Symposium on Environmental Illnesses Highlights New Multicampus Research Initiative

November 14, 2023
By Sean Brenner | UCLA

Around the early 1910s, coal miners began sending birds into mines as a way to detect the presence of carbon monoxide or other toxic gases. The phrase “canary in a coal mine” would soon become widely used shorthand to describe something that could be used as an early indicator of danger ahead.

A UCLA symposium scheduled for Nov. 17 and 18 will apply that idiom to discussions of environmental illnesses and the human stories that are often ignored or misunderstood in modern medicine’s treatment and care for people with chronic illnesses. The event, “Canary Knowledge: Chronic Fatigue, Chemical Sensitivities and the Limits of Medicine,” will be held at Mira Hershey Hall and livestreamed.

The symposium was envisioned and planned by Rachel Lee, a UCLA professor of English and gender studies, and Helen Deutsch, a UCLA professor of English and disability studies. Speakers will include scholars from UCLA and other universities, representing a wide range of academic disciplines, as well as activists and artists.

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