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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 14, 2003

UI Hosts Conference On Empathy Oct. 16-18

Scholars, artists and other community members will gather at the University of Iowa Oct. 16-18 for an interdisciplinary conference "The Promise of Empathy." Two of the featured speakers, Cherrie Moraga of Stanford University and Frans B.M. de Waal of Emory University, are visiting the UI as Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professors.

The conference, sponsored by the Project On Rhetoric Of Inquiry and the Graduate College with a major grant from Humanities Iowa and the NEH, is aimed at exploring the questions: Why empathy? Why now? What dangers and promise does empathy hold as we face the challenges of the 21st Century? Sessions will be held in various locations on campus. Visit for schedule details.

Moraga, a poet, playwright, essayist, editor, teacher, activist and artist-in-residence in the drama department at Stanford University, will kick off the conference with a lecture, followed by UI theatre students reading her new one-act play "Waiting for Da God," Thursday, Oct. 16, from 7 to 9 p.m. in Shambaugh Auditorium in the UI Main Library. The session will also feature a performance by Musick's Feast, an Iowa City-based early music ensemble that works to benefit hunger relief efforts.

The conference continues Friday, Oct. 17, with discussions starting at 9 a.m. in the Illinois Room of the Iowa Memorial Union and continuing throughout the day focusing on topics such as empathy in education, media, technology, science and healthcare, and parenting among others.

De Waal, professor of psychology at Emory University, will speak "On the Possibility of Animal Empathy," during the evening session on Friday, Oct. 17. That session, which runs from 7 to 9:30 p.m. in Shambaugh Auditorium, also includes a performance by Laila Farah, assistant professor of women's studies at DePaul University, and a lecture on "The Importance of Touch in Empathy" by Temple Grandin, associate professor of animal science at Colorado State University.

Saturday, Oct. 18, sessions begin at 9 a.m. Discussion panels and presentations will explore empathy from a variety of vantage points. Topics will include race, culture, and class; history and anthropology; peacemaking; and the arts as space for empathetic experience.

Other featured speakers include Cameron McCarthy, professor of communications and educational policy studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Bob Shacochis, a writer and graduate of the UI Writers' Workshop; and Page duBois, professor of classics and cultural studies in the Literature Department at the University of California at San Diego.

UI participants include: Elizabeth Aubrey (music); Gail Boldt (education); Antoine Bechara (College of Medicine); Art Borreca (theater); Aimee Carrillo Rowe (rhetoric); David Depew (communication studies and Project on Rhetoric of Inquiry); Heriberto Godina (education); Laura Graham (anthropology); Daniel Gross (rhetoric); Ben Kieffer (WSUI/KSUI public radio); David Klemm (religion); Rob Latham (English); Tom Lutz, (English); Christopher Merrill, (International Writing Program); Allen Michie, (interdisciplinary programs); Gregg C. Oden (psychology and computer science); John Durham Peters (communication studies); Stephanie Preston (postdoctoral fellow in neurology); Louis-Georges Schwartz (cinema and comparative literature); Chivy W. Sok (UI Center for Human Rights); Thom Swiss, (English and Project on Rhetoric of Inquiry); Katy Tangenberg, (social work); Douglas Trevor (English); Russell Scott Valentino (Russian and cinema and comparative literature); and Vershawn Ashanti Young (rhetoric).

Additional support is from the UI Arts and Humanities Initiative; The Council on the Status of Latinos; The Center for Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian Studies (CREEES); the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; UI departments of English, theatre arts, religion, psychology, anthropology, rhetoric, classics, women's studies, and Spanish and Portuguese; and Benson and Hepker Design, Iowa City, Iowa.

All sessions are free and open to the public. For more information, including a complete schedule of events and locations, visit or call 335-2753.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011,