Conferences & Symposia

Beyond Words: Gender and the Aesthetics of Communication

“Beyond Words” will explore the aesthetics of communication, focusing particularly on how we communicate through the body—how we make ourselves look and smell, move and sound.

Spotlighting topics as diverse as sign language and dance, tattoos and perfumes, the songs of birds and the voices of robots, the conference will blend talks, performances, and demonstrations to probe how bodily communication engages the senses in ways that are often profoundly gendered.

Free and open to the public.


The Knafel Center is fully accessible. The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study encourages persons with disabilities to participate in our programs. If you have questions about accommodations or the physical access provided, please contact the events department at 617-496-1084 or at least two weeks in advance of your visit.


9 AM


Tomiko Brown-Nagin, Dean, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study; Daniel P.S. Paul Professor of Constitutional Law, Harvard Law School; and Professor of History, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University


Shigehisa Kuriyama, Director of the Humanities Program, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and Reischauer Institute Professor of Cultural History, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences

9:10 AM

Framing Remarks

John Durham Peters, María Rosa Menocal Professor of English and of Film & Media Studies, Yale University

9:35 AM

Tattoos and Perfume

Chandler Burr, Author, The Emperor of Scent: A True Story of Perfume and Obsession (Random House, 2002) and The Perfect Scent: A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York (Picador, 2009); Former Perfume Critic, T: The New York Times Style Magazine

Dominique Holmes, Tattoo Artist; Author, The Painted Lady: The Art of Tattooing the Female Body (Ryland Peters & Small, 2013)

Moderator: Diana Sorensen RI ’11, James F. Rothenberg Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and Professor of Comparative Literature, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences

10:25 AM


10:40 AM

Animal Communication

Zarin Machanda, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Tufts University

Richard O. Prum, William Robertson Coe Professor of Ornithology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University

Moderator: Aniruddh D. Patel, 2018–2019 William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Fellow, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study; Professor of Psychology, Tufts University

11:30 AM

Social Robots

Susan C. Bennett, Voice of Siri; Voice Actor

Cynthia Breazeal, Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences in the MIT Media Lab and Codirector of the Center for Future Storytelling, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Founder and Chief Scientist, Jibo, Inc.

Noelle LaCharite, Lead of Developer Experience for Applied AI, Microsoft

Moderator: Elena Leah Glassman, Stanley A. Marks and William H. Marks Assistant Professor, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and Assistant Professor of Computer Science, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

12:30 PM


1:30 PM

Keynote: Fashioning Identity

Valerie Steele, Director and Chief Curator, Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology

2:30 PM


Jacqueline Emmart, Nationally Certified ASL Interpreter; Health Access Advocate

Rosa Lee Timm, Deaf Performance Artist

Moderator: Amy Szarkowski, Attending Psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry and Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School

3:20 PM


3:35 PM


Ayodele Casel, Dancer and Choreographer; 2018–2019 Artist-in-Residence, Harvard University

Antoine Hunter, Founder and Artistic Director, Urban Jazz Dance Company and Bay Area International Deaf Dance Festival; Former President, Bay Area Black Deaf Advocates

Moderator: Jill Johnson, Senior Lecturer on Theater, Dance & Media, Dance Director of the Harvard Dance Center, and Artistic Director of the Harvard Dance Project, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences

4:45 PM

Closing Remarks

Shigehisa Kuriyama