North West Medical Humanities Postgraduate Network Interdisciplinarity Workshop, 19 April 2018

On 19 April 2018, I attended the Interdisciplinarity Workshop held by the North West Medical Humanities Postgraduate Network at the sunny duck-filled campus that is Lancaster University. The day began with an enthusiastic welcome address from the two workshop organisers: PhD candidates Erin Bramwell and Natalie Mullen. For the keynote address the organisers chose Dr James Stark (Associate Professor of Medical Humanities at Leeds University), who presented his research on historical imagery of hand hygiene. The video clips and posters that Dr Stark exhibited deeply resonated with my research on physician-writer and parasitologist Colonel Sir Ronald Ross (1852-1932). I feel sure Ross would have enjoyed the clips of germs personified as nefarious soldiers with names like Brigadier Blood-Poison!

Panel One was entitled ‘Therapeutic Spaces’. Matilda Blackwell (University of Birmingham) kicked-off the panel with a paper on queer bodies in both the asylum bathroom and the Turkish bath through an examination of the works of Emily Holmes Coleman, Antonia White and Katherine Mansfield. Matilda argued that queer expression and community was enabled by using the therapeutic bathroom as a space in which heteropatriarchal relationships were challenged. Felix Goodbody (University of Liverpool) spoke about the 1942 Hospital Survey and the beginnings of the NHS. Felix’s examination of the survey uncovered the context in which it was written, as well as the agenda of the policy makers and the notions they had for the future of healthcare in Britain. Marie Allitt (University of York) showed the audience wonderful images of buildings repurposed to create a hospital space for First World War patients (spaces included everything from chateaus to churches and from casinos to racecourses), suggesting that the juxtaposing uses of the spaces are potentially uncanny.

‘Personal Stories and Autobiographies’ was the theme of Panel Two. This panel featured Eleni Theodoropoulou (University of Liverpool) on ‘The socio-cultural associations of drug use and recovery: empirical data from Athens’. Eleni’s research focused on how addiction is acted upon in particular places at particular times. More specifically, she focused on social and political struggles due to drug policy while showing striking images taken by recovering addicts in Athens. Next on the panel, I talked about Sir Ronald Ross’s battle to secure scientific priority in his Memoirs: with a full account of the great malaria problem and its solution. Mainly, my presentation concentrated on the consistent use of First World War imagery in Ross’s memoirs. More specifically, I examined how this imagery was used to ensure an emotional resonance with the contemporaneous readership. Christine Stadler (Chemnitz University of Technology) with a paper entitled ‘Je sont des autres – AIDS and the fragmented self in Herve Guibert’s Le Paradis’. For her paper, Christine utilised literary discourse analysis in order to showcase how the narrative voice reflects AIDS discourse, evidencing the potential of Le Paradisas a social commentary.

The final panel of the day was on ‘Power, Medical Authority, and Patient Agency’. Louise Tomkow (University of Manchester) began with a paper on the relationship between health and forced migration. Louise focused on three main themes: ‘nostalgia, powerlessness and health’, ‘governmentality, biopolitics and health’ and ‘liminality, precarity and health’. Louise presented incredibly thought-provoking information from her interviews with forced migrants. Last, but certainly by no means least, Beata Gubacsi (University of Liverpool) presented a paper on ‘Stigmatisation and Posthuman Care in Octavia Butler’s “The Evening and the Morning and the Night”. In her paper Beata examined the institutionalised stigmatisation of mental and genetic disease and the effects of long-term illness and chronic pain in relation to empathy and agency in care.

The aim of the interdisciplinarity workshop was to begin connecting researchers with an interest in Medical Humanities at the start of their careers. I am sure I can speak for all attendees when I say that Erin and Natalie certainly achieved that. It was such a pleasure to listen to every research paper and to contemplate the links between vastly different research topics in the field of Medical Humanities.

I hope to see you all at another event soon!

Charlotte Orr is a second year PhD candidate in Medical Humanities at the University of Glasgow. Her thesis examines the writings and reception of Sir Ronald Ross (1857-1932) primarily utilising the Ross Collection archive at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. She is a current Hunterian Associate, working with the museum to create public engagement events on Sir Ronald Ross and his network of celebrity-physician friends. She has recently co-founded the University of Glasgow’s Medical Humanities PG/postdoc Discussion Group.


