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.
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
“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.”
To coincide with the 2023/24 round of our NNMHR New Networks scheme, we invite you to this online discussion and advice event about the ins and outs of running a medical humanities research network. The event will offer advice on the application process and reflections for those applying for this grant, and will also be of general interest to all scholars and practitioners engaged in critical medical humanities research anywhere in the world.
We will be joined by three sets of speakers:
Camille Bellet (Manchester University)
Camille will discuss the recent launch of the Nonhuman Animals in the Medical Humanities Network (https://namhnetwork.wordpress.com/). Based at University of Manchester’s Centre for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine and funded by NNMHR, the NAMHN brings together scholars from diverse disciplines, artists, writers, practitioners, and activists to rethink and revive the role of non-human animals within the medical humanities. She will outline the network’s planned use of an ‘exchange platform’ to support dialogue between scholars, artists, writers, practitioners and activists interested in post-humanist and multispecies approaches as well as how the project’s partners are coordinating their network’s objectives and rationales with its day-to-day practices.
Arya Thampuran (Durham University)
Arya will discuss her roles across a set of research network activities in the medical humanities: her leadership of the Black Health and Humanities network (https://www.blackhealthandhumanities.org/) as it moves from one institution to another, the imminent launch of the Neurodivergent Humanities network, and the research seminars conducted through the Cultures of Madness project. She will focus particularly on how to build a sense of community beyond old models of ‘academic networking’, thinking through how networks can reframe the “research output” in ways that speak instead to collective interests, values, and learning needs from researchers who sit at the intersection of arts, academia, and activism/across different disciplines and fields. She will connect these discussions to the practicalities of care: how to maintain connections across hybrid work-spaces, how to develop non-extractive and collaborative methodologies in the medical humanities, how to engage with material that intersects with researchers’ lived experiences, and how to develop mentorship models for researchers.
Jemma Walton and Kate Errington (Birkbeck)
Jemma and Kate will discuss their ongoing project Broadly Conceived (https://broadlyconceived.wordpress.com/), a growing research network project that began life as a reading group and continues to expand in exciting new directions and opportunities. They will outline how they set out to create a supportive, interdisciplinary space for postgraduate and early career researchers interested in reproductive health knowledge and activism. Their discussion will focus on the importance of social media and creating online presence, as well as how the Broadly Conceived project focuses on collaboration and networking to build insight and connections with academics, as well as activists and other kinds of practitioners.
The event will be chaired by James Rákóczi (Durham/Northumbria), project lead of the Ends of Knowledge network (https://www.endsofknowledge.com/), on behalf of the Northern Network for Medical Humanities Research.
This scheme attracted a high volume of quality applications: the originality, creativity and intellectual rigour demonstrated by all network proposals point towards an exciting future for critical medical humanities research. A call for a second round of proposals will be issued in early 2023.
The four successful networks will individually launch, or (as some of the networks are expansions of pre-existing projects) re-launch, over this month. Each represents innovative and incisive new directions for the critical medical humanities. All are led by non-hierarchical teams with members at differing stages of their academic careers.
If you are interested in getting involved in any of these networks, then do get in touch. You can do this by messaging NNMHR Network Coordinator Dr James Rákóczi who will happily forward you to the correct network. Or, of course, you can message the individual leads on each network project. Over to you NNMHR networks!
Broadly Conceived is a critical medical humanities network of postgraduate students and early career researchers interested in any aspect of reproduction. Established by PhD students Kate Errington (Birkbeck & London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) and Jemma Walton (Birkbeck) in October 2021, the network has a blog, Twitter account, and holds monthly online ‘book club’ meetings. Kate and Jemma have already organised a number of other initiatives under the Broadly Conceived banner, including interviewing author Laura Dockrill about her experiences of postpartum psychosis for Birkbeck Arts Week 2022, and hosting an online tour of the Birth Rites Collection with curator Helen Knowles. Broadly Conceived aims to establish a supportive community of repro-researchers as they embark on their scholarly careers, which will enable members to thrive both within and beyond the university.
