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Centre for Medical Humanities

Events and News

Centre for Medical Humanities wins a new Wellcome Trust Award

The Durham Centre for Medical Humanities has been awarded £1m from the Wellcome Trust in recognition of its prominence and leadership in medical humanities research.

It comes just as the Centre hosts the first a series of new annual conferences of the Northern Network for Medical Humanities Research on 14th-15th September.

The Discretionary Grant will enable the Centre to take forward ambitious new research projects in four key strands focusing on different aspects of human experience: ‘Embodied Symptoms’, ‘Thinking, Feeling, Imagining’, ‘Neurosocial Explorations’, and ‘Everyday Possibilities’.

Researchers are already working on areas such as voice hearing, breathing and breathlessness, mind-wandering and community well-being.

There will also be a focus on early career researcher development and support, and career diversification.

The co-applicant team represents the Centre’s strengths across the University with academics from all three faculties: Jane Macnaughton, Sarah Atkinson and Felicity Callard from Social Sciences and Health, Corinne Saunders and Angela Woods from Arts and Humanities, and Charles Fernyhough from Science.

Northern Network for Medical Humanities Research: Inaugural Congress 14-15 September 2017 in Durham

The first research congress of the NNMHR is taking place from 14th-15th September 2017 at Van Mildert College in Durham. CMH and NNMHR are delighted to welcome scholars, practitioners, health professionals, artists and health advocates to join us at Van Mildert College, Durham.This is an opportunity for people who are passionate or even simply curious about medical humanities research to share ideas and meet potential future colleagues and collaborators.

Our confirmed keynote speakers are Ericka Johnson and Kristin Zeiler (Linköping University, Sweden) who will jointly present “Embodiment, Materiality and Normativity in Medical Humanities”, bringing in insights from their respective areas of expertise: feminist phenomenology and feminist technoscience studies.The programme includes parallel sessions, Open Space (where participants self-organise to focus on themes identified by them) and two closing panel sessions on Critical Disability Studies and Global Medical Humanities. The programme can be viewed below.


Resources


Angela Woods wins British Academy Rising Stars Engagement Award

Congratulations to Angela Woods, who has won a BARSEA award for Collaboration in the Critical Medical Humanities.

The aim of the year-long project is to empower early career researchers working on health-related interdisciplinary research projects. The project will involve an intensive three-day Workshop and Follow-Up day in which participants will identify the challenges to effective interdisciplinary working, share best practice, assemble and experiment with practical resources to foster cross-sector collaboration, and forge a dynamic and self-sustaining network of peers.


Professor Charles Fernyhough on ‘Children, Voice-Hearing, and Imaginary Friends’

Learning Centre, Palace Green Library 8 February 2017, 5.30 7:30pm

Many children hear voices, although the experience is not well understood in this age group. In this talk, Prof Fernyhough will explore how the experience of hearing voices relates to the common phenomenon of imaginary friends. Understanding the similarities and differences between these two aspects of psychological development can enhance our understanding of both kinds of experience.

All are welcome to attend this public lecture, but places are limited and can be reserved in advance through Eventbrite.

This event is part of the linked programme of events around Hearing Voices: suffering, inspiration and the everyday, a major exhibition on voice-hearing produced by Hearing the Voice and Palace Green Library.


Exhibition: Hearing Voices: Suffering, Inspiration, and the Everyday (Palace Green Library, Durham, 5 November 2016 – 26 February 2017)

Hearing the Voice is delighted to announce that Hearing Voices: suffering, inspiration and the everyday – the first exhibition to examine voice-hearing from different cultural, clinical, historical, literary and spiritual perspectives – opens at Palace Green Library in Durham on Saturday 5 November 2016.

Informed by Hearing the Voice research and containing material spanning seven centuries, the exhibition explores the divine voices heard by medieval mystics, the links between voice-hearing and literary creativity, and the inspirational stories of members of the international Hearing Voices Movement.

It also examines the distress felt by people who experience disturbing or disruptive voices, and explores the everyday contexts in which people hear voices, from imaginary friends in childhood to bereavement in old age.

Highlights of the exhibition include:

  • Original artworks produced by young people (aged 14-24) from Bradford, Leeds and Durham who have personal experience of hearing voices.
  • The only surviving original manuscript of Julian of Norwich’s short text of Revelations of Divine Love (early 15th Century) on loan from the British Library for the first time. This is the first book in English known to have been authored by a woman. Julian of Norwich was an English anchoress and an important Christian mystic and theologian.
  • Virginia Woolf’s manuscripts for Mrs Dalloway and her autobiographical essay Sketch of the Past, also on loan from the British Library. Virginia Woolf is among the most famous writers to have heard voices.
  • The Isle is Full of Noises – A sound and animation installation by South African artist Victoria Hume about the experience of hearing voices.
  • Personal testimonies from voice-hearers across the world which help tell the story of the international Hearing Voices Movement, and the fight for an end to stigma and discrimination against people who hear voices.

