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Science Fiction & Medical Humanities: Special Issue CfP

4 Jul, 15 | by Deborah Bowman

Call for Papers for Medical Humanities

Science Fiction and the Medical Humanities

We are delighted to announce that Medical Humanities will be publishing a special issue: ‘Science Fiction and the Medical Humanities’. This edition of the journal will be guest edited by Dr Gavin Miller.

Themes

We invite papers of broad interest to an international readership of medical humanities scholars and practising clinicians on the topic ‘Science Fiction and the Medical Humanities’.

Science fiction is a fertile ground for the imagining of biomedical advances. Technologies such as cloning, prosthetics, and rejuvenation are frequently encountered in science-fiction stories. Science fiction also offers alternative ideals of health and wellbeing, and imagines new forms of disease and suffering. The special issue seeks papers that explore issues of health, illness, and medicine in science-fiction narratives within a variety of media (written word, graphic novel, theatre, dance, film and television, etc.).

We are also particularly interested in articles that explore the biomedical ‘technoscientific imaginary’: the culturally-embedded imagining of futures enabled by technoscientific innovation. We especially welcome papers that explore science-fiction tropes, motifs, and narratives within medical and health-related discourses, practices, and institutions. The question – how does the biomedical technoscientific imaginary permeate the everyday and expert worlds of modern medicine and healthcare? – may be a useful prompt for potential authors.

Subject areas might include but are not limited to:

• clinicians as science-fiction writers
• representations of medicine, health, disability, and illness in science-fiction literature, cinema, and other media
• the use and misuse of science fiction in public engagement with biomedical science and technology
• utopian narratives of miraculous biomedical progress (and their counter-narratives)
• socio-political critique in medical science fiction (via cognitive estrangement, critical utopias, etc.)
• science fiction as stimulus to biomedical research and technology (e.g. science-fiction prototyping)
• science-fiction tropes, motifs and narratives in medical publicity, research announcements, promotional material, etc.
• the visual and material aesthetic of science fiction in medicine and healthcare settings

Publication

Up to 10 articles will be published in Medical Humanities in 2016.

All articles will be blind peer-reviewed according to the journal’s editorial policies. Final publication decisions will rest with the Editor-in-Chief, Professor Deborah Bowman.

Important Dates

Please submit your article no later than 1 March 2016

Submission Instructions

Articles for Medical Humanities should be a maximum of 5,000 words, and submitted via the journal’s website. Please choose the special issue ‘Science Fiction and the Medical Humanities’ during the submission process.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of your submission, including possible topics, or the possibility of presenting your work under the auspices of the Wellcome Trust funded project ‘Science Fiction and the Medical Humanities’, please contact the Guest Editor in the first instance:  Dr Gavin Miller (gavin.miller@glasgow.ac.uk)

Khalid Ali: Fil Review ‘Mediterranea’

26 May, 15 | by Ayesha Ahmad

 

Lambert Wilson, actor and musician, Master of Ceremonies of Cannes Film Festival 2014, said “The world is written in an incomprehensible language, but cinema translates it for us universally. Without its guiding light, each person would remain in isolated darkness”. Exactly a year later in May 2015, an Italian film “Mediterranea” directed by Jonas Carpignano, sheds a light into the trials and tribulations of illegal African immigrants in Europe.

more…

Sarah West: Film Review ‘Alive Inside’

26 May, 15 | by Ayesha Ahmad

It is because we live in a society where we tend to commit vulnerable members such as people with dementia to care institutions that we need documentaries like “Alive inside”. This very moving film, winner of the “Audience Award” at the Sundance Film Festival, 2014, follows a New York based social worker Dan Cohen as he volunteers in a nursing home, takes music to the isolated residents suffering from dementia, and in the process brings them alive before our very eyes. Sharing music with nursing home residents is a relatively easy task with the undeniable power of music to stir emotions and lift mood. The novel and creative use of iPods and MP3 players with personalised playlists proves to be an effective therapy for people with dementia who have lost their identity and connection with their loved ones.

