The University of Iowa

"Remaking the Body: Identity and Body Modification" subject of May 3 WorldCanvass

April 15th, 2013

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Our bodies do more than house our organs.  They carry our genetic makeup, they grow and develop through decades of change, and they figure prominently in that mysterious complex of emotions, perceptions, and insights we call identity.  

Our bodies provide a template for personal expression and for decorative enhancements, and they can bounce back from grievous assaults and degradations.  But what if we don’t feel comfortable in our own skins? 

WorldCanvass will investigate these questions and more on Friday, May 3, from 5-7 p.m., when the topic is “Remaking the Body: Identity and Body Modification.”  The program takes place in the Senate Chamber of Old Capitol Museum and is free and open to the public.

Expert guests from a diverse range of specialties will examine how physical appearance affects the development of a personal sense of identity, and what happens to our understanding of ourselves if our bodies are greatly changed by an injury or we suffer some sort of disfigurement.

We'll discuss the long history of body decoration, both temporary and permanent--from tattoos to body scarring--and the spiritual, religious, and cultural or group-identification meanings behind the markings.  And we’ll learn about the radical improvements that can be made in a child’s life and future prospects by medical intervention in cases of club foot, cleft palate, and cleft lip.

We’ll consider the intense and intricate relationship between one’s body and one’s sexual and gender identity with physicians from the UIHC’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning (LGBTQ) Clinic.  And we'll talk with the UIHC chief of plastic surgery about restorative and aesthetic surgeries. 

WorldCanvass guests are:

-Meenakshi Gigi Durham, professor, UI School of Journalism and Mass Communication; Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies (CLAS)

-Diana Cates, professor and chair, UI Department of Religious Studies (CLAS)

-Barbara Eckstein, professor, UI Department of English (CLAS)

-Philip Lutgendorf, professor, UI Department of Asian and Slavic Languages and Literatures (CLAS)

-Nicole Morford, yoga teacher

-Deborah Kacmarynski, clinical assistant professor, Pediatric Otolaryngology, UIHC

-Thomas Cook, professor, UI College of Public Health; chief of operations, Ponseti International

-Katherine Imborek, clinical assistant professor, Family Medicine; co-director, UIHC LGBTQ Clinic

-Nicole Nisly, clinical professor, Internal Medicine; co-director, UIHC LGBTQ Clinic

-W. Thomas Lawrence, chief of plastic surgery, UIHC

You’re invited to attend the live program on May 3, beginning at 5 p.m., in the Senate Chamber of Old Capitol Museum. WorldCanvass is a production of UI International Programs. Program partners are UITV, the Pentacrest Museums, KRUI, and Information Technology Services. For more information on WorldCanvass, contact Joan Kjaer at or visit