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Green Templeton College | Oxford


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Is normality - or conformity to certain parameters of behaviour and appearance - a necessary condition of all advanced societies or a tyranny which constrains individual aspiration and social evolution?  Do conceptions of normality have any objective basis or are they merely social constructions, inexorably tied to the exercise of political and economic power?  These questions have troubled some of the influential minds of the last two centuries but are they still relevant today, as conceptions of normality are challenged by advances in genomics and new technologies of human enhancement?  Are we moving towards new regimes of normality or has the border between the normal and the pathological become blurred and irrelevant in an increasingly individualized and culturally reflexive global community?

Visit the Green Templeton Lectures 2014 web page

The Tyranny of the Normal Lecture 1

Speaker: Adam Mars-Jones, novelist

Monday 27 January

Mainstream Hollywood cinema, the dominant medium of the twentieth century, represented the disabled more fully than most minorities, but what (or who) are these images really about?

This lecture traced a paradoxical cultural history with the help of half a dozen film clips, from directors as different as William Wyler, Robert Altman and John Carpenter.

5 February 2014

Speaker: Professor Nils Brunsson

In our contemporary world, people interact and communicate at greater distances than ever before, and interaction and communication reinforce and are reinforced by strong global similarities. An increasing number of categories are now being used worldwide: states, firms, and unions, for example, can be found virtually everywhere, and they tend to nurture similar ideas and behave in similar ways. Their very similarity makes it possible to differentiate among them according to status - there are global status orders providing world champions in sports, universities, and cities.

Much of this global order is best understood as the result of organisation, although not always the type of organisation that has been the object for organisation theory. Organisation is a phenomenon that takes place not only within but also outside and between formal organisations.

The Tyranny of the Normal Lecture 2

Speaker: Professor Nichola Rumsey, Co-Director of the Centre for Appearance Research (CAR), University of the West of England

Monday 3 February

This lecture summarised research evidence charting the extensive and damaging impacts of dissatisfaction with appearance on physical and psychological health and the negative consequences for children, young people and adults in key areas of living including social, educational and vocational functioning.

Speaker: Professor Christoph Gradmann, Department of Community Medicine, Institute of Health and Society, University of Oslo

Thursday 21st November 2013

The Tyranny of the Normal Lecture 4

Speaker: Peter Keen, Director of Sport at Loughborough University

Monday 24 February

The traditional narrative of Olympic success emphasises hard work, discipline and sacrifice but above all the unique talents of medal winners.Does this stand up to scrutiny?

This lecture provided an insider's synopsis of the life journeys of successful athletes, exploring the nature of human performance and the apparent need for mastery and autonomy for humans to feel fulfilled.

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