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Fractales - Compagnie Libertivore Alexander Kasser Theater 1 Normal Avenue Montclair , US 07043
Fractales - Compagnie Libertivore Alexander Kasser Theater 1 Normal Avenue Montclair , US 07043
Pascal Rambert Residency and Performances Performance Spaces for the 21st C. (PS21) 2980 Route 66 PO Box 321 Chatham, US 12037

Masks and Medicine

Part of Unmasking Masks

© Beth A. Conklin

Masks and Medicine is the second panel discussion in Unmasking Masks, a one-day livestream event that explores the historic and artistic representations of masks. 


9:15 AM  Introduction
 Robert Barsky

9:20 AM – 9:40 AM Microbiocosmologics: Masking in Native Amazonia
Beth A. Conklin

In lowland South America, indigenous shamans don masks to connect the human with more-than-human-beings that bring disease. Masks are channels to healing through relational engagement: taking on the personae of the spirit world, ritual actors communicate and negotiate with pathogenic forces. In this presentation, the cultural and medical anthropologist Beth A. Conklin will explore how Amazonian masking reflects the logics of indigenous cosmologies and relational biologies that resonate with emerging science on the microbiome, in contrast to medical uses of masks based in Pasteurian germ theory's logic of contamination. These traditions are acquiring new significance as native communities forge their own biopolitical responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

9:40 AM – 10:10 AM  Face Masks/Medical Masks: A Visual Journey
Louise Shaw & Vincent Bruyère

Louise E. Shaw, Curator of the David J. Sencer CDC Museum, and Vincent Bruyère, Professor of Comparative Literature, Emory University, will discuss about the evolution of medical masks. The visual presentation will focus on the acceptance of masks as an intervention to stop the spread of disease-causing “germs” that emerged in the late 19th century, and how mask-wearing was standardized by the medical profession in the 20th century. The presentation will conclude with visual documentation of mask requirements for both healthcare providers and the public in the U.S. and other countries during the age of COVID-19. 

10:10 AM – 10:30 AM  Q&A
Moderator: Robert Barsky

Click here to watch the event:

Replay event: Unmasking Masks, Part 2 | French Culture

 About the Speakers 

Robert Barsky  works at the intersection of language studies, literature and law, with applications to border crossings, language theory, radical American milieus, and literatures of the 19th and 20th centuries in English and French. He is the author or editor of numerous books on narrative and law, including  Undocumented Immigrants in an Era of Arbitrary Law: The Flight and Plight of Peoples’ Deemed ‘Illegal’  (2016);  Arguing and Justifying: Assessing the Convention Refugees’ Choice of Moment, Motive and Host Country  (2000);  Constructing a Productive Other: Discourse Theory and the Convention Refugee Hearing  (1994). His works on radical theory and practice include  Zellig  Harris: From American Linguistics to Socialist Zionism  (2011); The Chomsky Effect: A Radical Works beyond the Ivory Tower  (2007); and Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent  (1997). He is the founding editor of the border crossing journal AmeriQuests, the founding editor of  Discours social/Social Discourse, and the co-director, with Daniel Gervais, of the Literature and Law Seminar at Vanderbilt’s Robert Penn Warren Center.  

Vincent Bruyère's research draws on literary theory, visual culture, and the history of the body to historicize the politics of life, health, and sustainability. He is the author of  Perishability Fatigue: Forays  Into  Environmental Loss and Decay  (Columbia, 2018). His new project, “Early/Modern/Future,” examines how concepts debated within early modern studies, such as the notion of anachronism, can redirect our attention to the ways in which predictive science addresses issues of temporality, vulnerability, and transience. 

Beth A. Conklin is a cultural and medical anthropologist at Vanderbilt University who works with indigenous people in the rainforest of western Brazil (Rondônia). Her scholarship focuses on the role of the body and body images in non-Western social systems, health and illness, death and mourning, and the politics of indigenous rights. Her current project, Meshworks & Matrixes: Microbiosociality in Native Amazonia, explores how tangible relations with microbes mediated by sensory affect and symbolic values have shaped and been shaped by ritual practices, inter-ethnic histories, and the biopolitics of egalitarian resistance and survival. This talk builds on themes developed in her book, Consuming Grief: Compassionate Cannibalism in an Amazonian Society (2001), and writings on visual imagery and symbols in contexts ranging from funerals to festivals to eco-activism

Louise Shaw, Curator of the David J. Sencer CDC Museum, Centers for Disease and Prevention, is responsible for curating The Story of CDC, permanent exhibits which trace the history of the CDC from its roots in the Public Health Service to contemporary times, and has organized temporary exhibitions such as EBOLA: People + Public Health + Political Will; VD: Values, Rights, Public Health; Health Is a Human Right: Race and Place in America, and Resettling in America: Georgia’s Refugee Communities. From 1983 – 1998, she served as Executive Director of the Nexus Contemporary Art Center (now Atlanta Contemporary Art Center). She was Director of the Georgia State University Art Gallery from 1981-1983, and served as Assistant Curator of the Atlanta Historical Society, (now the Atlanta History Center) from 1977-1981.

This event is presented by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in Atlanta, Duke University, Georgia Tech, and Vanderbilt University
with support from the Institut Français, the Beaux-Arts Nantes Saint-Nazaire (France), Les Maîtres d'Art (France),​ Descripto-Université Polytechnique Hauts-de-France, the Atlanta Global Studies Center – Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta), the High Museum of Arts – Atlanta, Centro de Estudios Mexicanos y Centroamericanos – CEMCA (Mexico).