Food for Thought: Brown Bag Lunch Talks Offer Current Issues and Cupcakes

Even as we begin the stretch into the final weeks of the semester, our Brown Bag Lunch Series is as active as ever and continues to ask important questions and give students a chance to explore current issues and engage intellectually with topics outside of the classroom over snacks and treats.

Last week, Professor Khiara Bridges presented a talk entitled “Whither Privacy?: Poor, Pregnant Women and the State.” For this discussion, Professor Bridges drew upon eighteen months of anthropological fieldwork among poor, pregnant women receiving prenatal care provided by the Prenatal Care Assistance Program (“PCAP”) at a large hospital in New York City. PCAP is a special program within the New York State Medicaid program that provides comprehensive prenatal care services to otherwise uninsured or underinsured women. Building upon the research and arguments presented in her book Reproducing Race: An Ethnography of Pregnancy as a Site of Racialization, Professor Bridges shared with students her exploration of the ways in which PCAP’s mandatory consultations with myriad specialists, from social workers and health educators to nutritionists and financial officers, pose a significant intrusion by the government into the lives of poor, pregnant women. In turn, this cataloging of personal matters – called “informational canvassing” – makes poor women’s private lives public in a manner that stretches beyond prenatal care. Why is it that the women enrolled in PCAP and their families fail to enjoy the presumption of privacy extended toward women receiving private healthcare? Weaving together ethnographic studies and theory, Professor Bridges argued that in the case of poor women in this medical setting the inability to thrive within a capitalist economy, and the consequent reliance upon the state for financial survival, is thought to index a perceived moral laxity that results in the production of unplanned, unwanted children and their subsequent mistreatment and exploitation. She left the audience challenged by important questions regarding discourses of poverty, women’s health, and good medical practice.

Next week, we shift gears and explore a hot issue currently making headlines. Professor Simons and Professor Harper will ask, “What is legally and morally wrong with paying cash “bounties” to professional football players if they injure opposing players?”

Several coaches of the New Orleans Saints professional football team have been harshly sanctioned for permitting a “bounty” system in which their players were paid cash rewards of $1000 or more for injuring opposing players. But what exactly is wrong with such a system? After all, the NFL tolerates and even encourages a high level of violence. Serious injuries in professional football are highly predictable. And, in other sports such as boxing and mixed martial arts, purposely injuring the other player is an accepted part of the game. Professor Harper and Professor Simons will explore some legal and moral dimensions of this issue, including: potential criminal and tort liability of players, coaches, and management; the distinction between causing injury purposely or instead knowingly or recklessly; and the scope of the players’ consent.  


Learn more about the controversial “bounty” system by starting with the story’s latest twist: a tape in which Gregg Williams, defensive coach for the Saints, encouraged players to make damaging hits on San Francisco 49ers players during a divisional playoff game. 

We hope you will join us at 1pm in Barristers Hall on Tuesday, April 10th for this exciting discussion!


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