Mind Reading: The Role of Narrative in Physical and Mental Health and The Experience of Illness, 18-19 June 2018, University of Birmingham.

mind reading image



18th-19th June 2018

University of Birmingham

Do clinicians and patients speak the same language? How might we bridge the evident gaps in communication? How can we use narrative to foster clinical relationships? Or to care for the carers? How does illness impact upon our sense of self?

This two-day programme of talks and workshops is a collaboration between the University of BirminghamUCD Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Diseases of Modern Life and Constructing Scientific Communities Projects at St Anne’s College, Oxford. Together we seek to explore productive interactions between narrative and mental health both historically and in the present day. Bringing together psychologists, psychiatrists, philosophers, GPs, service users, and historians of literature and medicine, we will investigate the patient experience through the prism of literature and personal narrative to inform patient-centred care and practice, and focus on ways in which literature might be beneficial in cases of burnout and sympathy fatigue.





If you have any questions or concerns, please get in touch with Dr Melissa Dickson at

BSA Regional Postgraduate Event: Empirical Research on Drug and Alcohol Use: Methodological concerns, ethical practices and the question of impact

BSA-PGR event May 11

One of our wonderful speakers from our Interdisciplinary Medical Humanities Workshop last week, Eleni Theodoropoulou, invited you to the BSA regional postgraduate event she is organising. The event is ‘Empirical Research on Drug and Alcohol Use: Methodological Concerns, Ethical Practices and the Question of Impact’. It’s being held on 11 May at the University of Liverpool.
Eleni has stressed that although it is themed around drug/alcohol research, the topics for discussion will cover a wide range of methods. It will therefore be relevant to postgraduate researchers in the social sciences.
To make an enquiry or book please contact Eleni via email:

Programme for the North West Medical Humanities PG Network Interdisciplinary Workshop, 19 April 2018.

The programme for the first workshop to be hosted by the North West Medical Humanities Postgraduate Network is now availble. We have some fantastic papers from a range of disciplinary backgrounds given by individuals working in the Medical Humanities. The event is free to attend so please register here.


North West Medical Humanities Postgraduate Network Interdisciplinarity Workshop

Lancaster University, 19 April 2018


9.30 Registration


10.00 Welcome address


10.10 Keynote speaker:

‘Germs on Film: Historic Imagery and Hand Hygiene’

Dr James Stark, Associate Professor of Medical Humanities at Leeds University


11.15 Coffee break


11.30 Panel One: Therapeutic Spaces

Chaired by Erin Bramwell, Lancaster University


Matilda Blackwell, University of Birmingham, ‘Queering the Water-Cure: Fluid Sexualities in the Therapeutic Bathroom Spaces of Emily Holmes Coleman, Antonia White and Katherine Mansfield’


Felix Goodbody, University of Liverpool, ‘‘Small, noisy, and awkwardly shaped.’ The 1942 Hospital Survey and early hopes for a National Health Service’


Marie Allitt, University of York, ‘Palimpsestic Aesthetics in First World War Medical Spaces’


13.00 Lunch


14.00 Panel Two: Personal Stories and Autobiographies

Chair TBC


Eleni Theodoropoulou, University of Liverpool, ‘The socio-cultural associations of drug use and recovery: empirical data from Athens’


Charlotte Orr, University of Glasgow, ‘‘What Science Has Done to Me’: Sir Ronald Ross’s Battle for Scientific Priority in Memoirs: with a full account of the great malaria problem and its solution’


Christine Stadler, Chemnitz University of Technology, ‘Je sont des autres – AIDS and the fragmented self in Hervé Guibert’s Le Paradis


15.30 Coffee Break


16.00 Panel Three: Power, Medical Authority, and Patient Agency

Chaired by Natalie Mullen, Lancaster University


Louise Tomkow, University of Manchester, ‘How does forced migration affect health in later life?’


Botsa Katara, Durham University, ‘The Prosthetic Body: Abled, Disabled or Posthuman?’


Beata Gubacsi, University of Liverpool, ‘Stigmatisation and Posthuman Care in Octavia Butler’s ‘The Evening and the Morning and the Night’’.


17.30 Closing Address

17.45 Conference Close



Image: Tom Merry, A quack doctor selling remedies from his caravan (1889), CC. Wellcome Collection.

Establishing a North West Interdisciplinary Medical Humanities Postgraduate Network

As you will have seen from our Call for Papers, we are hosting a workshop at Lancaster University for PGRs and ECRs working in the Medical Humanities. This free one-day event is very kindly funded by the ESRC Interdisciplinary Event Fund. Correspondingly, the focus of the workshop will be on interdisciplinarity in this field, what it means to us, how we use it in our research, and how we can do it better. The ‘how we can do it better’ part, for us, is the underlying rationale for organizing this workshop. In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, goal-setting, and reflection, we wanted to write a short post about why we decided to host this workshop, what we hope it will achieve, and what we hope it might lead to in the long term.

