Category Archives: Humanities

Remembering the Holocaust

As a Jewish child during the Holocaust in Europe, Gabriella Karin escaped capture and death many times before the Nazis were overthrown in 1945. She survived by living in a convent for three years and then hiding with her family for nine months in an abandoned apartment building. Although physically safe, she did not emerge unscathed. Suppressed memories of her past came flooding back once she began to fashion sculptures related to the Holocaust later in life.

In this presentation, she recounts her journey and presents examples of her art. Her experiences and her creations offer an important insight into trauma and how creativity can be used as a tool to process memories of oppression, persecution, and loss.

Karin is a docent at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust and participates in the Righteous Conversations Project, which unites survivors and students through art.

Watch Trauma, Memory, and the Art of Survival with Gabriella Karin.

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Rebels with a Cause

As Dr. Henry Powell notes in “Irish Women of Resilience,” until the late 20th century the history of Ireland is a sad one. The Emerald Isle had the great misfortune of proximity to an aggressively expansionist, colonialist power that went on to dominate ad exploit the Irish people for nearly 700 years. That period was further scarred by famine, failed rebellions, civil war, and religious repression.

In response to the Irish people’s yearning for solace and preservation of cultural identity, the aisling (ASH-ling) was developed in the late 17th and 18th centuries as a uniquely Irish poetic genre. Aisling means “dream” or “vision,” and in the verses Ireland appears to the poet as a woman, frequently young and beautiful but occasionally old and haggard, who laments the current state of affairs in Éireann and predicts a revival, a resurgence of the Gaelic nation. Often this revival is linked to the return of the House of Stuart to the British and Irish thrones. Powell explains that women have long held a special place in Gaelic culture and literature, especially poetry, and the aisling is emblematic of that revered status.

“She is a girl and would not be afraid to walk the whole world with herself.”
– Lady August Gregory, poet

After establishing the importance of women in the collective Irish consciousness Powell turns his attention to women who have had a profound impact on Irish society in more recent times, including Hazel Martin (Lady Lavery) , an early Irish nationalist; the renowned ”Rebel Countess” Constance Markievicz, who advised women preparing for insurrection to “Dress suitably in short skirts and sitting boots, leave your jewels and gold wands in the bank, and buy a revolver;” popular novelist Elizabeth Bowen, who cast a sharp eye on social mores; Mainie Jellett and Evie Hone, artists and lifelong companions who rocked the art establishment by introducing cubism to Ireland; the first female President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, and her immediate successor Mary MacAleese; crusading journalist Nell McCafferty, who pursued the most powerful judicial figures in the country; and Mary Raftery, who exposed and documented decades of systemic abuse of children in State-funded, Church-run institutions.

This list is, of course, only a sampling of women who have influenced Irish society in virtually all respects. Powell notes that while each of these women has a unique story, their commonality is a fierce devotion to justice and a disdain for societal conventions meant to control, hinder, and demean women. Ireland is ending its first century of independence with increased prosperity and a forward-thinking, modern outlook, and that is due in no small part to resilient – some might say stubborn, but admiringly – Irish women.

Watch Irish Women of Resilience with Henry Powell – Osher Online Lecture Series.

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Privacy, Practicality, and Potential: The Use of Technology for Healthy Aging

That wearable fitness device on your wrist is measuring so much more than your exercise levels. Digital tools offer unprecedented opportunities in health research and healthcare but it can come at the cost of privacy. Six days of step counts are enough to identify you among a million other people – and the type of inferences that can be made from other everyday behaviors is growing rapidly.

Camille Nebeker, EdD, MS is Associate Professor of Behavioral Medicine in the Department of Family Medicine & Public Health at the UC San Diego School of Medicine. She discusses the ethical considerations of informed consent and potential harms and benefits of these technologies. She also shares ideas on how we can work together to create systems that define and encourage safe digital health research and practice.

Watch — The Digital Revolution: Ethical Implications for Research on Healthy Aging

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Our Impact on the Earth

“Mother Nature is not happy right now and she’s trying to tell us, in many ways,” says Kimberly Prather, Professor of Climate, Atmospheric Science, and Physical Oceanography at UC San Diego.

New weather patterns and events are causing concern but how do we know these changes are caused by human activity? Climate scientists are looking at trends over time to determine our impact on the planet.

Prather discusses recent CAICE studies aimed at advancing our understanding of how the oceans influence human and planetary health including novel experiments being conducted in a unique ocean-atmosphere simulator.

Watch — How Do We Know Humans are Impacting the Health of Our Planet? – Exploring Ethics

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Searching for Autism in our Social Brain

All animals need to know and communicate with their own, so evolution has developed in every brain the ways we all recognize and socialize with each other.

But while other brains are social – no other brain is as social, or can do what the human brain can – and as far as science knows – it also seems that no other brain can suffer from conditions like autism. Are these two fortunes somehow linked?

That is a question that many are asking, including Alysson Muotri’s lab at the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine. They are using brain organoids to unravel this mystery, but where do they start looking for the root causes of these conditions?

Enter Katerina Semendeferi, noted biological anthropologist, whose experience conducting neuroanatomical comparisons of our primate predecessors, as well as typical and atypical human neuroanatomy, is helping to focus the search for causes of atypical behavioral conditions like autism and Williams Syndrome. Her work has pointed to neuroanatomical differences, on scales from whole brain structures, down to individual neurons and the genetics of neurodevelopment.

She reveals what she has found, and how this helps the Muotri Lab’s studies with brain organoids in the search for autism in our social brains.

Watch — Searching for Autism in our Social Brain.

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