Cultural crossings of care – an appeal to the medical humanities (CfP, Oslo, 26-27 October 2018)

Cultural crossings of care’ is a 2-day conference organised by the University of Oslo’s Knowledge in Translation (KNOWIT) and Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages. Honorary guest and speaker: Holberg Prize Winner and Professor Julia Kristeva, Université Paris Diderot. Key note speaker: Professor Marie Rose Moro, Université Paris Descartes. The call for papers is now open.

Modern medicine is confronted with cultural crossings in various forms. In facing these challenges, it is not enough to simply increase our insight into the cultural dimensions of health and well-being. We must, more radically, question the conventional distinction between the ‘objectivity of science’ and the ‘subjectivity of culture’. This obligation creates an urgent call for the medical humanities but also for a fundamental rethinking of their grounding assumptions.

The conference builds on a position paper published in the BMJ Medical Humanities. We invite papers that engage with the medical humanities in general and in particular with the position outlined in the paper.

We invite participants to submit abstracts of no more than 300 words. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to, the following:

1) A transcultural approach to medicine.  Such an approach should involve a radical concern with cultural dimensions of health as more than a subjective dimension outside the realm of medical science. We will explore the notions that all clinical encounters should be considered as cultural encounters in the sense that they  involve translation between health as a biomedical phenomenon and healing as lived experience. Cura’s crossings are not an exception but the norm.

2) A deconstruction of the difference between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ science. The humanities have creative and healing agency; they are not only instruments of care but of cure. This materially performative aspect of the humanities part of the medical humanities  constellation needs closer attention and further theorisation.

3) The medical cultures behind the production and construal of evidence.  As Kristeva has pointed out , the dominant evidence-based approach in modern medicine runs the risk of exalting biology into an ‘essential Being’ and a normative stasis  that turns the sick into persons who ‘lack [… ] certain biological aptitudes’. Based on this understanding of disease as a lack of full being (steresis), sickness and  difference are reduced to ‘categories of difference’: social and biological ‘deviants’ are seen as different in the same way. The biomedical discourse ‘blends all disabled people together without taking into consideration the specificity of  their sufferings and exclusions’. As an alternative to the epistemology of universal categories reducing difference to the same, the medical humanities should contribute to a ‘singularised’ approach to medicine. A singularized approach, however, is also different from merely considering the individual as a bearer of social/cultural meanings by including ‘patients’ preferences’ in clinical  decisions.

By tackling such fundamental issues, the conference  aims to be the impetus for a  radical revisioning of the role of the medical humanities in medical research and practice.

Abstracts should be submitted by 15 May 2018 via the conference webpage, where further information is also available. Notification of acceptance will be 15 June 2018.



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