To accompany the exhibition, Hearing the Voice has produced a dynamic programme of public lectures, discussion evenings, guided tours, film screenings and experiential audio performances that will take place in various locations across Durham city centre from November 2016 through to February 2017. More information about the events programme, and instructions on how to book tickets, can be found here.

A dedicated website

Hearing Voices: suffering, inspiration and the everyday is supported by a dedicated website which contains images of the key displays, specially produced podcasts featuring interviews with Hearing the Voice researchers, and interactive presentations exploring voice-hearing and inner speech, the cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying voices, and experiences of felt presence.

We warmly invite people to share these resources and information about the exhibition on social media using the hashtag #HearingVoicesDU.

Visitor information

The exhibition will open at Palace Green Library, Durham DH1 3RN on Saturday 5 November 2016 and run until 26 February 2017. It will be open Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-5pm, and Monday 12noon-5pm. Entry to the exhibition and all associated events is free of charge.


The Edinburgh Companion to the Critical Medical Humanities - new publication

Edited by Anne Whitehead and Jennifer Richards (Newcastle University) and Angela Woods, Sarah Atkinson and Jane Macnaughton (Durham University CMH) the Companion documents the ways in which interdisciplinary thinking across the humanities and social sciences can contribute to, critique and develop medical understanding of the human individually and collectively. The work of CMH staff and affiliates features prominently in the collection and showcases the strength and diversity of medical humanities research at Durham:

  • Des Fitzgerald and Felicity Callard, “Entangling the medical humanities”
  • William Viney, “Getting the measure of twins”
  • Patricia Waugh, “Afterword: Evidence and Experiment”
  • Jane Macnaughton and Havi Carel, “Breathing and breathlessness in clinic and culture: using critical medical humanities to bridge an epistemic gap”
  • Luna Dolezal, “Morphological freedom and medicine: Constructing the posthuman body”
  • Martyn Evans, “Medical humanities and the place of wonder”
  • Corinne Saunders, “Voices and visions: Mind, body and affect in medieval writing”
  • Peter Garratt, “Victorian literary aesthetics and mental pathology”
  • Sarah Atkinson, “Care, kidneys and clones: the distance of space, time and imagination”

The book was launched with a wine reception on 28 July 2016 at the Percy Building, Newcastle University. Deborah Bowman, Professor of Clinical and Mental Health Ethics at the Tavistock and Portman and Editor, BMJ Medical Humanities, joined the editors and contributors for the event. A recent review of the book can be found here.


Hubbub Research on Rest broadcast on BBC Radio 4

Hubbub’s interdisciplinary research on rest is brought together in a three-part series — “The Anatomy of Rest” — on BBC Radio 4 that is being broadcast at 0900-0945 (GMT+1) on 13, 20 and 27 September. The programmes are presented by Hubbub Associate Director Claudia Hammond, and feature Hubbub Director Felicity Callard, Hubbub Associate Directors Charles Fernyhough and James Wilkes and several Hubbub collaborators (historian Ayesha Nathoo, poet SJ Fowler, poet Holly Pester, literary scholar Michael Greaney, psychologist Ben Alderson-Day and composer Antonia Barnett-McIntosh.

Programme 1 (aired 09.00, 13th September 2016 on BBC Radio 4)

Claudia goes on a journey to see what rest means to people from different disciplines. She talks to poets, historians and musicians about the way they view rest. Does it refer to the body or the mind? And why is it so hard to define?

Programme 2 (aired 09.00, 20th September 2016 on BBC Radio 4)

What happens when the mind is supposedly resting and when we are thinking about nothing in particular? Claudia visits Leipzig to see inside her brain and consider what it does when it’s at rest, only to discover it’s more active than you might expect. An experiment in which Claudia monitors her own thoughts proves to be harder than it sounds.

Programme 3 (aired 09.00, 27th September 2016 on BBC Radio 4)

The final programme was recorded in front of a live audience in the Reading Room at the Wellcome Collection. Claudia is joined by guests including the jazz singer Claire Martin, the comedian Robin Ince and the writer Kathleen Jamie to reveal the results of Hubbub’s global survey The Rest Test, the worlds’s largest ever survey on people’s subjective experiences of rest, which was launched on BBC radio 4 in November.


