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Shawnee State University’s Professor Sean Dunne delivered presentations in Dublin and Cambridge


July 1


Dr. Sean Dunne presented research at conferences in Dublin, Ireland and Cambridge, England.

Dr. Sean Dunne, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Shawnee State University, presented research at conferences in Dublin, Ireland and Cambridge, England during the month of June.

Dunne’s first presentation was at the 12th European Association for Sociology of Sport Conference held at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland from June 10 to June 13. He presented a paper titled, “#WeAreTrayvonMartin: The racially packaged NBA commodity and the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin.”

Dunne’s presentation utilized Walter Benjamin’s concept of the dialectical image to contextualize racial narratives in the contemporary United States. It examined techniques employed by the National Basketball Association (NBA) in the racial packaging of its product, which includes the selection of commentators, the content of commentary, the NBA’s dress code and the NBA’s minimum age requirement. The paper incorporated the NBA's commodification of black masculinity within a dialectical image that also includes written and visual texts found within the reactions to the fatal shooting of Travyon Martin. This dialectical image is used to illuminate tensions that carefully packaged racial narratives, such as those found in the NBA, attempt to keep hidden. The presentation concluded by asking if the recent resurgence of athlete activists in American professional sport is indicative of a medium expressing its transformative capabilities, or if it merely represented a revised method of producing foggy mist for decaying aura.

Dunne then traveled to the annual conference of the International Social Theory Consortium at Cambridge University in Cambridge, England from June 18 to 19 and presented another paper titled “Deconstructing Natural Death: Reconstructing Death as a Socioecological Outcome.”

This presentation sought to deconstruct the use of “natural death” in a discussion that will identify historical developments and social institutions that condition formal and informal definitions of death. Situating “natural death” within legal and medical discourses opens it up to a critical interrogation that exposes the assumptions that are required for the continued use of the phrase. By contrasting “natural death” with “unnatural death,” and by questioning “natural life” and “unnatural life,” this presentation will not aim to substitute a “social death” for a “natural death.” Instead, it proposed to eliminate the use of the phrase “natural death” and reconstruct the conceptualization of death as a collaboration of soicoecological actants. This reconstruction refuted the implied “naturalization” of leading causes of death, as it includes history, institutions and society in the understanding of heart disease, cancer and chronic lower respiratory diseases. Dunne’s presentation concluded by suggesting how revised conceptualizations of death can assist in critical understandings of life in contemporary society.


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