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Workshop 24: Neurorhetorics’ Materialities

Workshop Leaders:

Christa Teston and Michelle Gibbons 

What goes on in the minds of mass shooters? Voters at the ballot box? Former patients who are unable to stop using opioids? To answer such questions, experts frequently invoke brain science. Yet, the extent to which we can reliably (and ethically) understand and explain human behavior in terms of brains’ material properties remains uncertain. Given how frequently neuroscientific logics are mobilized when reframing the past and predicting the future, this workshop asks: How do neuroscience’s material conditions help to perform such rhetorical work? How do neurorhetorics shape how we (re)see events of serious social consequence, such as mass shootings, political elections, and healthcare crises? As a fulcrum around which forensic and deliberative rhetorics are rendered, this workshop will unspool how brains’ material properties both produce and are produced by broader philosophies, ideologies, epistemologies, and ontologies. 

Workshop participants will first discuss readings focused on: (1) classic texts in philosophy of mind/cognitive science that stake out foundational positions regarding reductionism, dualism, and eliminative materialism (e.g., Churchland; Dennett; Feyerabend; Rorty); (2) contemporary work in neurorhetorics (e.g., Gibbons; Gruber; Jack; Mays & Jung); and (3) backstage, material-discursive methods that render and reify neuroscientific claims (e.g., Fine; Graham; Lynch; Teston). Then, participants will share and provide feedback to one another about their own emerging, or in-progress projects. The workshop will conclude by charting future intellectual and practical problems that lie at the intersection of medical, material, and neuro-rhetorics. Finally, workshop leaders will facilitate opportunities to form ongoing collaborations—including, for example, reading and writing groups. 

Questions should be directed toward Christa Teston, teston.2@osu.edu 

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