Fall 2020 Colloquium

We will offer a modified schedule of remote lectures for our fall 2020 colloquium series. Lectures will be delivered via Zoom webinar. All webinars will open at 3:25pm on the date of the colloquium, with the lecture beginning at 3:35pm. 

Contact hstm@umn.edu to receive a link.  

October 2 - "Cryptic Effects at a Distance: Constructing Causal Claims in Fetal Epigenetic Programming Research"

The Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science is hosting Sarah Richardson (History of Science and Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, Harvard University). 

Abstract: This paper offers a critical analysis of three touchstone research streams linking epigenetic markers with prenatal exposures and later life health in human populations: studies of individuals gestated during the Dutch Famine; research on individuals prenatally exposed to a 1998 ice storm in Quebec; and studies of the offspring of Jewish Holocaust survivors. In human studies, maternal intrauterine effects are what I call cryptic: they are small in effect size, vary depending on ecosocial context, and occur at a great temporal distance from the initial exposure. The fetal epigenetic programming hypothesis functions as a narrative glue that coheres disparate cryptic findings into plausible causal stories. Through close analysis of these research streams, I examine precisely what inferences scientists believe epigenetic studies can support, and how, in practice, scientists construct causal claims in fetal epigenetic programming research, despite the crypticity of their findings.

Contact mcps@umn.edu for a webinar link, or visit the MCPS website

October 16 - "Health Care Ideals, Activism, and Politics in Cold War America: Establishing Outpatient Mental Health Care for Veterans of the War in Vietnam"

The Program in History of Medicine is hosting Jessica L. Adler (History, Florida International University). This is the Dorothy Bernstein Lecture in the History of Psychiatry.

Abstract: In 1979, Congress approved funding for an outpatient, community-based “readjustment counseling” program to be administered by the Veterans Administration (VA), and accessible to those who had served during the war in Vietnam. Today, 300 Vet Centers are located in storefronts throughout the country and their doors are open to veterans of a variety of conflicts; they outnumber VA hospitals two to one. This talk, which shows that the veterans’ health system gradually “deinstitutionalized” in the mid-twentieth century, explores the social and political conditions undergirding the establishment of the Vet Center program. It has two larger implications. First, it sheds light on general conditions that impel transitions in health systems: changing conceptions of how illness should be treated, transformations in social definitions of disease, and forceful stakeholder advocacy. Second, it highlights how Vietnam veterans and their advocates restructured VA health services according to their own priorities, with lasting results for future generations.

November 13 - "Holy Modern: Cold War Fascism and the Technoaesthetics of Imperial Imagination"

The Program in the History of Science and Technology is hosting Maria Gonzalez Pendas (Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University).

Abstract: A vibrant interior built on a gridded structure of steel and glass, the pavilion was readily celebrated as the “unexpected gem” of the fair, exemplar of a refined modernism unlike much of the technological kitsch taking over the grounds of Expo 58 in Brussels. The architecture that the dictatorial regime of Francisco Franco brought to the world scene in 1958 was received as quintessentially modern—and thus at odds with the fascist regime it was called to represent. “The Spanish Pavilion makes one wonder,” as one critic put it, “is Franco now tired and allows artists unusual freedom? Or maybe this country is no longer fascist?”
Fascism was of course alive and well and architecture continued to be as crucial an instrument for its production as it had been in the interwar period. Only now the world stage was shifting under Cold War dynamics and with it the ideological and technological configurations of fascism. In this talk, I will chronicle how architects worked alongside intellectuals, cadres, and other technicians to redefine the technological and aesthetic registers of fascism towards what I call “holy modernism.” In its ability to blend modernist aesthetics, technological modernization, and reactionary ideologies—including those of Opus Dei, the Catholic organization that came of age in the wake of the Spanish Civil War—holy modernism proved crucial in sustaining the pastoral project of Spanish fascism and modernize its nationalist-imperial myth of Hispanidad. Opus Dei member, historian, and Secretary of Censorship Florentino Pérez-Embid fittingly coined this agenda as “Westernization in the means, Hispanization in the ends.” This talk illuminates the strategies that architects, working at the intersection of technology and aesthetic, deployed to fulfill such synthesis; one that called to perform the Reconquest, technological modernization, and a politics of affect in the very same breadth. In so doing, I offer the methods and objects of architectural history as a way to unpack some of the most insidious techniques of reactionary ideology, some of the most overlooked aspects of the politics of technology, and some insight on the historical resilience of fascism.