Archived Events

Archived Events


“The Islamic Saint as Healer: Bodies and Bodies Politic in Morocco”

Ellen Amster (McMaster University)

Friday, 7 April, 11:45 am – 1:40 pm, Keene-Flint 5

Traditional healing in Morocco, or the non-biomedical practices that people engage in to find relief from sickness and affliction, often involve Islamic saints (awliya’). What are these practices? Why do people do this and what does it mean?


Traditional healing has been understood in different ways—as a way to represent ourselves to ourselves, as a healing of spirit (as opposed to organic cures of biomedicine), or as popular religion, superstition, witchcraft, primitivism, quackery, and charlatanism.


Amster suggests that traditional medicines are a window into the reality of the human body and into human being.  Saint healing in Morocco allows us to realize that we see the body through a narrow modern frame, a blinkered vision that excludes other realities. “Saint healing” reveals the human body as a meeting-place of the divine and the corporeal, of the individual and the community, a place of narrative, history, and existence. The body is linked to the body politic, and the body politic to the body. We consider a variety of methods and interpretive sources to deconstruct this healing, suggest connections to similar or different phenomena elsewhere, and connect healing to history, geography, and sacred space.​


Lunch will be served. To RSVP, please email with any dietary restrictions to: Upon receipt of an RSVP, the following seminar reading will be circulated:

Amster, Ellen J. “Healing the Body, Healing the Umma: Sufi Saints and God’s Law in a Corporeal City of Virtue.” InMedicine and the Saints: Science Islam and the Colonial Encounter in Morocco, 1877-1956. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013.

Amster will also be giving a public talk, “A Doorway to the Divine: Islamic Bodies and the Sufi Saints as Connecting the Living to the Dead” on Thursday, 6 April at 5:30 pm in Smathers Library 100. More information about Amster and her public talk can be found here:

Death: Confronting the Great Divide Public Lecture

1 February, Wednesday, 7:00 pm, Millhopper Branch Library (3145 NW 43rd Street, Gainesville)

Into the Open: What Animals Can Teach Us about Death

Jessica Pierce (Bio-ethicist, Writer, Religious Studies Scholar)

What we can learn about death, and about caring for those who are nearing the end of life, from our experiences with animals? The simple answer: A lot! This talk will explore what kinds of “death awareness” animals might possess, and will look at some fascinating reports of death-related behavior, including grieving, in both wild and domesticated animals. We’ll also examine human cultural, psychological and moral attitudes toward and practices related to animal death, focusing particularly on the death of companion species such as dogs and cats, and on the growing field of veterinary hospice and palliative care. Here we find a rich source of insight on caring for dying animals, and also a useful comparative ground thinking about our own death and the death of our human loved ones.

Jessica Pierce is a bio-ethicist and non-fiction writer who earned a M.Div. from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in religious ethics from the University of Virginia. She is an affiliate faculty member at the Center for Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Colorado Denver. Her publications include Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals, written in collaboration with cognitive ethologist Marc Bekoff; The Last Walk: Reflections on Our Pets at the Ends of Their Lives; and most recently, Run, Spot, Run: The Ethics of Keeping Pets. Her other publications have appeared in the Journal of Bio-Ethical Inquiry, the Journal of Environmental Philosophy, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, as well as popular articles for the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

This event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit

Faculty/Graduate Lunch Seminar

2 February 2017, Thursday, 11:45am-1:40pm, UF Vet School Small Animal Hospital (#75) Banfield Room (340A)

Confluence: When the Science of Animal Emotion Meets Death and Dying

Dr. Jessica Pierce 

**A Campus Cab will depart from Walker Hall at 11:30am and return at 1:50pm to take seminar attendees to the Vet School.

This seminar will explore how the growing science of animal cognition and emotion might influence how we approach the death and dying of animals, with particular attention to companion dogs and cats. In what ways might death harm animals? How can we trust our judgments about whether or not an animal is suffering “too much”? Why are these questions so hard? And why do our answers to these questions matter? Participants will be sent several essays to read in advance of the discussion.

