About the event

In early 1951, scientists at Johns Hopkins Medical Center developed the first immortal cell line from the cells of an African American woman named Henrietta Lacks dying from an aggressive form of cervical cancer. The HeLa cell line revolutionized cell biology, and generated important ethical debates about biotechnology and commodification, but the focus of those debates have characteristically neglected the central problem, which remains unresolved: the challenge to the definition of human being posed by an immortal cell line. Priscilla Wald will discuss Octavia Butler’s analysis of this case, exploring the displacement of fundamental questions about institutionalized racism and social justice.