TEDxDurham to Feature Duke Employees

Inaugural TEDx event on July 9 will present ideas around 'Centers and Edges'

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TEDxDurham will be July 9 at The Carolina Theatre.

Omid Safi will stand in the stage spotlight, overlooking a full Durham theater, and talk about the importance of replacing fear with love within communities.

The timeliness of this message is not lost on Safi, who is of Islamic faith and an ally of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, as these identities were pulled into the national spotlight this month after the shootings at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

“I measure the state of our wellbeing by looking at the way that communities, who at any given moment find themselves weak and vulnerable, are faring,” said Safi, director of the Duke Islamic Studies Center and professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. “We should constantly keep track of vulnerable communities and keep asking the question, ‘How do we stand in respect with these communities?’”

Safi, along with 20 other presenters (five in total are Duke employees), will share their ideas during Durham’s first TEDx event on July 9. Tickets are on sale for the event, which will be at The Carolina Theatre from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

This is the city of Durham’s first TEDx event, and head organizer Jack Derbyshire said his team picked the theme “Centers and Edges” to explore the centers in people’s lives, which are familiar communities, and people’s edges, which may be the uncomfortable or unknown parts of a community.

“A TEDx can really connect ideas to people who really want to help,” Derbyshire said. “You can highlight a community’s ideas and things that really matter, people that are really important, and people who care about the city and who are trying to improve the city.”

The day-long lineup of speakers is part of TED, a nonprofit that began in 1984 to help spread ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks that are 18 minutes or less. TEDx talks are locally organized events that bring together speakers to foster discussions and connections, and Duke has held a separate annual TEDx event since 2010.

TEDxDurham organizers received about 180 nominations for local speakers, which were then narrowed down to 21 people after an interview process. Talks will range from the arts to wearable, electronic textiles to social media.

Katja Hill, the literary arts coordinator for Arts & Health at Duke, will present at TEDxDurham this year. She helps bring arts programming to the halls, waiting areas and patient rooms of Duke University Hospital, and she holds journaling sessions on different hospital floors for patients, their family members and hospital staff.

Hill said she hopes her talk about the importance of the arts in health care inspires other hospitals and healthcare professionals to offer such programming.

“Something as simple as putting a pad and pen in a patient room really sends a message to patients and loved ones that they can have some privacy, agency and dignity restored to their hospital experience,” she added.

Negar Mottahedeh, an associate professor in Duke’s Program in Literature, will discuss how selfie photos are taken and shared by a wide range of people, from millennials to presidential frontrunners. Starting in 2014 at Duke, Mottahedeh taught the first academic course in the U.S. about the selfie, and graduate and undergraduate students regularly sign up for her class.

“I talk about some of the controversial issues surrounding the selfie in our culture and turn around the idea that the selfie is a sign of the self-absorption of the millennial culture,” she said. “I show how it connects us to one another and establishes a very different sort of presence and intimacy.”

Also presenting at TEDxDurham is Dr. Nirmish Shah, a Duke assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics, who will speak about integrating mobile apps into patient care; and Jonathan Mattingly, a Duke professor of mathematics and statistical science, who will discuss a mathematical approach to defining gerrymandering and how it affects elections.

Find updates on presenters and ticket information on the TEDxDurham website.