Call For Participants: ‘Critical Medical Humanities’, Durham University (4 & 5 November 2013)

Organisers:  Felicity Callard, Will Viney, Angela Woods (Centre for Medical Humanities, Durham University)

To mark the conclusion of Durham University’s Centre for Medical Humanities’ Wellcome Trust Strategic Award, we are hosting an intense, future-orientated and interdisciplinary symposium.

We invite 50 applicants to join us at Durham University for a special, two-day event, ‘Critical Medical Humanities’, a forum dedicated to new and emerging areas of interdisciplinary research. As well as offering an opportunity to meet with scholars working across the humanities and social sciences, the meeting will interrogate and reinvigorate concepts, practices, and institutions that shape our understandings of health, illness and embodied experience. Organised around five ‘critical’ areas, plenary sessions will open into working groups with opportunities to debate points of contention or agreement, and to discuss participants’ current and future projects.

Critical Neuroscience Jan Slaby (Junior Professor in Philosophy of Mind and Emotion, Free University Berlin), Biocapital: A Template for a Critical Theory of the Neurosciences. With neuroscience playing an increasingly prominent role in a wide range of contemporary research, Slaby’s session on the political philosophy of mind will highlight the ways that neuroscientific findings connect wider, socioeconomic phenomena.

Critical Gender and Race Studies Mel Y. Chen (Associate Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies at U.C. Berkeley), Toxic Zones. This session will consider the ambivalent relations, markedly political and otherwise, that assemble around toxic sites, and will explore the peculiar way that toxicity focalises proximities and convergences between certain humans and certain nonhuman arrangements of matter, in orders of race, sexuality, ability, class. Chen will also address disability theory’s ambivalent positions ‘against health’ while highlighting the racial imbrications of such a position.

Critical Public Health Lynne Friedli (Centre for Welfare Reform) and Rob Stearn (Birkbeck College) Whistle as you Work for Nothing: Positive Affect as Coercive Strategy and the Case of ‘Workfare’. Joblessness and wellbeing are thought to be natural foes but what priorities are being set by government? Friedli’s work on social justice has suggested that some mental health programmes provide a means to monitor and control behaviour. Taking lessons from ‘workfare’, this session will explore the wider effects of contemporary public policy.

Critical Fertility Bronwyn Parry (Professor in Social Science, Health & Medicine, Kings College London), title tbc. Parry’s work explores how biomedicine is changing how, where and with whom we reproduce. This session will examine how human-environment relations are being re-cast by technological, economic and regulatory change.

Critical Collaborations Andrew Goffey (Associate Professor, Faculty of Arts, University of Nottingham), ‘Immune from Criticism: A Case Study in the Ecology of Practices’. Goffey’s session will examine the relations between science and culture tacit in a range of studies that have considered the central importance of immunology to modern Western thinking about health and illness. It will develop an “ecology of practices” (Stengers) approach to the challenges of the medical humanities. 

Places for this event are limited. We particularly encourage early career researchers to participate, and will offer a number of early career researchers the opportunity to be first respondent and/or chair for sessions relevant to their area of research. There is no registration fee and all refreshments will be provided, including a delegates’ dinner.[1]

Applications are now closed. Confirmation of whether your application has been accepted will be sent by Friday 20 September.


[1] We are unable to cover transport or accommodation. Durham University is accessible by train (Durham station) and by plane (Newcastle Airport). There are a variety of accommodation options in Durham.


Further questions about this event should be directed to Catherine Syson: mail.cmh [at] durham.ac.uk

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