Ends of Knowledge: Critical University Studies and the Medical Humanities
Dr Harriet Cooper
Dr James Rákóczi
Ends of Knowledge is a research network that brings working knowledges from the medical humanities into dialogue with critical university studies. What does it mean to be a practitioner of the critical medical humanities in an era of geopolitical instability, entrenched inequality, and impending climate breakdown? What forms of knowledge can the critical medical humanities produce within university-systems structured by crisis managerialisms and uncaring, unending metrics of evaluation? What kinds of relationship to power and to health are assumed through the invocation of critique and what kinds of social and political agency do academics invested in the critical medical humanities have? The Ends of Knowledge network brings together a community of practitioners loosely identified (or dis-identified) with the (critical) medical humanities. It seeks to think-with, to remain alive to the possibilities of, and to retain agency within, the junctures of the present academy and world. By re-describing medical humanities practices through the material conditions that structure the contemporary academy, it will be committed to addressing challenging questions about the meaning and location of critique, intervention, knowledge-production, and much more — especially as it relates to health-related research and activism. Check out our website, see our upcoming events, join our mailing list, and follow us on Twitter at @EndsKnowledge.
Dr Louise Creechan
Dr Louise Creechan
Dr Ria Cheyne
Dr Arya Thampuran
Dr Leni van Goidsenhoven
The Neurodivergent Humanities network will be a safe and generative space that accommodates the diverse, individual needs of scholars working in the humanities, while offering a shared sense of community and support. We will explore and pilot new modes of thinking, being, and doing research in ways that better support our needs, within and beyond institutional structures and practices. The research model we develop will reject the prevailing deficit model in neurodivergence discourse; we seek to reframe best practices as teaching, learning, and research methods that can best support the diverse needs and skills within our community in an academic environment. The network will develop an online hub to share resources, where we can consolidate our experiences of what has worked (and not worked!) in the academic spaces we have encountered, and ultimately create a more hospitable space for us to undertake our research. We will also run regular roundtable workshops to bring together scholars from different fields, to brainstorm collaboratively about better access and practices in academic spaces. Our learnings will eventually feed into a ‘manifesto on the move’, a living, co-produced document of best practices for engaging with research and supporting neurodivergence – both academically and pastorally. To sustain these connections, we will also develop a mentorship model to support one another, one that is aligned with our collaborative, non-hierarchical ethos.
Nonhuman Animals in the Medical Humanities Network (NAMHN)
Dr Vanessa Ashall
Dr Camille Bellet
Dr Bentley Crudgington
Dr Eva Haifa Giraud
Dr Renelle McGlacken
The Nonhuman Animals in the Medical Humanities Network (NAMHN) is a transdisciplinary research network that brings knowledges and practices from the medical humanities into conversation with animal studies. What would a science of the medical humanities in which the inclusion of nonhuman animals is no longer just a matter of multispecies care and medicine for humans, but also for nonhuman animals look like? What theoretical and methodological approaches would such a science require? Our goal is to bring together scholars from diverse disciplines, artists, writers, practitioners, and activists to rethink and revive the role of nonhuman animals in the medical humanities. We will create an exchange platform in which all interested members can participate freely and easily. Blogs, podcasts, vodcasts, or many other audio-visual creations stimulating dialogue and reflection will be regularly published there to promote new ways of thinking about and listening to nonhuman animals in the Medical Humanities. We will organise four creative workshops over the next two years, around key themes not yet defined, but chosen in collaboration with network leaders and academic and non-academic partners to give participants the opportunity to think outside the box and challenge both their knowledges and practices. A closing online exhibition inspired by these exchanges will be prepared and staged on the website at the end of 2024 to open the NAMH community to new horizons. We aim to make everyone here feel welcome, valued, supported to develop new scientific visions, innovative and ground-breaking academic networks, and find collaborative writing opportunities!