Human Science faculty and students to present at international research conference in Montreal

The 2012 International Human Science Research Conference (IHSRC) will take place from June 25th - 29th at of the University of Quebec at Montreal. Representing Saybrook will be faculty members JoAnn McAllister, Bob McAndrews, Amadeo Giorgi, and Mark Applebaum. They will be accompanied by Saybrook students Geoff Thompson, Lourdes Viado, and Dennis Rebelo.

Since its origins, the IHSRC has been an opportunity to explore and question the importance of qualitative methods and cultural history in the study of human experience. There is a strong phenomenological and existential tradition at the heart of the IHSRC, but researchers from other qualitative or theoretical traditions also participate. Indeed, fertile dialogue and debate across a broad spectrum of perspectives is at the heart of the IHSRC annual meetings. Or course, naming the conference Human Science back in 1982 was challenging and remains so today because it points towards the boundary where the traditional notion of science begins to tremble and, at the same time, opens itself to other possible ways of knowing and understanding human experience – such as phenomenological description, art interpretation, or personal narration.

JoAnn McAllister and Dennis Rebelo will be joined by filmmaker Patrick J. West to present on Phenomenological storytelling: A filmmaker, phenomenologist, and human scientist share their experience of cultivating a phenomenological attitude to inform and inspire self expression. In this symposium they present their different experiences, as a business consultant, filmmaker, and teacher and researcher, in cultivating a phenomenological perspective to influence and inspire greater self-expression through story. They seek to respond to the conference theme, which focues on the human sciences, the arts, and the humanities, by illustrating how each works with individuals and organizations to encourage self-expression through a variety of media, engagement with the older traditions of story and myth, and awareness of new insights from neuroscience on the role of story in creating a sense of self. They share a belief in story as the foundation of the self and that a conscious shaping of story and appreciation of the phenomenological moment honors the creation of relationships. Rebelo’s research on the significance of “experience-sharing through story as a means of forming a new relationship with another” offers a starting point. West will illuminate this phenomenon with excerpts from his films and McAllister will share examples from her research and that of current students using narrative to explore how relationships are changed through story. They propose that attention to individual and shared narratives are central to the task of reconnecting the human sciences with the visual, literary, and philosophical arts and with the experience of ordinary life where self-expression is essential to both personal and social relationships.

Robert McAndrews and Lourdes Viado will present on Psychotherapy and culture: Representation through film, fiction, television, memoirs, and theater. As part of a larger research project about the politics, economics, and social impact of psychotherapy in the U.S. and other cultures, they investigate the ways in which psychotherapy as a practice and process is interpreted and represented in various cultural media in the U.S. Psychotherapy in America has become so embedded in the many cultural and communication memes that culture and psychotherapy are essentially co-terminus - each continually shaping and identifying the other. Americans have become psychotherapeutic beings. McAndrews & Viado will illustrate the various ways patients, therapists, the therapy session encounter, and mental illness have been and are depicted, interpreted, and represented to the American culture and ways that the culture in general shapes and determines the practice of psychotherapy.

Human Science PhD candidate Geoffrey Thompson’s presentation, Aesthetic Experience and the Phenomenology of Self, focuses on how the intersection between philosophies of Human Science, art theory, and practice can affect one sense of self-identity in multiple contexts. He draws from his clinical practice to examine the integration of phenomenological aesthetics, critical theory in art practice, and psychotherapy with psychiatric patients. He maintains that essential humanity can be grasped through the integration of philosophy and art to counter psychiatric practices that privilege diagnostic categories and the subsequent manifestation of pathology that often leads to symptom management and behavioral controls. According to Thompson, art as epistemology reveals how works of art represent the phenomenal world as models, constituted for the world and presented for a subject in the act of perception. Postmodern philosophies represent the opportunity to reconfigure the phenomenal world, opened to possibility and nuance providing openings for a non-pathological understanding of mental illness. This talk highlights Geoff's work on parallel consciousness and empathic communication that transpires in his studio as an artist, moving back and forth between clinical work using aesthetic experience for the empowerment of psychiatric patients. Thompson maintains that consciousness heightened through aesthetic experience can affect the experiential sense of self, shifting identity from one determined by the psychiatric milieu, to a sense of self with artistic sensibility and potentially an artist identity.

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