NNMHR Congress 2023: Call for Submissions


what matters for critical medical humanities now & how does critical medical humanities matter?

NNMHR Congress, online, 19-21 April 2023

  • What does the ‘critical’ in critical medical humanities mean to you?
  • What has critical medical humanities accomplished in the past ten years, and to what extent has it delivered on its early claims and promises?
  • What is happening in the field today (and conversely, what is not happening enough)? Where is this happening, who is involved, and who and what has been left out or marginalised in this turn?
  • What should be the aims and ambitions of critical medical humanities for the next ten years? What forms of material change should the field seeks to bring about, in what sites and settings, how, and for whom?

‘Critical’ is a mobile and multifaceted term that signifies differently according to context. It can imply urgency and importance, perhaps even danger or crisis; it might suggest productive analysis and evaluation on one hand, or scepticism, negativity and fault-finding on the other; for many scholars it brings to mind the literary, philosophical and political traditions of critique.

This congress marks a decade since the ‘critical’ turn in medical humanities. It takes as its starting point an experimental symposium hosted by Durham University in late 2013, which sparked a series of conversations around the ‘critical’ that fundamentally reshaped the field. Reframing the critical as collaborative and ‘entangled’ rather than necessarily oppositional, and emphasising the benefits of cross-disciplinary collaboration, methodological experimentation, creative risk taking and reflective practice, ‘critical’ medical humanities was proposed as a way of moving beyond a servile or antagonistic relation to medicine and practices of healthcare (Viney et al 2015). Ten years later, this congress invites a consideration of the extent to which the early promises of critical medical humanities have or have not been fulfilled.

Asking ‘what matters for critical medical humanities now?’, this call for papers encourages delegates to identify and address the most significant issues – thematic, methodological, structural – facing the field today. For example, how is critical medical humanities responding to the long-overdue call to decolonise global health, or to the challenges of climate change? We also invite delegates to consider the ways in which critique intersects with material practice and embodied experience – how critical medical humanities ‘matters’ – and to reflect upon how the field might actively produce transformative material change.

Practical details

CRITICAL will be the fifth annual congress of the Northern Network for Medical Humanities Research (NNMHR), jointly hosted by the NNMHR and Durham University’s Institute for Medical Humanities. The previous congress, held online in 2021, was attended by over 1,300 delegates from across the globe, including Europe, USA, South Africa, the Middle East, and Australasia.

The 2023 congress will similarly take place entirely online, with the explicit aim of encouraging international participation and remaining accessible and inclusive of those who might find attending in person difficult for health, financial, caring or geographical reasons.

We particularly welcome proposals from those who do not necessarily identify themselves as medical humanities researchers, as well as from those working outside the formal structures of the university.

We invite abstract proposals for the following types of contribution:

  • Ready-formed panels. As well as the tried-and-tested ‘three papers and a Q&A’ format, we encourage experimentation with alternative presentational formats (performance, dialogue, ‘in conversation with’, etc.). Panels should be for sessions of 90 minutes in duration. (750-word (max) abstract including panel title, plus short (50-word max) bio for each contributor.
  • Individual 20-minute papers (which will be grouped into thematic 90-minute panels by the conference convenors). 250-word (max) abstract including title, plus short (50-word max) bio.
  • Lightning talks (using Ignite [20 slides, 15 seconds each) or Pecha Kucha [20 slides in six minutes] formats). 250-word (max) abstract including title, plus short (50-word max) bio.
  • Video poster presentations. 250-word (max) abstract including title, plus short (50-word max) bio.

Proposals should address one of the following thematic strands:

Critical (what?)

  • What has critical medical humanities accomplished in the past ten years, and to what extent has it delivered on its early claims and promises?
  • What are the most pressing issues and challenges for critical medical humanities today? What should it focus its attentions on? What should be the aims and ambitions of critical medical humanities for the next ten years?
  • Who and what has been left out or marginalised by the critical turn? How does critical resonate in different ways across different fields, and what affordances does ‘critical’ have beyond the academy? Are there limitations to the critical that need to be acknowledged and worked around?

Collaboration (with whom?)

  • If the critical was a call to collaboration, how has this worked in practice? Has the critical turn helped or hindered wider engagement with activists, professionals and stakeholders in other arenas? How critical medical humanities can work more effectively with third sector partners?
  • How has critical medical humanities’ relationship with aligned and emergent fields including (but not limited to) critical disability studies, neurodiversity studies, trans studies, mad studies, climate change and extinction studies, and critical university studies evolved in the past decade, and to what effect?
  • To what extent has an emphasis on collaboration and entanglement helped generate methodological innovation across different disciplines and sectors, and does the current emphasis on collaboration risk privileging some kinds of collaborators over others?

Contexts (where?)

  • Where does critical medical humanities happen? What are its normative sites of practice? How and where does it operate beyond the university?
  • How has the critical turn in medical humanities manifested differently across different national contexts and different disciplines?
  • How has the critical medical humanities responded to recent calls for decolonisation of the field? How can critical medical humanities better foreground and support non-western perspectives whilst avoiding an extractive logic?

Methods (how?)

  • How do questions of ethics, care and epistemic injustice shape the methods of critical medical humanities?
  • To what extent can pedagogy in critical medical humanities be considered an area of active methodological experimentation?

Materialities (to what effects?)

  • How are different minds, bodies and subjects (both human, non-human, more-than human and post-human) made to matter through different methodological and disciplinary approaches?
  • Are there specific local and global health challenges that critical medical humanities particularly well-equipped to address?
  • What transformative material effects has the field had on human health (broadly understood) in the past decade, and where and what might it aim to ‘matter’ in the future?

How to submit proposals for NNMHR Congress 2023:

Please submit your proposal for the Congress using this form by Friday 13 January 2023. All proposals will be reviewed by staff at the Institute for Medical Humanities, Durham University in consultation with the NNMHR Congress Steering Group, and presenters will be notified by mid-February. If you have any questions, please contact the conference organisers at .

The NNMHR Congress is free to attend.

Our hashtag is #nnmhr2023.

Posted on 14 Nov 2022, under News.