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Priscilla Wald: Cells, Genes and Stories

The Revolutionizing American Studies Seminar Presents

Priscilla Wald

Cells, Genes, and Stories:
HeLa’s Journey from Lab to Literature

Friday, November 4th | 4 – 6 pm
Room 4406

Seminar Session
Thursday, November 3rd | 4 – 6 pm
Room 8201

Both events take place at
The CUNY Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016

Free and open to the public

In early 1951, scientists at Johns Hopkins Medical Center developed the first immortal cell line from the cells of an African American woman named Henrietta Lacks dying from an aggressive form of cervical cancer. The HeLa cell line revolutionized cell biology, and generated important ethical debates about biotechnology and commodification, but the focus of those debates have characteristically neglected the central problem, which remains unresolved: the challenge to the definition of human being posed by an immortal cell line. Priscilla Wald will discuss Octavia Butler’s analysis of this case, exploring the displacement of fundamental questions about institutionalized racism and social justice.

The Seminar Session focuses on how genomics and race speak to the importance of working across the science/ humanities divide, and point to new or understudied directions that American studies might take.

Priscilla Wald is a professor of English at Duke University, and the 2011-12 President of the American Studies Association. Her books include Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative (2008), and Constituting Americans: Cultural Anxiety and Narrative Form (1995).


For more information please visit http://centerforthehumanities.org/seminars or call 212.817.2005 or e-mail ch@gc.cuny.edu

Co-Sponsored by the Center for Humanities, and the PhD Program in English


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