The Politics of Health Conference (2013)
Vanderbilt University’s The Center for Medicine, Health & Society (MHS) hosted “The Politics of Health,” a two-day conference on current debates in medicine, which took place on our campus, in our country, and around the world. The conference, held October 3 and 4, 2013, on the Vanderbilt campus featured discussion and debate about the politics of health among national opinion leaders, local stakeholders, and the Vanderbilt community. The event was free and open to the public.
The conference was organized around three themes that speak to the scale, urgency and intimacy of health as a political problem: Justice, Infrastructure, and Inequality.
Thursday, October 3 2013
The conference opened with a welcome address from university leaders, followed by the first panel, Health Justice, which considered paths for achieving health equity in settings with scarce money, time and attention. The keynote address was delivered by Emilie Townes, Dean of Vanderbilt’s Divinity School. Townes is a pioneering scholar in the field of womanist theology and the author of Womanist Justice, Womanist Hope (Scholars Press, 1993) and In a Blaze of Glory: Womanist Spirituality as Social Witness (Abingdon Press, 1995). Her most recent book is Womanist Ethics and the Cultural Production of Evil (Palgrave Macmillan Press, 2006). Topics of particular interest to Townes include health and health care; cultural production of evil; exploration of the linkages among race, gender, class and other forms of oppression; and development of a network between African American and Afro-Brazilian religious and secular leaders and community-based organizations.
Friday, October 4 2013
The second day of the conference opened with a panel on infrastructure, which explored how we experience health in our everyday physical, social, and natural environments—from the buildings we work in to the art forms we enjoy. The keynote address was delivered by Milton Curry, Dean of the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. Curry is an academic, designer, curator and editor and founding editor of CriticalProductive – a peer-reviewed journal of architecture, urbanism and cultural theory. He is the author of numerous scholarly articles and opinion pieces, including two essays for The Huffington Post: “What Obama can learn from Brazil” (2011) and “Nixon in China and the American City” (2011).
The afternoon panel on Race and Inequality focused on race and considered the persistent causes and consequences of healthcare access and health outcomes. The keynote address was delivered by Khalil Gibran Muhammad, the director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture for the New York Library. Dr. Muhammad is the author of The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America (Harvard University Press, 2010), a well-received exploration of how notions of black criminality were crucial to the creation of urban centers. Dr. Muhammad’s research interests include the racial politics of criminal law, policing, juvenile delinquency and punishment, as well as immigration and social reform.