the twenty-first century. What might neuroscience offer for thinking about theories of mind, consciousness and embodiment, and how can the turn towards neuroscience or pharmacology be critiqued? What tools does psychoanalysis continue to provide for ways of conceptualizing mind-body relations? How can recent work on affect and emotions speak to other fields? And what are the limitations of theories of affect?

There has also been increased emphasis on the therapeutic potential of narrative in the fields of law and medicine through greater focus on mind-body connections (or traumatic disruptions) in forms of speaking, listening, form, and embodiment. What do the humanities and narrative studies have to offer to other fields through close reading practices and attentiveness? And how can we consider the recent explosion of interest and attention, enthusiastic to bleak, on the possible effects that the Internet, technology, and increasingly digital lives are having on the connections or fractures between mind, body, and identity? How might we theorize mind and body in other ways – inter-personal, inter-subjective, trans-personal, ethically – in material or social ways or in our digital lives?

Interdisciplinary approaches to rethinking Cartesian dualism are welcome, including forms of dialogue between, but not limited to, neuroscience, affect theory, narratology, psychoanalysis, medicine, technology studies and cybernetics. Interrogation of disciplinary boundaries is encouraged. Papers might be literary and humanities focused, or might also consider other perspectives on mind and body from the sciences, visual arts, philosophy, social sciences, and digital studies. We would like to solicit and include the widest possible range of approaches to ways of thinking about "minding the body": all literary fields; pre-digital, pre-neuroscientic, and pre-psychoanalytic; phenomenological; aesthetic; cognitive; historical; experimental; and in or about other media.

Email: mindingthebodyconference@gmail.com

Please submit 250-500 word abstracts by December 15, 2012.

Website: http://mindingthebodyconference.wordpress.com/ (updated soon…)

Co-chair contact email: Jason Nielsen: jason.r.nielsen@gmail.com Judd Staley: ellisjudd@hotmail.com

Possible conference papers might consider but are not limited to:

Neuroscience: neuroscience and emotions; theories of consciousness; brain-based epistemology; plasticity; mirror neurons; reading the brain – neuroimaging and mapping; rise of the neuroscientist and nonreductionist accounts of emotion (Powers, Damasio, LeDoux, Edelman, Sacks, etc.)

Reading: novelizing the body; the novel as body, the body as novel; identification (possibilities for and limitations or problems with); reading and theory of mind

Technology/Internet/Posthumanism: digital minds/virtual bodies; avatars; virtual death; online immortality; virtual embodiment – learning to use new bodies; consciousness and connectivity; thinking and attention; emotions, empathy, and robots/androids with feelings; outsourcing memory; simulation and spacialization; multiple lives/multiple bodies; stories and narrative in single or multi-player games; networked bodies, distributed mind, and affect transference; nostalgia for the body (or, I miss the feeling of books); collective dreaming/hallucination online; virtual reality, drones, and PTSD; ambient intimacy; Deleuzian bodies – "bodies without organs;" global brain/global body; beginning of end of embodied experience; collective intelligence and synchronization of mind; global mind and the environment/nature; Turing Test; artificial intelligence; emergence; synthetics/robotics

Psychoanalysis: the Freudian body; bodies on the couch; psychoanalysis after Freud; object relations; attachment theory and self-other differentiation; inter-subjective and relational perspectives; mindfulness; recognition; objectification; drifting attention; impersonal intimacy; the "cure;" melancholia, productive malaise, and happiness studies; resiliency; dissociation, detachment, depression; trauma and war/PTSD

Medical/Altered Bodies-Minds: memoir, autobiography, and the body; writing the embodied self; illness and trauma; pharmacology/better living through chemistry; addiction(s); chart histories/parallel narratives; pain management (or, tell me where it hurts); good doctor/bad doctor; being a patient; "difficult" patients; empathy; identification; ethics of encounter; bioethics; the communicating body – how the body speaks; body-relatedness; healing; transplants and transfusions – organs and faces; body modification; cutting to cure; trauma and the body – wounded bodies/minds; neuronal rewiring; artificial limbs; psychosomatic symptoms; hypochondria; body dysmorphia; scars; phantom limb syndrome; memory disruption/degenerative disorders; narrative, memory and the body; twins, triplets…octuplets; conjoined twins

Non-western perspectives: on mind-body connections, illness, or therapy; Buddhism and "thoughts without a thinker;" active-passive bodies and non-dualism

Isolated bodies: memoir/narrative accounts of bodies in retreat, in seclusion, in incarceration; thinking and silence

Sex, Gender, and Performance: trans-bodies; gender reassignment; art practices – identification or unification with other(s) through performance or surgical procedure; desiring bodies; perversion and projection; sadism and masochism; voyeurism and exhibitionism; fetish gear or practice; form and incoherency: non-verbal forms of representation or work on mind/embodiment in other media, including visual and performing arts; literary experimentation – the "cut up" (Burroughs, Gysin and the "Third Mind"), etc.

Philosophical and theoretical perspectives: process philosophy (James, Bergson, Whitehead); cybernetics (Tomkins, Bateson, Hayles); Eve Sedgwick and her work on affect, analysis, Tomkins, and the body; ghost in the machine; empiricism and consciousness; materialism and dualism/non-dualism; zombies; thinking or locating souls (feedback loops)

Early Modern Bodies: perspectives of thinking about mind-body before the Internet; before pacemakers; before Freud; before Darwin; before vaccination; before the microscope; histories of modern foundations of body and soul, medicine, and madness (historian Roy Porter's work, etc.)

Other: disciplinary boundaries; the imagination and the body; pedagogy and the body – experiential learning and muscle memory; body politic, collective minds, loss of mind, group identification (sports, cults, and communes; the Borg); Dick Cheney has a new heart, etc.