Alice Flaherty

Alice Flaherty

Faculty Project: Puerto Rico Winter Institute 2008

Puerto Rico Winter Institute 2008

Puerto Rico Winter Institute 2008: Beyond Babel: the Art and Science of Empathic Translations
January 8-23, 2008

The David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, jointly with the University of Puerto Rico, is sponsoring a two-week Winter Institute in San Juan. In its fourth year, the Institute will focus on "Beyond Babel: the Art and Science of Empathic Translations." Each week, four professors, two from Harvard University and two from the University of Puerto Rico, will co-teach a seminar on a topic related to this major theme. The goal of the Institute is to stimulate research, collaboration, and intellectual exchange between Harvard and key institutions of higher learning in Puerto Rico. Seminar participants will include faculty and students from Harvard and Puerto Rican institutions. Graduate and professional students from Harvard or the University of Puerto Rico are eligible to apply. Financial support is available for participation in the seminar. Made possible by the generous support of the Wilbur Marvin Foundation.

Program Details

Semantic translations between natural languages aren’t the half of interpersonal communication. All of us must constantly interpret more innate communications via tone and gesture. The way in which these transmit empathy are also important for more formal discourse, as in music (melody as stylized prosody); painting and sculpture that represent the expressive human form; medicine (the quality of a patient’s groans are an assay of brain state just as blood test results measure liver function); and the law's tendency to oppose empathy to justice.

In all modern societies we must also make a more disorienting and difficult translation: that between normal human language of motives and choices, and an impersonal and mechanistic scientific language. Yet neuroscience can tell us generative things about natural language, both verbal and nonverbal, that have implications for how we might best teach communication skills, make art, and respond to suffering, whether personal or political, and how we may apply these lessons to cross-cultural communications and artistic expression.

Participating Faculty:

Faculty lead: Alice Flaherty, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital
Margarita Alegria, Harvard Medical School, Center for Multicultural Health Research
Graham Ramsay, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, photographer
Doris Sommer, Harvard University, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures
Marco Abarca, University of Puerto Rico Law School
Alan del Castillo, psychiatrist
Melissa Gerald, University of Puerto Rico, Caribbean Primate Research Center
Antonio Martorell, DRCLAS Visiting Scholar Spring 2008, artist
Alicia Pousada, University of Puerto Rico, Department of English

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