Past Event

Narrative in the Natural Sciences and Humanities

February 28, 2019 - March 1, 2019
8:30 AM - 4:30 PM
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Faculty House, Columbia University, New York
Narratives Image

Event Description:

While all disciplines employ narrative in their work to summarize and communicate their theories, methods, and results, the realm of narrating (more colloquially known as storytelling) has traditionally been considered a literary or historical endeavor under the purview of the humanities and social sciences. This is no longer the case. As evidenced by the burgeoning fields of narrative medicine and science communication, narratives and narrating are also important tools for the natural sciences. Neuroscientists have even recently proposed that “narrative” may be a better way of theorizing about the processes by which the brain represents the context used to sort and order memories in order to create a timeline of events. In light of this development, the conference seeks to explore the following topics:

  • What “narrative” means, and the role it plays, in the humanities, social sciences, journalism, law, the natural sciences, and medicine.
  • Why humans create narratives--perspectives from anthropology to neuroscience.
  • Narrating with “qualitative” and with “quantitative” data.
  • Communicating to the public through narratives and storytelling.

This symposium follows on the conference, Evidence: An Interdisciplinary Conversation about Knowing and Certainty, held at Columbia University on April 21-22, 2017 and The Success of Failure: Perspectives from the Arts, Sciences, Humanities, Education, and Law, held at Columbia University on December 7-8, 2017. Similar in format, speakers from different disciplines are invited to share their perspective and then engage in a moderated discussion. The conference also includes a public keynote lecture and a workshop for students on science communication that will allow participants to put what they have learned from the conference into practice.

Event Information:

  • Thursday, February 28 8:30am-7:00pm at Faculty House, Columbia University
  • Friday, March 1 8:30am-4:30pm at Faculty House, Columbia University

An opening event, "Narrating Community Power (Narrative in the Arts)" is scheduled at Caveat on February 27, 2019. Registration for this event is separate; please see the Narrating Community Power (Narrative in the Arts) event webpage for details. 

This conference is free and open to the public, but registration is required via Eventbrite. Please email Project Manager Roshana Nabi ([email protected]) with any questions. 

Please visit the Faculty House website for directions.

The conference schedule and conference program are now available. 

A current compiling of speaker abstracts is now available. 

  • Amir Baradaran (Artist and Creative Research Associate in the Department of Computer Science; Columbia University)
  • Niall Bolger (Professor of Psychology; Columbia University)
  • Rita Charon (Professor and Chair of Medical Humanities and Ethics and Professor of Medicine; Columbia University)
  • Stephanie Dinkins (Artist)
  • Rachel Falcone (Co-Founder; Storyline)
  • Matteo Farinella (Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience in the Center for Science and Society; Columbia University)
  • Rachel Ginsberg (Member of Columbia University School of the Arts' Digitial Storytelling Lab; Columbia University)
  • Eileen Gillooly (Executive Director of the Heyman Center for the Humanities and Society of Fellows; Columbia University)
  • Maeve Glass (Associate Professor of Law; Columbia Law School)
  • Rishi Goyal (Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine and Director of the Medicine, Literature and Society major; Columbia University)
  • Arden Hegele (Fellow in the Society of Fellows in the Humanities; Columbia University)
  • Marianne Hirsch (Professor of English and Comparative Literature and Professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; Columbia University)
  • Patrick Colm Hogan (Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor and Professor of English; University of Connecticut)
  • Robert Krulwich (Host of Radiolab; WNYC Studios)
  • Laura Kurgan (Associate Professor of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation and Director of the Visual Studies Sequence in the Faculty of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation; Columbia University)
  • Nick Lemann (Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Professor of Journalism and Dean Emeritus; Columbia School of Journalism)
  • Ben Lillie (Co-founder of Caveat, Co-founder of the Story Collider, Physicist)
  • Suresh Naidu (Associate Professor in Economics and International and Public Affairs; Columbia University)
  • Keith Oatley (Novelist and Professor Emeritus of Cognitive Psychology; University of Toronto)
  • Laura Otis (Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of English; Emory University)
  • Harriet Ritvo (Arthur J. Conner Professor of History; Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
  • Michael Shadlen (Professor of Neuroscience; Columbia University)
  • Kendall Thomas (Nash Professor of Law and Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Culture; Columbia Law School)
  • John Tresch (Mellon Professor in Art History, History of Science and Folk Practice at the Warburg Institute; University of London)
  • Lance Weiler (Founding Member and Director; Digital Storytelling Lab)
  • Lawrence Weschler (Author and Journalist)
  • Nasser Zakariya (Assistant Professor of Rhetoric; University of California, Berkeley)
  • Lisa Zunshine (Bush-Holbrook Professor of English; University of Kentucky)
  • Rita Charon Rita Charon (Professor and Chair of Medical Humanities and Ethics and Professor of Medicine; Columbia University)
  • Marwa Elshakry (Associate Professor of History; Columbia University)
  • Matteo Farinella (Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience in the Center for Science and Society; Columbia University)
  • Stuart Firestein (Professor of Biological Sciences; Columbia University)
  • Melinda Miller (Associate Director in the Center for Science and Society; Columbia University)
  • Roshana Nabi (Project Manager in the Center for Science and Society; Columbia University)
  • Pamela Smith (Seth Low Professor of History and Director of the Center for Science and Society; Columbia University)
  • Caroline Surman (Project Assistant in the Center for Science and Society; Columbia University)

This conference is supported by: