Four New Critical Medical Humanities Networks awarded NNMHR Funding

NNMHR is excited to announce four new research networks awarded grants in our 2023 round of our New Networks in Critical Medical Humanities funding scheme.

The four successful networks will be launching their programmes and portfolios over the coming months. Each comprise compelling new programmes for research and activity in the critical medical humanities.

They represent a dynamic collective of researchers and practitioners based both in the regional north of the United Kingdom and from around the world.

The NNMHR, and our appointed New Networks deciding panel, would like to thank everyone who submitted their network proposals to this popular scheme. The standard of the many applications we received was exceptional. We will make further announcements about our expanding network and research opportunities soon.

These four research networks will join our existing network portfolio and expansive collective of affiliated network partners. Click here for details of them all.

We want to hear from you. It’s time to connect up with the critical medical humanities community. You can message NNMHR Networks Coordinator Dr James Rákóczi for further information or contact any of our network partners directly.

Pain and b/Black Identity: Race in Medicine

“This network will establish and maintain a space to think about ‘race’ as it is articulated in medical assessments of pain. It will be a ‘critical’ space in the sense that these medical assessments will be interrogated and contextualised as being part of a system that de-emphasises and sometimes erases b/Black people’s experiences of pain. By fostering connections in the broader conversations in the medical humanities around race, racism, medical science and clinical care practice, this network will focus and support work approaching race in medicine through the issue of pain and pain management.

To this end, we wish to explore the question of ‘physical’ pain as it is experienced by b/Black people in the Anglophone world and beyond. In the history of psychiatry, racial injustice has been predominantly approached through ideas of risk, violence and compulsion; much of the psychiatry-centred work in critical medical humanities has focussed on either (a) ideas of ‘intergenerational trauma’ (instead of the more quotidian ‘pain’) or (b) concepts of danger, violence and risk as opposed to subjective experiences of and structural responses to pain. As such, focussing on pain will not only explore and elucidate ‘metaphysical’ pain, but it will show how physical bodily pain is a phenomenon that represents very specific challenges for not only medicine and the medical humanities, but what we characterise as ‘iHPS’ (integrated history and philosophy of science and medicine).

We are interested in hearing from researchers and practitioners with a demonstrable interest in (a) pain in the context of medicine; (b) race in the context of medicine whose work would facilitate a specific focus on pain; (c) race and pain in medicine. Please contact the PI, Alexander Douglas, at .”

Stomach Ache: Curating with Guts in the Medical Humanities

“The brain-gut-microbiome axis is a pressing topic in emerging science and popular imaginaries. Major exhibitions at The Eden Project, UK (2015) Medical Museion, Copenhagen (2018) and Melbourne Museum, Australia (2019) have framed the microbiome and gut health as cutting-edge themes in curatorial practice. Yet epidemiological research suggests that complex, chronic and imprecisely diagnosed gut issues are rising exponentially around the globe, and that people’s experiences of seeking treatment are often unsupportive and ineffective. Acknowledging this failed connection between emerging science and people’s clinical experiences possesses a different kind of cultural urgency to the more traditional curatorial task of increasing people’s scientific understanding of the gut via artworks and cultural artefacts.  

From this point of complex entanglement, our network asks three questions:  

  • How do people living with complex gut issues think creatively and adaptively in response to their symptoms, when medicine is unable to offer a linear pathway toward treatment and cure?
  • What new definitions of medical and social equity arise in this disconnect between cutting-edge gut science and lived experience?
  • How might these formulations help us complicate representations of lived experience in curatorial and artistic practices, leading to new ways of curating with the medical humanities?   

A series of workshops will invite curators, artists and medical humanities researchers from across Australia, the Asia-Pacific, and Europe to consider digestive dysregulation as a provocation into new curatorial methods, with knowledge outcomes published in a summative working paper. Workshops will be bookended by two iterations of an exhibition at the Lethaby Gallery (Window Galleries), University of the Arts, London. Stomach Ache: Curating with Guts in the Medical Humanities consolidates an ongoing collaboration between network leads Dr Rachel Marsden at University of the Arts, London and Dr Vanessa Bartlett at University of Melbourne, and a wider network of artists, curators and medical humanities researchers. You can find the network leads on Twitter @rachmarsden and @vanessabartlett, and on IG @rachel_marsden and @vanessabartlett.”

UK Disability History and Heritage Hub

: Three multi-coloured speech/thought bubbles of varying shapes (from left to right: red rectangle, blue circle, and gold cloud) centred around a green oblong shape with the black text ‘UK Disability History and Heritage Hub’, in the centre. This is the logo of the UK Disability History and Heritage Hub. The colour scheme in the logo reflects the disability pride flag.

“The UK Disability History and Heritage Hub (UKDHHH) is a network focused on the histories of disabled, neurodivergent and Deaf people, spanning from the ancient world to the modern age. Created by a team of PhD students following a PGR-organised conference in March 2022, the network aims to widen the conversation about all types of disability history within and beyond the academy.

The current network is an international group of historians, early-career and professional researchers, heritage sector professionals, activists, and members of the public. The UKDHHH runs virtual monthly reading group sessions, and we have upcoming plans for many new types of events. We aim to use our platform and events to facilitate conversations about disability history, platform disabled, neurodivergent, and Deaf perspectives, and provide opportunities for individuals to connect. We are excited to receive funding from the NNMHR New Networks scheme to bridge these conversations into the wider field of medical humanities, to facilitate new intersections between these areas of study, and promote socially and politically conscious discussions about disability in the medical humanities. We look forward to continuing our work and expanding our group!  

To join our mailing list and reading group, you can sign up online at our website. We also are on Twitter at @UKDisHistHub.”

Warblers: Network of Reproductive Pain Studies from Southern India

“Warblers is an interdisciplinary research network of ECRs and academics working in the area of health humanities with a special focus on the issues of reproductive rights and birth trauma. The network – through critical academic discussions, collaborative and interdisciplinary research, and open forum discussion – will bring forth voices of the birthing person in order to understand the socio-cultural sentiments governing the notion of birth in the context of India. 

The network would like to delve deep into one of the key components of childbirth, i.e., the phenomenology of birth pain. Articulation of birth pain has always been considered taboo in the context of India. The imposed or learned silence has led to a series of mental health issues. Thus, the network through open forum discussion would like to revise the socio-cultural and gendered norms that shape the cultural memory of birth pain.  

In India, the failure to implement reproductive rights is rooted in the social structure in which we are embedded. India follows a collectivist and community-based social structure where we are cognitively tuned to be interdependent. The individual notion of autonomy and empowerment that shapes reproductive rights policy fails to make a significant change in the life of the birthing person. 

Hence, drawing on critical perspectives from social cognition, cultural memory, social neuroscience, gender studies, and law, the network aims to propose alternative ways to understand interdependent notions of autonomy and agency that will gear towards the emotional empowerment of the birthing person. 

Nursing home culture, although well embraced by Indian society, has also given birth to self-stigmatization for women who have experienced medical interventions such as c-sections, and assisted reproductive technologies. Many women conceive medical intervention during childbirth as a disabling component of their childbirth experience, resulting in a damaging impact on the mother-child relationship and holistic well-being. 

The Warblers network, through active engagement with academic and non-academic sectors, would like to reconsider birth as a fluid, complex, and diverse experience thereby aiming to break the myth of natural birth as idealized in Indian society.”

Posted on 14 Aug 2023, under News.

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.