Lunch will be served. To RSVP, please email with any dietary restrictions to: Please also note if you’d like to take a seat in the Campus Cab to drive to the seminar from Walker Hall. Upon receipt of an RSVP, the following seminar readings will be circulated:

  1. Alice Crary (2016) Inside Ethics: On the Demands of Moral Thought. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. (pp. 150-160 required, entire chapter “All Human Beings and Animals Are Inside Ethics” suggested)
  2. Jessica Pierce (2013) “The Dying Animal” Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, 10(4): 469-478. (required)
  3. Jessica Pierce (2012) “Deciding When a Pet Has Suffered Enough” The New York Times, September 22. (optional)
  4. Frans de Waal (2016) “What I Learned From Tickling Apes” The New York Times, April 8. (optional)

Documentary Screening

My Kid is Not Crazy: A Search for Hope in the Face of Misdiagnosis

Tim Sorel

19 January 2017, 6:30 p.m., Gannett Auditorium, UF Campus

For more information, email or visit


HIV/AIDS Awareness in Florida: Capturing the Process

Tisha Van Pelt, second year medical student

19 January 2017, 4-6:00 p.m., Criser Cancer Resource Center, Shands Cancer Hospital (South Tower), UF Campus

The Health Science Center Libraries and the Center for Arts in Medicine collaborated to create informational videos on HIV/AIDS, targeting at-risk groups to encourage individuals to know their status, and addressing misinformation on this stigmatized medical condition.  Written and directed by Jeffrey Pufahl, Center for Arts in Medicine and filmed and edited by Matthew Daley, Health Science Center Libraries, these films are available for viewing at .  The photography show highlights the filming process for three of the four videos.  The exhibit will be on display through January.  Snacks provided.

Reception sponsored by the Center for Arts in Medicine.



The symposium invites an in-depth exploration of the various educational programs and exhibitions that make up the intertwined histories of art and therapy, modern art and self-taught artists, art and madness. By focusing on these interrelated histories, the symposium does not seek to question whether therapeutic work constitutes “art,” but rather to engage questions concerning the works’ sites of production, distribution, and reception, and the ways these histories have intersected in meaningful ways for a renewed understanding of art’s histories.

College of the Arts, Lecture Hall FAB 0105
Friday, October 21 | 6 pm – 8 pm 

Opening comments and introduction

Kaira M. Cabañas, Associate Professor of Art History, University of Florida

Film Screening of Caligari and the Sleepwalker (2008) (approx. 27 min) by Javier Téllez followed by a Q&A between the artist and curator Jesús Fuenmayor

Chandler Auditorium, Harn Museum 

Saturday, October 22 | 10:30 am – 12:30 pm 

Introduction Kerry Oliver-Smith, Curator of Contemporary Art, The Harn Museum

Method, Madness, Montage 

W. J. T. Mitchell, Professor of Art History and English, University of Chicago

The lecture deals with the syndrome known as “apophenia,” the tendency to find patterns where none exist. It traces this primarily in the procedures of the visual atlas and the evidence wall, from the art historian Aby Warburg to the mathematician John Nash. Side-glances at astrology, natural history, police procedurals, and Edward Snowden’s NSA Powerpoints will be framed within Carlo Ginzburg’s concept of “conjectural knowledge.”

Common Creativities 

Kaira M. Cabañas, Associate Professor of Art History, University of Florida

The lecture describes how modern art in Brazil developed in dialogue with the creative work of psychiatric patients. It situates this history within an international perspective, turning to French artist Jean Dubuffet’s search for what he called art brut, a search he extended to Brazil. The talk analyzes how patients’ art was put to work in ways that reveal the continuities and discontinuities between cultural contexts.

12:30 pm Lunch break

1:30 pm – 3:30 pm 

Introduction Briley Rasmussen, Assistant Professor and Director of Museum Studies, University of Florida

Parsing Difference 

Lynne Cooke, Curator Special Projects in Modern Art, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

The lecture addresses a range of post-war artifacts based in textiles, some of which would likely be classified under the rubric of crafts and others as fine art objects. Similarly, their makers might be seen as self-taught/folk/outsider artists or as avant-garde contemporary practitioners. This talk will explore how and why such classificatory systems operate and the investments they inscribe.

Painting Process 

Suzanne Hudson, Associate Professor of Art History and Fine Arts, University of Southern California

The lecture uses the case study of the painter Robert Ryman, an artist who learned to paint within the context of the Museum of Modern Art and its school, to argue for the persistence of self- taught American aesthetics within mainstream modernism, largely unacknowledged. In addition to addressing the historical conditions of the museum as an educational site, this talk will suggest how an emphasis on process above product remains one of its hallmarks and legacies.

