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Centre for the History of Medicine and Disease

Second CHMD Workshop

Centre for the History of Medicine and Disease, Wolfson Research Institute, University of Durham, Queen’s Campus Stockton, Friday, January 30, 2004

Sponsored by the Wellcome Trust and the Society of the Social History of Medicine.
In Collaboration with the School for Health and the Department of Philosophy, Durham University, and the School of Historical Studies, University of Newcastle.

Click here for a Conference Report by Georg Hofer (Institute for the History of Medicine, University of Freiburg, Germany).

Click here to download the Programme of the Workshop (pdf-file).

It is widely agreed upon that medicine as well as science are part of culture and do not stand as natural kinds outside of culture. The production of medical knowledge, medicine’s practices and its institutions, as well as the way how disease and the body are framed, perceived and experienced, are socially fashioned and hence historically contingent. Such an anti-essentialistic position has had far reaching consequences for historical research and for teaching. It not only changed the range of research topics (bringing in, for example, the realm of experiencing disease and the body, or the issue of representation and imaging) but also the way of our writing, of our narratives of history of medicine.

The term ‘culture’ encompasses in its heterogeneity not only social practices and power relations (e.g. in healing) or language and linguistic traditions (e.g. in the communications between doctor and patient or in scientific writing). It embraces also the material culture of medicine (e.g. instruments and machines used to produce meaningful knowledge about the body) and the production, representation and circulation of medical knowledge and ideas.

The aim of this workshop is to discuss what Cultural History can offer to History of Medicine. We want to examine the various approaches of cultural history regarding their theoretical premises, and the methodological implications they have for medical history. Which of the theoretical premises are heuristically useful for us? Where do we have to be careful not to transfer approaches, theories and models developed in and for other fields to the history of medicine? It has been noted that within cultural studies often the historical dimension has been neglected. Hence, there is also the question what a cultural history of medicine can offer to cultural studies.

Although numerous books and articles have been published on various aspects of cultural history and cultural studies, only a few publications have taken up the task to specifically engage with the cultural history of medicine. This workshop wants to bring together historians who work on different aspects of cultural history of medicine. We would like to discuss the following key issues:

  • the ways and means of producing, representing and distributing medical knowledge via images and language
  • the material and technological culture of medicine
  • the experience of disease and the body

Speakers of the workshop include Bertrand Taithe (Manchester), Steve Sturdy (Edinburgh), Julie Anderson (Manchester), Michael Stolberg (Würzburg), and Mark Jenner (York).

We hope that this workshop will lead to a better understanding of what a cultural history of medicine can contribute to today’s medical discourses and to a critical public understanding of medicine.

For further details, please contact Dr Lutz Sauerteig, Centre for the History of Medicine and Disease, Wolfson Research Institute, University of Durham, Queen’s Campus, University Boulevard, Stockton-on-Tees TS17 6BH, UK, Phone: +44 (0)191-33-40702, email: