What sorts of people do we want?

I could swear that until recently I – and I assume many others – heard questions about what sorts of people as questions about morality and education.  The extremely rapid increase in biotechnological knowledge and procedures means that all of us now face public policy questions based largely on new sets of possibilities, ones that for many individuals lead or will be leading to issues of immense practical importance.  And the possibilities will continue to expand; we are only at the beginning.

A new project and blog is, consequently, of considerable interest:

What Sorts of People, the new blog, says it is:

… the combined effort of a team of researchers and community members working around the world in different disciplines to address concerns around human variation, normalcy, and enhancement. This blog is a place for academics, community members and individuals alike to connect, find information and discuss issues related to the What Sorts? project.

The Canadian-based  What Sorts of People Should There Be? project, has 61 researchers from 15 different disciplines.  The team also includes members of the community.  Among the exciting possibilities is their potential to ask illuminating and well-defined questions, and to reach some conclusions based on genuine inquiry. 

As the homepage (linked above) says, “Human enhancement, normalcy, and variation are topics of immediate public interest and with far-reaching implications for the future.”


15 thoughts on “What sorts of people do we want?

  1. The team also includes members of the community.

    Members of what community? (Is this a euphemism for non-academics?)

  2. Indeed, it is. Community organizations with various foci–disability, student activism, socially-sensitive legal representation, progressive social change–as well as individuals in “the community”–those who were subject to Alberta’s long-lasting sexual sterilization program, psychiatric survivors, those institutionalized in various other ways, for example.

  3. I found that puzzling too, Richard. Looking at the blog, it would appear to mean non-researchers who are concerned in some way with the issues which are the subject of the blog.

  4. On the project’s home page, they say:

    Taking seriously the disability activist slogan Nothing About Us, Without Us, team membership has been structured inclusively and major, national-level community organizations, such as the Canadian Centre on Disability Studies, the Canadian Association for Community Living, and the American Association of People with Disabilities have expressed interest in the project. Alberta-based team members will also work actively with individuals directly affected by Alberta’s eugenic sterilization program.

    I’d also bet that people working in these areas are a bit resistent to the idea of dividing human beings into “academic” and “non-academic.”

  5. I’d also bet that people working in these areas are a bit resistent to the idea of dividing human beings into “academic” and “non-academic.”

    But they’re okay with dividing people into those who are “members of the community” and the rest of us (non-organizational-types) who aren’t? Or is everyone a member of “the community”, so this is just a long-winded way of saying that the team includes people?

  6. If you are not a member of the “community” and in good standing with the accepted “world view” then you are to be removed. I do not believe “everyone” is a part of the “community”.

  7. “The community” strikes me, as well, as being a somewhat confusing term. However, thanks to JJ’s quote, I think it’s now pretty clear what is meant by it– and it may well be a totally standard term for people working in this area. Moreover, the discussion here is now starting to get more annoyed than I like discussions here to be. So how about we drop the discussion of this term? Thanks!

  8. Although Jender has asked that the discussion about the term “community” be dropped, I would like to add a couple of (final?) remarks which might in part clarify the use of the term in this context. The Canadian Assoc for Community Living (CACL) is an organization run for and largely by people with cognitive impairments (people with Down Syndrome, people labelled as “mentally retarded”, etc.) and their families. The association has its roots in the movement in the late 20th century to deinstitutionalize and desegregate this population of people (and others) and ensure their inclusion in the “community”.

    More generally, because disabled people as a population have historically been infantilized, ignored, dismissed, patronized and delegitimized as knowers and experts about their own lives by “authorities” (researchers, doctors and other medical personnel, and so on), disability theorists and researchers in disability studies in particular recognize the importance of involving non-academic disabled people in forms of discourse, inquiry, and research about them. Hence, the slogan “Nothing About Us, Without Us.”

  9. To answer Richard’s original question (which I had done yesterday but it got lost in blogspace somewhere, probably somewhere very close to my fingers):

    “The community” refers to people who are not part of academia, including those from non-profit organizations, NGOs, activist groups, GOs, and individuals (such as those who have been subject to institutionalization, sterilization, and other practices) who have a stake in the issues that our group has an interest in. “We”–including these “members of the community” think it’s important not only to work across disciplinary boundaries (important for academics) but across the divide between folks who work in the relatively privileged world of university life and folks who don’t but have both something at stake in, and much to offer to, the kind of endeavour we’re initiating.

    One standard use within Canadian academia is in talking of “community-university” relations, known more colloquially, esp. in the college towns I’ve lived in, as “town-gown” relations.

  10. Rob,
    I’m very chagrined to say that you were taken as spam by our spam sorter. I try to remember to check the spam comments just about every day because of wordpress’s overzealous spam tracker.

  11. Rob, I had to pull this comment also from the spam list. We’ve got to stop meeting in the spam list!

    It says it will learn, but 3 comments later I’m thinking it isn’t very bright.

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