The University of Glasgow Medical Humanities Network invites contributions to its 2-day workshop ‘The Gut-Brain Axis’: Cultural and Historical Perspectives, on 4-5 May 2018, at the University of Glasgow.
Research into the so-called ‘gut-brain axis’ has seen extraordinary growth in the past decade as microbiologists, neurologists and nutrition scientists have discovered new ways in which these supposedly separate parts of the body interact. Whereas our guts, brains, nervous systems, and behaviour were thought to be distinct, increasing evidence shows that the boundaries between them are more porous. Both scientific and popular interest in the topic continues apace, with a constant stream of publications aimed at specialist and lay audiences, and the first international Gut-Brain Axis Summit taking place in San Francisco in December 2017.
Important work has also been undertaken on gastro-psychic connections by researchers from the history of medicine, literature and psychology, but so far, there has been little in the way of a coordinated, targeted contribution to the debate on the gut-brain relationship from the humanities and the social sciences.
This workshop will consider the value of cultural and historical perspectives on the relationship between the gut and the brain, an area of our lives that so emphatically crosses somatic, emotional and psychological experiences. The event will engage with this topic from a critical perspective, not only taking new approaches but also asking:
- What are the risks or challenges involved in studying the gut-brain relationship from perspectives beyond the strictly biological or the clinical?
- How can disciplines beyond science contribute to the understanding of this area of human experience? How does a humanities and social sciences approach differ from and / or enrich scientific research on the gut-brain axis?
- What can a cultural and historical perspective on digestive health achieve?
- How might different cultural understandings of the gut-brain relationship be communicated to scholars in the sciences, non-academic audiences, and public health practitioners and organisations?
- Who might the audiences be for this form of research?
Topics may include but are not limited to:
- The implications of categories such as race, class, age, or gender on understandings of the gut-brain relationship
- Variations across nations and cultures in understanding the links between the gut and brain
- The history of the gut-brain relationship
- Shifting definitions of ‘the gut’ and ‘the brain’ according to discipline, nation or time period
- The construction of the gut-brain relationship through productions such as literature, the visual arts, and film
- The ways in which links between the gut and the brain might contribute to our understanding of what it is to be human
Contributions are invited from scholars in any area of the humanities and the social sciences, but preference may be given to papers focusing on the modern period (1800 to the present). Papers focusing on non-Western nations are strongly encouraged, as are proposals from postgraduate and early career researchers.
The confirmed keynote speaker for this event is Professor Elizabeth Williams (Oklahoma State University), who has published seminal articles on psycho-gastric conditions in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. She is currently completing a study of scientific and medical thinking about the appetite for food from the Enlightenment to the mid-twentieth century.
Proposals of 250 words for 15-20 minute papers, along with a 150-word biography, should be sent to Manon Mathias by 2 February 2018.