‘Being Well Together: human-animal collaboration, companionship and the promotion of health and wellbeing’ is a 3-day workshop that will be held at the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine (CHSTM) at the University of Manchester in September 2018. Being Well Together will critically examine the myriad ways humans have formed partnerships with nonhuman species to improve health across time and place.
The late twentieth century witnessed the simultaneous rise and diversification of varied entanglements of humans and animals in the pursuit of health and wellbeing. Clinical examples include the use of maggots to treat chronic wounds and the post-surgical use of leeches to aid healing. In wider society we might consider service animals, such as guide dogs, diabetes alert dogs, and emotional support animals. In the home pets are increasingly recognized to contribute to emotional wellbeing, with companion animals particularly important to those who are otherwise at risk of social isolation. Expanded to include concepts such as the ‘human’ microbiome in the opening decades of the twenty-first century, these entanglements may be recognized as ‘multispecies medicine’. In each case, human health and wellbeing rests on the cultivation of relationships with other species. Being well is a process of being well together.
We invite proposals to explore multispecies communication, collaboration and companionship in contexts of medicine, health and wellbeing. Areas of interest include, but are not limited to, the lived experience of health as a product of multispecies relations, the role of affect and emotion in the maintenance of human and nonhuman wellbeing, and the societal politics of ‘being well’ when ‘being well’ is a more than human condition. The lived experience of being well with animals can reshape understandings of health, wellbeing and disability; its study may provide new approaches to productively frame the relationship between the politics of animal and disability advocacy.
Participants will be drawn from a range of disciplines with interests spanning, though not restricted to, medical and environmental humanities. We aim to strike a balance between studies adopting historical perspectives and those which critically examine areas of contemporary practice. In bringing historical accounts into dialogue with present practices, Being Well Together will generate new perspectives on medicine, health and changing relations of human and animal life in society.
Titles and abstracts (400 words maximum) as well as general queries should be addressed to Rob Kirk and Neil Pemberton by Thursday 30 November 2017. Invited participants will provide a written draft paper for pre-circulation (6-8000 words maximum inclusive of references) by 31 July 2018. These ‘work-in-progress’ papers will be the starting point for discussions at the September workshop with a view to producing an edited volume. Accommodation and travel costs for invited participants will be covered by the organisers.
Being Well Together is the first in a series of activities supported by the Wellcome Trust (UK) Investigator Award, ‘Multispecies Medicine: Biotherapy and the Ecological Vision of Health and Wellbeing’. Based at the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, University of Manchester, this collaborative research project examines how, why and to what consequence, human and nonhuman life has become variously entangled within health, wellbeing and society.