What does it mean to ‘think culturally’ about medical and health humanities?
Earlier this year, I attended the Oslo Cultural Crossings of Care conference, which intended to discuss health humanities ‘across boundaries.’ The aim was a noble one, and I think quite successful (we hope to share some more articles from that conference in the future at MH). However, one thing has become increasingly clear to me and to my colleagues at this conference and others: representation still tends to be largely Eurocentric (or US and Eurocentric). That is, Western. One practical hurdle has to do with location and cost; travel to an international conference in Europe is often out of the question for those beyond European borders. But there are others as well, and for that I reflect on my ten years at Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry, a medical anthropology journal. Though the content might frequently focus on cultures from rain-forest tribes to Aboriginal Australians, Cambodian refugees to sub-Saharan nomads, the authors rarely came from any of those places. It meant a lot of talk about and for these cultures, and rarely *from* them. Over the years, and under the leadership of CMP’s the then-editor, we worked hard to change that. However, so much of what we accept in academic journals relies on standards that privilege white and Western ideals, that even seeing the problem is difficult–solving it much more so. What the conference in Oslo sought to do, and what we at Medical Humanities seeks to do, is to begin real dialogue not just about, but with, culturally diverse groups.
“With” is a powerful word. Last year, our focus was on building conversation among the different fields that coalesce as medical and health humanities. This year, we want to expand that conversation and participate with burgeoning networks like MHHA (Medical and Health Humanities Africa) and others in the Global South. We plan to extend invitations to write for our blog to researchers and practitioners from India to the Middle East. And we hope to see more journal articles and special issues from these diverse areas as well. 2019, we hope, will begin an ever broadening emphasis on Global Outreach.
Given our present moment, with crises of health brought about by climate change, political upheaval, social injustice, and the straining of public health systems, we must seek international and cross-cultural dialogue. Global problems need global communication and an understanding that those most likely to be affected by crisis—those most vulnerable to the exigencies of system failure—are also the least like to be heard. It is with great pleasure that I anticipate our December issue, with a focus on Africa, from Africa, to begin the process.
Brandy Schillace, Editor
*Photo attribution, public commons, By AngMoKio. – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14642507