"What Can A Body Do? How We Meet the Built World," a talk by humanist-in-tech Sara Hendren
For March Narrative Medicine Rounds we are delighted to welcome Sara Hendren, who is a humanist in tech—an artist, design researcher, writer, and professor at Olin College of Engineering outside Boston.
Her book What Can A Body Do? How We Meet the Built World, named a Best Book of the Year by NPR and LitHub, explores the unexpected places where disability is at the heart of everyday design, and uncovers the lessons available in all the ways our bodies connect with the material world: household objects, architecture, urban planning, and more.
In a series of vivid stories drawn from the lived experience of disability and the ideas and innovations that have emerged from it—from cyborg arms to customizable cardboard chairs to deaf architecture—Sara Hendren invites us to rethink the things and settings we live with. As Katy Waldman writes about the book in The New Yorker: "Hendren, who intends the universality of dependence to inspire in readers a sense of common obligation, critiques the American cult of self-reliance, which equates need with failure and empathy with naïveté. As an inventor, her business is possibility, the brightened future, and she takes less interest in shame than in ingenuity. Given the reality of limits, how do we then transcend them?" By rendering familiar objects and environments newly strange and wondrous, What Can a Body Do? helps us imagine a future that will better meet the extraordinary range of our collective needs and desires.
Narrative Medicine Rounds are monthly rounds on the first Wednesday of the month during the academic year hosted by the Division of Narrative Medicine in the Department of Medical Humanities and Ethics at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. A recording of our Virtual Narrative Medicine rounds will be made available following the live session on the Narrative Medicine YouTube channel. You can also listen to a podcast of past Rounds on iTunes or watch recent ones on YouTube.