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The Forgiveness Project: Stories for a Vengeful Age

26 Apr, 15 | by Deborah Bowman

Images of Eva Kor embracing former SS guard, Oskar Groening, at his trial in Lueneberg this week have been shared on social media and in newspapers worldwide. These images, and the responses to them, reveal much about the complex, surprising, inspiring and challenging, sometimes even threatening, nature of forgiveness. Our relationship with forgiveness, collective and individual, is always nuanced and often ambivalent. It is a slippery, shape-shifting concept that rarely exists without an undercurrent of emotion. Forgiveness can be experienced as both restorative and undermining. It may be perceived as noble and a betrayal. We may aspire to it even as we fear it. Forgiveness is a force that may be resisted or harnessed or, perhaps more often than we acknowledge, both.

 

Few have thought more about forgiveness than Maina Cantacuzino. Ten years ago she founded The Forgiveness Project. Last year, saw a series of outstanding events to celebrate a decade of its work culminating in the publication of a book – The Forgiveness Project: Stories for a Vengeful Age. It is a remarkable text that manages in a slim volume to capture the significance and unique approach of The Forgiveness Project and, in doing so, captures why its work matters more than ever.

 

Central to the book and to the work of The Forgiveness Project are stories. Those stories offer an unmediated insight into this demanding, elusive, inspiring and troubling thing we call ‘forgiveness’. It provides space, without judgement or commentary, for people to reflect on and to share what forgiveness means for them.

 

It is these narratives that form the basis of the book, although Marina Cantacuzino’s introductory essay – “As Mysterious as Love” – is an outstandingly thoughtful, and thought-provoking, exploration of forgiveness and her own personal and professional relationship with it. The book also carries two rich and insightful forewords from Desmond Tutu and Alexander McCall Smith. Yet, it is the forty individual stories that follow the introduction and forewords that form the essence of this unique work.

 

Some of those who come to The Forgiveness Project are well-known people whose capacity for compassion and empathy towards those who have caused devastation has prompted fascinated media attention across the world. Others are less familiar names but their stories are equally urgent and compelling. There is neither formula nor any sentimentality to be found. Anyone seeking sentimental salve will be disappointed. Nor do tropes of heroism or survival occur often. What is offered instead is much harder and ultimately more rewarding. These are accounts that are authentic, sometimes painful, often surprising and always affecting.

 

It is not merely the content of these stories that is noteworthy. The form reflects the discomforting and urgent nature of the tales told. All the individual contributions are short, few extend beyond five pages and the language is direct, plain and unflinching. There is force in the form. It propels the narrative, unadorned and untamed, searing each account in our memories and unsettling our own perceptions of forgiveness. The stories are presented with little in the way of preamble and often begin at points of loss, crisis and despair. The ways in which each of these accounts breaches the reader’s consciousness reflects the nature of the experiences described. These stories, like the events they relate, arrive unbidden and unexpectedly, without warning or invitation. They interrupt and disrupt. The language is spare, sometimes even brutal, and simple belying their daunting legacies. These are collisions with strangers that can change the direction of a life, or at the least, the beliefs one holds about a life.

 

These stories reveal that the force of forgiveness is often experienced viscerally. Its charge is both negative and positive. Within the book, there are no homilies or sermons about its normative value or otherwise. It is simply there: unfiltered and demanding our attention. Whether it is resisted, embraced, explored or ignored, its force cannot be avoided. A number of contributors note that it may be easier to define forgiveness by what it is not and, in so doing, they challenge much of the received wisdom about what constitutes forgiveness and why it matters. Others are less interested in definitions and the boundaries of the concept. All those who have contributed to the book attend to meaning in all its infinite variety. These are fluid explorations for alongside the meditations on forgiveness, are reflections on what it means to have hope, to be loyal, to restore dignity and ultimately to be human. That these ideas emerge from the rubble of lives shattered by loss, cruelty and destruction is not only intensely moving, but serves as testament to Marina Cantacuzino’s transformative work both in creating this book and leading The Forgiveness Project.

Prof. Deborah Bowman

Editor, Medical Humanities

St George’s, University of London

Email: dbowman@sgul.ac.uk

Twitter: @deborahbowman

 

Sarah West: Film Review ‘Wild Tales’

13 Apr, 15 | by Ayesha Ahmad

What separates us from living like animals? And what calamity or force does it take to unleash our primal instincts?

