Editorial Report: Writers' Retreat

Editorial Team //

We are continually impressed by the remarkable diversity of writing, thinking, practice, and activism at work at Synapsis. Now in its third year, our journal has matured into a forum for sustained collaboration across disciplinary and international boundaries — our current contributors hail from North America, the UK, France, Australia, and Romania. Meanwhile, many of our past writers have gone on to advanced positions in academia, medicine, and other healthcare fields. And two writers, Amala Poli and Jac Saorsa, have recently published scholarly books. Recent contributions to Synapsis from all our resident and guest writers reflect the journal’s maturation, as they consider the ways in which simultaneous commitments to biomedical science, humanistic study, and public engagement can produce new forms of insight across the medical and health humanities.

As we begin 2020, we are delighted to report that Synapsis recently held a gathering of editors, writers-in-residence, and artistic contributors in our first-ever Writers’ Retreat, where we discussed the journal’s roots as a “Department Without Walls” and our visions for future forms of inter-institutional collaboration.

Hosted at the Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University, the Retreat began with a working lunch, in which our social media editor Malvika Jolly led a discussion of new public-facing initiatives at the journal (she tweets @synapsisjournal). Next came a panel of formal papers from regular contributors Kaitlin Pontzer, Diana Rose Newby, Chia Yu Lien, Emilie Egger, and Travis Lau, which all highlighted the continuity of the problem of interpreting affect — from early modern England to the contemporary nursing home.

Writers then participated in an interactive workshop led by the Creative Resilience Collective, which invited contributors to help set the future directions of the journal. The workshop was directed by Bennett Kuhn, Synapsis musician-in-residence alumnus, and collaborator Andrea Ngan. As part of @CreativeResco’s workshop, participants broke into groups to speculatively brainstorm the futures we envision for Synapsis five years from now: more public humanities/academic writing, writer collaborations, a forum for cross-discipline conversations, above all foregrounding care.

The second workshop was led by Antoinette Cooper, a poet and writing instructor at Columbia University, who encouraged writers to hold space in their medical and health humanities pedagogy. Antoinette spoke about her experiences teaching the same medical humanities-themed writing course to students at Columbia University and Rikers Island, and she invited our writers to experience a form of attentive listening that she had cultivated in these very different classrooms.

The conference concluded with a working dinner, in which contributors discussed new collaborations they might form under the journal’s auspices. We left the Retreat invigorated and energized by our writers’ energized commitment to public-facing scholarly activity, and with a number of new initiatives planned at the journal — stay tuned!

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