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TEDx Event Explores Issues of Identity

Experts share advances in research that bring new meaning to who we think we are

December 16, 2010 | by Stephen Anzaldi
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Alice Dreger, featured at the first TEDx event hosted by Northwestern, explored how science is dissolving the bright lines between anatomical categories such as sex and race and what this means for a society that relies on these categories.

Dreger joined three other speakers Dec. 15 at the TEDxNorthwesternU event on the Evanston campus in a lively exploration of human identity. 

A professor of clinical medical humanities and bioethics at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Dreger offered insights into her scholarship on individuals with norm-challenging body types such as conjoined twins, dwarfism and intersex - people with sex anomalies that blur lines between what it means to be biologically male or female. She stressed that we should focus on what is healthy for individuals with atypical body types, rather than strictly adhering to society's template for "normal.”

TEDxNorthwesternU was sponsored by the Silverstein Lecture Series of the Center for Genetic Medicine as well as Science in Society, the University's office for science outreach and public engagement.

The self-organized TEDx programs bring people together to share a TED-like experience, combining video and live speakers to spark deep discussions among small groups.

Also featured at the event, Rick Kittles, associate professor of medicine in epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, addressed the difficulty of defining race. He talked about how the knowledge from human genetic research is increasingly challenging the notion that race and biology are inextricably linked, engendering tremendous ramifications for human relations, identity and public health.

An audience of approximately 100 watched pre-recorded TEDTalks from geneticist Spencer Wells, project director of the National Geographic Genographic Project, and anthropologist Nina Jablonski of Pennsylvania State University.

Video of the four talks will be available soon at tedx.northwestern.edu.

The TEDx program is an offshoot of TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design), a set of global conferences that initially focused primarily on technology and design. Increasingly expanding its scope, TED today also addresses a wide range of topics related to business, culture and science. The annual TED Conference invites world leaders to speak for 18 minutes. The talks are made available free of charge at TED.com. Past speakers include Bill Gates, Al Gore, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Gilbert and Sir Richard Branson.

The TED program provides general guidance for the self-organized TEDx events.

TED also offers the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Project and the Open TV Project.
Topics: University News, Campus Life