First of all, we should start by explaining a little bit about ourselves and our backgrounds. Erin and I share an office in Lancaster University’s History Department. We’re both PhD students working in the Medical Humanities, Erin is in her second year and I’m in my third. Although we both work in areas that are within the field of Medical Humanities, we work on different topics. Erin researches patent medicine culture in twentieth-century Britain, and I research nineteenth- and twentieth-century asylums. Despite this, we often find that there are methodological overlaps between our projects, such as material and spatial approaches. Let us give you an example…

Last year I was writing a chapter on the material culture of the asylum and I was particularly interested in the relationship between the interior of the asylum and the interiors of Victorian middle-class homes. One of my sources is a collection of photographs of the rooms in Lancaster County Asylum, which show how they were decorated (figure 1). Erin was looking at one of these photographs on my laptop screen and remarked on the presence of mahogany in the room. Erin commented that mahogany frequently featured in early twentieth-century chemists that sold a whole host of ornate medicinal products (figure 2). Erin recommended Jennifer Anderson’s Mahogany (2012); this illuminated that mahogany was integral to middle-class aesthetics because of its association with luxury, having a variety of interesting implications for the domestic and commercial branches of our research.

Figure 1: Day Room in Lancaster County Asylum, c. 1890.


Figure 2: Boots store 274 – 7/8 Pride Hill, Shrewsbury (1922), Boots Company Archives, WBA/BT/21/46/1/801/2.


This conversation, and many others like it, made us reflect on how beneficial it is to be aware of the approaches other scholars are using to tackle the questions and problems that we work with in the Medical Humanities. In particular, we discussed how important it is to talk to people in other disciplines about how they might deal with a particular problem or question. What might they do differently? What will they notice that you’ve missed? What approaches are they using that you could adopt? We want our workshop on 19 April to be a platform for these kinds of questions. By focusing on how PGRs and ECRs in North West Universities are using interdisciplinary methods in their own research, we would like to provide an opportunity for people from different disciplines to inspire one another with methodological insights.

We hope that this will be a the first in a series of events run by the North West Interdisciplinary Medical Humanities Postgraduate Network. Each event will focus on a different aspect of Medical Humanities research for a PGR and ECR audience. We also hope that after the initial workshop, this blog can serve as an ongoing, interactive forum for those of us who want to ask for different perspectives and opinions on how we’re approaching our research questions. And of course, possibly above all else, we want to selfishly spend an entire day hearing about Medical Humanities projects!

The first workshop will take place on the 19 April 2018. To apply, send an abstract of 250 words for a 20 minute paper and a short biographical statement to by 1 February 2018. A limited number of postgraduate travel bursaries are available; please state if you wish to be considered when you submit your abstract.

We’re also keen to hear from you about ideas for potential blog posts, future workshops, conferences or other projects to promote a North West Medical Humanities PGR Network so do get in touch if you’d like to be involved.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Natalie Mullen and Erin Bramwell

CfP North West Interdisciplinary Medical Humanities Postgraduate Workshop, Lancaster University, 19 April 2018

We warmly invite participants to a one-day workshop at Lancaster University that focuses on the value of alternative methodologies in the medical humanities. Although our primary focus is North West based PGRs, we are also keen to welcome ECRs and participants from other institutions working in the medical humanities. We are particularly interested in bringing together researchers from numerous disciplines, including, but not limited to, history, sociology, English literature and language, linguistics, medicine, computer science, and psychology.

Topics for discussion include, but are not limited to:

  • Interdisciplinary research methodologies
  • Medical spaces and landscapes
  • Medicine and literature
  • Medicines as emotional and material objects
  • Medicine and the senses
  • Policy and healthcare
  • Photography
  • Linguistic and corpus-based approaches

Keynote address given by Dr James Stark (University of Leeds).

The workshop is intended for postgraduate students in any discipline whose work relates to the medical humanities. The event is free.

To apply, send an abstract of 250 words for a 20 minute paper and a short biographical statement to by 1 February 2018. A limited number of postgraduate travel bursaries are available; please state if you wish to be considered when you submit your abstract.


Header image: Four scenes of caricatural Mediaeval/Renaissance medical practitioners by Madeleine Kuijper Illustraties. Wellcome Images.