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BIOPHOBIA Symposium: Plenary

Wednesday, May 10, 2023 at 7:00pm to 9:00pm

Savage Hall, 200

May 10: Plenary from 7:00-9:00 p.m. Savage Hall Rm. 200 Hybrid 

May 11: Roundtable from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Savage Hall Rm. 200 Hybrid

Are you attending in person? If so, you must rsvp here by Tuesday, May 9 end of the business day. Space is limited.

We encourage in-person participation. For those who are unable to make it, please see virtual participation registration below. This is a fragrance-free event. Please be considerate.

First Keynote

May 10, Wed. 7pm: Jinhee Chohan

Voices against the Hatred and Discrimination against Sick Bodies: The Civic Theater Project, We Are Not Sorry for Being Sick 

Neoliberalism turned “good health” into something to beef up one’s resume and a booty that one should work hard to attain. In South Korean society, the conditions of teeth and skin have long worked to stratify people into different social classes. The bodies that don’t meet the criteria for the “standard body” or “normal, healthy body” have often been subject to hatred, reproach, and shaming. On the other hand, the lived experiences of people with diseases and disabilities are often not told anywhere but subsumed to the discourse of “cure,” which is circumscribed by the power dynamic of medical institutions; the cure discourse doesn’t really engage with the issues of the social discriminations and hatred against the sick bodies.

Jinhee Chohan started the civic theater project We Are Not Sorry for Being Sick, first, to tackle the problems in how medical personnel and experts interpellate, control, and substitute the lives of disabled people and, second, to divert the leading framework from “the colonized bodies” to “the bodies that speak for themselves.” Moreover, this project seeks to create “the language within the world of disease” as a language of resistance against the society that hates, discriminates against, and excludes the bodies with diseases, and to secure “the right to be sick justly.” In this presentation, Chohan will explain the theater project’s production process, effects, and potential to challenge the discriminatory social structures against people with diseases and disabilities. 


Jinhee Chohan is a Korean peace and feminist activist and a founder of Damom Action, a nonprofit organization to work for the “right to be sick justly.” Chohan has worked for and with numerous activist groups, such as Palestine Peace & Solidarity in South Korea, Solidarity against Disability Discrimination, and Korean WomenLink. Chohan also has published multiple books and op-eds. Recently she published The World That Care Work Maintains as an edited volume. Finally, Chohan directed and produced 2020 theater project We Are Not Sorry for Being Sick and many documentary films, such as From Parent to Parent (2013) and Disability Discrimination Act. It’s Time to Start Over (2011). 

About the Biophobia symposium:

This symposium proposes biophobia (aversion to bodily matter) as a critical framework to unravel the complex relation between negative emotions and post/colonial body politics in Korean and transnational contexts. Aversion to certain groups or statuses of body is not just an emotion but a richly social, cultural, and political phenomenon, as it, by invoking bodily responses, functions to patrol social boundaries and norms, such as righteousness and cleanliness. The feeling’s immediacy to the body is a basis of its social power.

In The Cultural Politics of Emotion (2014), Sara Ahmed situates disgust (“bad taste”) in the colonial context where the colonized bodies were subject to the imperialist politics of “what gets eaten,” and are, at the same time, regarded to stoke the “fear of contamination” to the European white bodies. Ahmed’s politicizing of negative emotions still holds strong relevance, especially regarding the recently exacerbating hate crimes based on gender, race, ethnicity, religion, health condition, and political orientation, which often tag along a profound sense of disgust and essentialist rhetoric on body types. Notably, the #IAmNotVirus campaigns against the anti-Asian hate crimes since the recent pandemic exemplifies how the feelings of terror and disgust effectively turned Asian bodies into a composite of a submicroscopic agent, the “origin” of the disease, and the repugnant bodies.

Biophobia, as a composite word, embodies an acute connectivity between body issues and the public anxiety that is often symptomatic of a given society’s constraints over the notions of the healthy and the normal, which has proved to be a global phenomenon.  

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Event Type



Asian Studies, East Asia Program, Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies

University Themes



East Asia program, Einaudi, Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Einaudi Center, asianstudiescal, cosochum



Contact E-Mail

Contact Name

Soyi Kim



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We are happy to provide access with advance notice

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