Public reception to follow, free and open to the public

Documentary Film: Thank You For Playing

Directed and Produced by David Osit & Malika Zouhali-Worrall

Thursday, 29 September 2016 – 5:30-7:30 pm, REVE Polymodal Immersive Classroom Theater, Norman Gym (SW Corner of Norman Hall), UF Campus

*Followed by a Q&A with the Filmmakers

“Thank You for Playing” is a film that chronicles the day-to-day challenges of Ryan and Amy Green as they grapple with the illness of their son Joel, who has suffered from cancer since the age of one. With the challenge of creating some normalcy for their family of five, they find some solace in creating a tribute to him, a haunting video game “That Dragon, Cancer” that captures both his voice and their experiences, both happy and sad, over the four-year period of his illness. The resulting documentary explores how video game design can be a way to humanize terminal illness, and also grapples with the distinctions between art and gaming in following the reception of this “game” in the gaming community.

This event is free and open to the public and will be followed by a discussion with the filmmakers via Skype.

This event is second in an eight-part speaker series called Death: Confronting the Great Divide. This series invites nationally renowned scholars and filmmakers to explore unique cultural and historical confrontations with death.

For more information about the series, please visit:

For directions to the REVE, please visit:

More Human than Human: The Work of Life in the Age of Biotechnical Reproduction

Priscilla Wald (Duke University)

29 January 2015, 5:30 pm, Smathers Library (East) 100, UF Campus

A woman pregnant with her grandchild; a hamster in a state of suspended animation; human cells reproducing into eternity.  These are some of the biotechnological innovations that seemed to blur the line between science and science fiction in the decades following the Second World War.  Public accounts of these innovations emerged against the backdrop of debates in social and political thought surrounding the atrocities of two global conflagrations and, more broadly, colonialism.  Legal cases and policy debates, the mainstream media and popular fiction and film all attest to the convergence of scientific innovation and geopolitical transformation in new accounts of the human—and of life itself—in the decades following the war.  Questions abounded: if we can create life in a laboratory and patent it in the courts, what will happen to the basic dignity of humankind? What will happen to human relationships to other humans and to the world at large? Such questions circulated through the courts and the media, but it was in the science fictional scenarios that writers could work through the dangers and possibilities, the hopes and fears, associated with the science and register as well the emergence of new histories–scientific creation stories–for humanity in the age of biotechnology.  This talk draws on the legal cases and policy debates, news accounts and especially science fiction—with a focus on Ridley Scott’s cinematic adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?: the 1982 cult classic Bladerunner–to chronicle the scientific creation stories that emerged to explain the radically changing figure of the human, to forecast its destiny, and to create by imagining a biotechnological world.

Priscilla Wald teaches and works on U.S. literature and culture as Professor of English and Women’s Studies at Duke University. Her current work focuses on the intersections among the law, literature, science, and medicine. Her recent book, Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative, studies the evolution of the contemporary stories we tell about the global health problem of “emerging infections.” She is currently at work on a book-length study entitled Human Being After Genocide, which chronicles the challenge to conceptions of human being that emerged from scientific and technological innovation in the wake of the Second World War. She is especially interested in analyzing how the language, narratives and images in mainstream media promote a particular understanding of genomic science that is steeped in (often misleading) cultural biases and assumptions. She is committed to promoting conversations among scholars from science, medicine, law and cultural studies in order to facilitate a richer understanding of these issues. Wald is the author of Constituting Americans: Cultural Anxiety and Narrative Form (Duke, 1995). Dr. Wald has served on the Executive Council of the Modern Language Association (MLA) and is currently the MLA representative to the American Council of Learned Societies; she recently completed a term as President of the American Studies Association. She has a secondary appointment in Women’s Studies, is on the steering committee of ISIS (Information Sciences + Information Studies) and is a member of the Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy and an affiliate of the Trent Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities and the Institute for Global Health.


  • Forum on Health, Medicine, and Culture

    Five distinguished speakers from different disciplines presented their current work, followed by attendees break-out sessions to raise awareness of the diversity of work happening at UF, identify potential overlap in our interests, and discuss opportunities for collaboration.


    Michael S. Okun, M.D.  “Bridging the Cultural and Language Divide in Parkinson’s Disease”

    Dr. Okun is considered a world’s authority on Parkinson’s disease treatment, and his publications provide a voice and an outlet to empower people… Read more