Centre for Women's and Gender Research
Doctoral course / Seminar

Medical Imaginaries: Postcoloniality and Gender in the Medical Humanities

The doctoral course / seminar "Medical Imaginaries: Postcoloniality and Gender in the Medical Humanities" offers an interdisciplinary investigation of the centrality of gender, sexuality, race, colonial ideologies, social justice, global inequality and class to the medical humanities.

Vanitas - Escorzo by Fernando Vicente Sánchez
Fernando Vicente Sánchez

Main content

The medical humanities has focused largely on how the humanities can contribute to the field of medicine. In this context, attention to literature and the arts has sought to develop and nurture skills of observation, analysis, empathy, and self-reflection, specifically in the arena of medical practice. However, this course seeks to expand the focus of the medical humanities by developing methodologies and analyses that take as their starting point the often-absent issue of unequal historical and contemporary global relations and their gendered dimensions. The goal of Medical Imaginaries: Postcoloniality and Gender in the Medical Humanities is to examine critically the intersecting dialogue between medicine and the humanities, with attention to the changing needs of health care in specific local and transnational contexts. In this context, we will analyse the role and ethics of medicine, as well as explore the relationship between health, illness, wellbeing and social justice.

The course aims to cover a range of topics that engage with historical and contemporary developments concerning the relationship between the humanities and medicine. This may include, but is not limited to:

  • the role of literary analysis in health research
  • biotechnological developments, philosophies and imaginaries
  • the relationship between colonialism and science
  • visual representations of medicine, illness and health
  • sexual and reproductive health in a globalised context
  • art in the clinic
  • postcolonial, queer, feminist, critical race methodologies in health research
  • environmental disasters as health issues
  • mental health, illness and selfhood
  • the relationship between the human, the technological and other matter
  • music therapy
  • care, dependency and interrelationality

The course aims to interrogate the very meanings of health, illness and care through an analysis of how technologies are increasingly integrated into the human form, how human parts move between bodies, how environmental disasters impact on health needs, and how we might conceptualise the changing experiences and understandings of the body. With a focus on postcolonial and gender-based methodologies, this course will engage with a wide range of disciplines that cross the humanities, social sciences and medicine, and include the participation of academics, practitioners, artists and independent researchers. Such an interdisciplinary and transnational approach has the goal of creating a space to discuss critically how biomedicine is transforming the human condition and form, and to allow for in-depth analyses of health, illness and care in the context of global migrations, gender inequalities, and inequitable distribution of global and local resources.

Some key questions that will guide the overall framework for the course include:

  • How do we conceptualise the relationship between the humanities and medicine when we consider the gendered and colonial dynamics of health, care, illness and well-being?
  • What is the relationship between art, the clinic and social justice?
  • How are bodies and technologies imagined across a range of sites (e.g. visual and literary culture, the media, or in medical school)?
  • How do we understand and conceptualise the body in a rapidly developing technological era?
  • What methods can we use to do interdisciplinary research?

Medical Imaginaries: Postcoloniality and Gender in the Medical Humanities will be of interest to anyone working in the broad field of the medical humanities, and to those who work on topics that relate to the intersection of the humanities and medicine. Importantly, participants should be interested in critically engaging with the medical humanities and in exploring these ideas through postcolonial and gender perspectives and methodologies. The course is open to advanced MA-students, researchers, PhD candidates and postdoctoral fellows, as well as to artists, practitioners and activists.

Accreditation: Active participation in this workshop entails reading the literature (to be distributed prior to the course) from the point of view of the workshop questions and the researcher’s own research. 3 ects will be given for active participation and a short presentation – made in relation to one’s own research project, the select workshop literature, and the workshop questions  –  and an additional 2 ects will be given for an essay submitted to the tutors no later than three months after the final day of the course. The essay should be around 10 pages (evaluated pass/fail).