Human Rights and the New Sciences Symposium
May 14-15, 2010
John Hope Franklin Room
Social Science Research Building, room 224
University of Chicago
Organizer: Noa Vaisman
In recent years rapid developments in scientific knowledge and technologies have been challenging us to rethink our human condition. From the new genetics to virtual worlds, from biometric identification techniques to the tracing of (racial) genealogies, technological innovations and emerging scientific knowledge are calling into question our Western modern ontology. The once clear distinction between nature and culture, the notion of the bounded individual and the "natural" (biological) structures of kinship are just few examples where emerging technologies are informing and reshaping our understanding of humanity. Although much work on these topics, from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, has been done to date, one area that has received less direct attention is the intersection of new technologies and sciences with the current human rights regime.
The response in the area of human rights discourse and practice to the developments in both science and technology has, so far, been surprisingly ambiguous. It has yielded documents such as: the Universal Declaration on Human Genome and Human Rights (1997), the International Declaration on Human Genetic Data (2003), the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights (2005), and the Universal Declaration on Human Cloning (2005). The status of these texts and, more particularly, the guidelines and restrictions they prescribe raise more questions than answers. They further point to the challenges and pitfalls that human rights advocates face in demanding a careful and ethical consideration of emerging technological innovations and their applications. In this symposium we will take these texts as our point of departure for a reconsideration of the potentially productive intersection of human rights and the new sciences.
The goals of the symposium are double: to map out recent research in human rights and the new sciences; and to deliberate new and productive directions in this interdisciplinary project. The symposium will include discussions of various themes, such as: the use of biological material and body surfaces for purposes of surveillance and identification and the implications of these technologies for individual rights; the effects of the new genetics on our understanding of human life and rights over personal information; the consequences of new genealogical mappings for current understandings of reconciliation and retribution; and, the role of new technologies and emerging scientific knowledge in reshaping contested categories such as race, class and gender.
The symposium is free and open to the public. Please register in advance.