 

“Wild Tales” is a compendium of satirical short stories about the pain and pressure points of modern 21st Century life and specifically what happens to the Latin spirit under duress. What delirious lengths do we go to when the pressure of injustice reaches boiling point and something inside us snaps, when all social constraints are abandoned and our spirits are liberated to express our hidden rage and seek bloody revenge. It is a wild ride, visually exciting, full of imaginative twists, and not a breath of the script is wasted.

more…

Franco Ferrarini: Film Review ‘Still Alice’

13 Apr, 15 | by Ayesha Ahmad

Alice Howland (Julianne Moore) is a good-looking fifty-year-old successful professor of linguistics; her loving husband (Alec Baldwin) is a brilliant research physician, she has three beautiful children, a brownstone in the Upper West side and a house at the Hamptons. This is the perfect stage for an impending disaster; in fact after some episodes of forgetfulness, a medical work-up gives the disaster a name: early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease. From then on directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland depict the relentless downhill course of the disease, sparing the viewer only its excruciating terminal stages.

more…

Ayesha Ahmad: Maslaha Workshop for Medical Students: Practical implications of working with diverse communities

1 Apr, 15 | by Ayesha Ahmad

Narrative is an increasingly potent concept for medical educators; developed as a tool to un-cover the patient experience as well as to illustrate the nuances where empathy has a place to fill the gap between the patient and their doctor.

Medical humanities, then, has an integral role for students learning how to become a doctor; and not just merely a doctor; but ‘Tomorrow’s Doctor’ as envisioned by the General Medical Council.

Narratives require that there is space especially within the clinical encounter to be expressed and received. Of course, medical practice elicits narratives containing some of the most significant elements of the human condition. As well as the narratives being diverse encompassing different beliefs surrounding the meaning of life, death, illness, and health, then, so are the narrators. This means that it is necessary for doctors to be trained in perceiving and receiving another person’s story. This is a moral endeavour and also one of justice in the context of a healthcare system that is based on equality and non-discrimination.

more…

The Reading Room: A review of ‘The Development of Narrative Practices in Medicine c.1960-2000’

1 Apr, 15 | by cquigley

 

The Development of Narrative Practices in Medicine c.1960-2000

Jones E M, Tansey E M. (eds) (2015) Wellcome Witnesses to Contemporary Medicine, vol. 52. London: Queen Mary University of London.

 

Reviewed by Ben Chisnall, Medical Student, King’s College London, UK

 

“Narrative medicine” is a term used to refer to a number of analytical and interpretative approaches towards medical practice and interactions between patients and doctors. Its remit is broad, and encompassed within its boundaries are examinations of the personal and professional stories of doctors and patients, the sense-making processes of medical discourse, literary representations of medicine and its practitioners, and the scrutiny of medical forms of writing. Yet it remains a nebulous term, and this book – a transcript of the Wellcome Witness Seminar held at Queen Mary, University of London in June 2013 – brings together many of the individuals who have driven the development of narrative medicine studies in the UK, USA and Europe to provide insight into the scholarly currents which have shaped the field as it stands today.

The book takes the form of a discussion in which a series of narrative accounts are provided by academics and clinicians, many of whom can be regarded as protagonists of the narrative medicine movement. These narratives chart the chronological development of narrative medical studies and the reasons behind its integration into universities and medical schools. What comes across as a major concern of those involved is the desire to better hear the voice of the patient, and to incorporate the patient’s perspective into the thought processes of doctors.

The discussion begins in the 1960s and 1970s, with the introduction of humanities academics into US medical schools. The two main reasons for this, the book suggests, were the desire to provide a more balanced education for medical students, and – as Professor Kathryn Montgomery explains – to “keep [students] interested in patients as they went through the great grinder.”

What is hinted at but not answered in the discussion is whether the interest in what is now referred to as “patient-centred care” within the medical profession prompted a reaching out towards the humanities, or whether the development of narrative medicine and medical humanities departments drove the medical interest in understanding the patient’s perspective. One suspects that these explanations are both correct, and that a gradual alignment of interests between clinicians and humanities academics led to a shared interest in narrative practice in medicine.

