Neuroaesthetics and Great Resources at Penn

Sometimes I simply love being a graduate student at a private American university—resources at schools I used to attend in Germany (even though “Elite”) were not in the least comparable to what’s going on here with regard to talks, workshops, interdepartmental conferences and classes, methods courses, (mental) health resources, funding opportunities, … Take today: I am just returning from a talk on “neuroaesthetics” organized by Penn’s Center for Neuroscience and Society (CNS) in the Law School’s beautiful Silverman Hall with a nice reception afterwards. More on the talk after a short advertisement of the CNS: Continue reading

M.A. Thesis: Functional Magnetic Resonance Phrenology?

In the process of revising a paper on F.J. Gall’s conception of sex/gender and the status of sexuality in his so-called organological doctrine, I reread two German articles by Frank Stahnisch (who is a great scholar and an incredibly helpful person): “Über die Natur des weiblichen Gehirns” and “Über die neuronale Natur des Weiblichen.”1 I was reminded how beautiful it is to read—and write—German texts.2 Apart from very few long emails, the last substantial thing I have written in the tongue of the umlauts is my M.A. thesis. I won’t publish it, but it seems a shame not to make it accessible. I included an English description of its argument in my very first blog post. Continue reading

Inside the Pennopticon

We just had an amazing class today, referred to as the “mega-week” by our instructor. Since he decided to cancel class last week in favor of a mid-term break, we had to cram many, many great and thought-provoking readings1 in a three-hour discussion. As our weekly ritual requires, I had to hand in a response paper by 10 am this morning, dealing with thoughts, questions and reactions to the readings. Usually, I love putting the paper together the night before class, after reviewing the readings and my annotations.2 Last night, however, I could not come up with any idea to formulate a response paper as I ordinarily would. Thus, I decided to frame my experiences in grad school so far using some of the concepts reiterated in the readings. It would probably be to your advantage to be familiar with the readings, and this piece might be a little messy since I wrote it late at night, but I hope it can give you an idea of my life and work anyhow. Continue reading

Incompatible Systems?

This morning, I received an e-mail containing the syllabus and suggested readings for one of the fall 2013 seminars at my department. (Great to know that my professor works at 7am on Sundays.) I was planning to audit the course, and had registered as “audit” in the online registration tool. From my professor’s response, however, I learned that the class list lists me as a regular attendee. So, here is what might have happened: The HSS Department’s class list generating system does not need or want as much information as the detail-obsessed online registration tool acquires during its course registration process. Instead of not listing me at all, the class list therefore contains my name without any further specification. I find this quite interesting because it serves as an example that one system being informed by a more detailed one—and without the capacity of representing all of the specific information—can actually cause misconceptions, instead of only nescience. One might have thought that information being transferred between incompatible systems would simply be lost, and not create “false” knowledge. (Yes, I have already told the Professor.) Continue reading

Some Conferences, Sex/Gender and Handedness

Today, I received the CfP for the third NeuroGenderings Conference. I really have to share this before I start with all the readings recommended by Penn’s HSS Department for the time before classes start 08/28. (Noteworthy difference between Germany and Penn: One to three books per semester and class in Berlin, four books plus additional reader for pre-orientation at Penn.) If you are interested in sex/gender/sexuality and its material as well as ideological foundations, I suggest strongly that you check your calendar and try to reconcile a trip to Lausanne with your schedule for next May. As one might have noticed by thoroughly inspecting the links in the left frame, I attended the NeuroGenderings II Conference last year. This was my first conference (in not too many, I admit) where I thought: “I want to do some research on this topic!” many times. On earlier conferences, I used to think: “How interesting! This methodology is truly remarkable, but I would rather not work on quantum physics,” or the like. Continue reading