The book also touches on larger social trends which may have driven and been driven by increasing interest in narrative medicine. The growth in popularity of celebrity illness memoirs – examples given in the text by Professor Arthur Frank include the Newsweek journalist Stewart Alsop’s column about his leukaemia, and the personal accounts of breast cancer by journalist Betty Rollin and First Lady Betty Ford – indicate a growing desire to hear the voice of a patient and their experiences and interpretations of their own disease and interactions with the medical profession. A recent and useful regular addition to the British Medical Journal entitled “What your patient is really thinking” is a good illustration of how patient voices have come to be valued and their experiences seen as enlightening both for doctors and for lay readers and listeners.

Alongside the development of narrative medicine has been the establishment of medical ethics as a field of study in its own right, which the book identifies as a parallel and reinforcing influence on narrative medicine. Literature and narrative can be used to apply ethical concepts in practical situations, and stories can provide the shift in perspective needed to understand complex ethical dilemmas. Yet as Arthur Frank highlights in the discussion, medical ethics as a discipline does not capture the element of suffering inherent in narratives of illness; this is where narrative medicine can act as an influential force on ethics.

Whilst these developments were happening in the English-speaking academy, narrative medicine in mainland Europe – as described here by Professor Jens Brockmeier from the American University of Paris – looked more towards influences from psychiatry, psychoanalysis and Freud. What emerges is the sense of the ideas behind psychoanalysis working their way into the medical academy through the growth of psychiatry as a scientific discipline during the 20th Century. So too is the study of hermeneutics, which runs through much European analytical literature, applied to the process of medical interpretation: of texts, tests and tales of patients.

The discussion in the book is far-ranging in theme and chronology, and contributions are well marshalled by Professor Brian Hurwitz in the chair. It provides valuable and thought-provoking insights into the beginnings of the narrative medicine movement, and the various and geographically diverse voices captured in the text give a heterogenous feel befitting the nature of the subject under consideration. Although narrative medicine is currently a specialised area of study, the topics under discussion in the text are accessible and applicable for those unfamiliar with the field.

Reading the book brought to mind the influence of those principles at the heart of narrative medicine on the reporting of and reactions to two scandals in the NHS which have been in the public consciousness recently – the Francis Report into the standards of care at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust, and the revelations of abuse at a number of NHS hospitals by Jimmy Saville in the 1960s and 1970s. Mention is made in the discussion of a “crisis of compassion” in the modern NHS, and the poor standards of care at Mid Staffs were uncovered when patient voices – many of whom were elderly, and therefore less likely to command attention – were listened to and acted upon. Similarly, the rise to prominence of the voice of patients after years of dismissal led to an investigation into Saville’s abuse. These are prime illustrations of not only the impact that narrative can have on modern healthcare, but also on how the ideas behind narrative medicine delineated in this book have become widespread and valued.

Medicine Unboxed: Students 2015 – An Invitation to Participate

24 Mar, 15 | by Deborah Bowman

Medicine Unboxed: Students 2015 – Call for Participation

 

Medicine Unboxed aims to inspire debate and cultural change in healthcare. Medicine today exists at a time of extraordinary scientific knowledge and therapeutic possibility but faces challenging moral, political and social questions. Medicine Unboxed engages the general public and healthcare audiences with a view of medicine that points to human experience, ethical reflection and political debate alongside scientific achievement. We believe the arts can illuminate this perspective, inspire conversation on the values implicit to good medicine and foster a sense of awe and wonder. Our annual events – Unboxed (2009), Stories (2010), Values (2011), Belief (2012), Voice (2013) and Frontiers (2014) – attract audiences of over 300 people, and draw writers, politicians, philosophers, musicians, performers, theologians and artists into dialogue with clinicians and patients. These events are theatrical, moving and challenging. Our event this year, on 21-22 November in Cheltenham, explores Mortality.

 

Now in its third year, the Medicine Unboxed: Students event brings students of the arts, health and medicine together to share, explore and converse, drawing on the unique perspective and experience of being a student or in the early stages of a profession. Medicine Unboxed: Students 2015 takes place on the afternoon of Friday 20th November and we are seeking proposals for participation in this event and to be interns for Mortality.

 

Medicine Unboxed thrives on diversity and inclusivity. We are particularly keen to welcome students (undergraduate or postgraduate) from all backgrounds, including (but not limited to) art, drama, music, medicine, literary studies, philosophy and allied health subjects. You can submit a proposal in one of four broad categories:

 

  1. Provocations and Debates– proposals are likely to focus on a contested aspect of health, illness and its treatment and/or to explicitly engage with multiple points of view;
  2. Exhibitions and Performance– submissions in this category are likely to be creative e.g. poetry readings, monologues, excerpts from plays, creative writing, musical performances, stand-up comedy, art exhibits, short films etc.
  3. Workshops and Interaction– proposals may include experiential activities such as drawing, creative writing, singing and voice activities, improvisation etc or an interactive approach to a question or concept.
  4. Conversations– submissions in this category are likely to take the form of short papers or prompt material presented to, and discussed with, the audience.

 

Proposals may be from individuals or groups. They should be no longer than 500 words and include the i) title, ii) format, iii) names and affiliations of the people involved and iv) a summary of the contribution proposed. You should also indicate in which category you would like your proposal to be considered.

 

Please email your proposal by 6 July 2015 to Dr. Sam Guglani (sam@medicineunboxed.org). All proposals will be reviewed by the advisory group for Medicine Unboxed: Students and decisions will be communicated by 20 July 2015. 8 winning entries will be selected to present at Medicine Unboxed: Students (20th November 2015) and to act as interns for Mortality (21-22 November 2015) with travel and accommodation for the weekend included as part of the award.

 

 

Follow:             @medicineunboxed and @MUstudents

Explore:           http://mustudents.wordpress.com/ and http://medicineunboxed.org

Join:                 https://www.facebook.com/groups/175072369272118/?fref=ts

Mail list:          https://www.facebook.com/medicineunboxed/app_100265896690345

 

 

ePatients: The Medical, Ethical and Legal Repercussions of Blogging and Micro-Blogging Experiences of Illness and Disease – Call for Papers and Conference Details

22 Mar, 15 | by Deborah Bowman

Queen’s University Belfast, 11-12 September 2015 Call for Papers

Referring to the growth of online patient-initiated resources, including medical blogs, the BMJ noted in a 2004 editorial that we were witnessing ‘the most important technocultural medical revolution of the past century’. Ten years later, the controversy caused by Bill Keller’s opinion piece in the New York Times (‘Heroic Measures’, January 2014) and a blogpost on the Guardian US website criticising Lisa Bonchek Adams’s decision to tweet her experience of breast cancer, remind us of the ongoing sensitivities surrounding online patient narratives and the complex relationship between the world of medicine and social media. Emma Keller, the freelance journalist (and wife of Bill Keller) who questioned Adams’s use of twitter to discuss terminal illness, wrote the following: ‘Should there be boundaries in this kind of experience? Is there such a thing as TMI? Are her tweets a grim equivalent of deathbed selfies? Why am I so obsessed?’ Adams, in emails to the Guardian, said that the column was ‘callous’ in its treatment of her and noted that the blogpost was riddled with inaccuracies and quoted a private direct message without permission.

As debates on the ethics, dynamics and even legal repercussions of online patient narratives become more prevalent, an international, interdisciplinary conference at Queen’s University Belfast, hosted by the Health Humanities Project Research Group at the Institute for Collaborative Research in the Humanities, will focus on how those with life-threatening or incurable illness use social media, as well as the medical, ethical and potential legal consequences of online accounts of pain, suffering and the clinical experience. We welcome paper proposals dealing with ePatient accounts from a variety of countries and cultures which address the following questions:

  •   What does the rise in social media (“web 2.0”) participation by patients tell us about the ways in which the growing influence of e-patients is challenging the power structures of traditional healthcare and, as a result, proving contentious?
  •   In what ways might social media narratives of illness be seen as a useful source of information for medics? What, conversely, are their limitations?
  •   How do patients influence their online followers, and vice-versa?
  •   What are the ethical issues involved in documenting ‘the public deathbed’?
  •   What are the potential legal consequences of publicly chronicling the clinical experience?

250-word proposals for 20-minute papers (or three-paper panels), in English, should be sent to Dr Steven Wilson by email attachment at the following address: steven.wilson@qub.ac.uk. The deadline for receipt of proposals is Friday 3 April 2015.

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