Wandering Minds: The Cubiculum art installation

The Cubiculum, which was showcased as part of the Durham University led Hubbub exhibition ‘Rest and its discontents’, is a creative response by the Wandering Minds team to research on the history of daydream, mind wandering, reverie and hallucination. Jointly funded by Wellcome (through the Hubbub award) and the Volkswagen Foundation (through the Wandering Minds grant), The Cubiculum has been reviewed in the British Medical Journal blog as an exhibition highlight.

Its solid build, surrounded by exhibition pieces designed in collaboration with curator Robert Devcic, offers a space for repose, through which to explore the subject of rest. The Cubiculum challenges perceptions of rest as necessarily characterized by inactivity. Rather it perceives rest through a multiplicity of dynamics and affects, by exploring past and present responses in art, literature, science and theology, to the phenomenon of mind wandering.

As part of the Wandering Minds team’s commitment to public engagement activity, the Cubiculum has evolved into a physical platform, from which not only to engage visitors with the history of mind wandering, but to offer an experiential domain, in which to explore one’s own, personal response to mind wandering phenomena. A recording of a public talk in the exhibition space, ‘Mind wandering, good for the mind?’, chaired by BBC’s Claudia Hammond, can be accessed here.

At the close of the exhibition, audio and reflective written pieces are planned, which the Wandering Minds team hope will generate further interest in the project.


Feelings of Presence: New Article and Survey

Felt presence Alderson-Day

Dr Ben Alderson-Day writes:

Have you ever had the experience of feeling like you are in the presence of somebody, even when no-one was there? Or had the feeling that someone was close by, who you couldn’t see, hear or touch?

Such experiences are known as felt or sensed presences and they are known to occur in a range of very different situations. For some people they might happen when they wake from sleep, or when they are feeling very stressed or unwell. For others, the experience might have a spiritual nature of some kind, or feel like the presence of someone who has recently passed away. I recently wrote about felt presence experiences in an article for The Psychologist magazine, which is available for free here.

We are conducting a survey on felt presences and we would like to hear from people who have had the experience, whatever the context it has occurred in. We would also like to hear from people who have never had this kind of experience. We are particularly interested in whether there are psychological factors that are shared across different kinds of felt presence experiences, and whether they can tell us why only some people have the experience.

If you would like to take part, please follow this link. The survey takes about 20 minutes to complete. If you have any questions about the study, you can reach us by email.


CMH to contribute to Inquiry launched by All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Arts, Health and Wellbeing

Co-director of CMH, Jane Macnaughton, has been invited to be part of the Advisory Group informing an Inquiry process launched by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Arts, Health and Wellbeing. She is looking forward to contributing her expertise in this area to an Inquiry that seeks to influence the thinking and practice of politicians and other decision-takers.

The aim of the Inquiry is to identify policy objectives and make recommendations in the field of arts, health and wellbeing in order to support practitioners and stimulate progress. The APPG will work towards fully establishing the arts as a mainstream contributor to health and social care services in promoting good health and wellbeing during this parliament.


Congratulations to the newest recipients of the CMH/WRI Small Grants Awards!

CMH is pleased to highlight the following individuals and their research as receipients of the CMH/WRI Small Grants:

Dr Andrew Russell (Anthropology Department, University of Durham) and Dr Megan Wainwright (School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town) have received a CMH small grant to fund the development of a research project titled “Global Health Diplomacy at the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control”. The overall intent of this project is to contribute significantly to the ‘Body, Breath, Environment’ CMH theme. The Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC), inaugurated in 2005, is the world’s first global health treaty of its kind, and the ‘Conference of the Parties’ (COP) is the Convention’s governing body. The biennial COPs are evolving from a primary focus on guideline development and negotiation events towards implementation gap-closing events. The FCTC is thus at a crossroads and the goal of the seed award application is to support a networking trip to Geneva in order to start the development of a research project to chart and assess the transition that is taking place and its implications for global health diplomacy more generally. The visit, which will take place at the start of the WHO’s annual World Health Assembly, will be the subject of a blog post and will form the basis for the development of a research project to look at the dynamics and future direction of global health diplomacy.


Congratulations Dr Lindsay Coyle!

We are delighted to announce that Lindsay Coyle successfully defended her thesis on the 19th of February and passed her viva with minor corrections. She produced an excellent piece of research entitled 'Not Fitting In: Negotiating multiple illnesses and/or disabilities'.

She was supervised by Sarah Atkinson and Sarah Curtis.

The external examiner was Dr Ed Hall from The University of Dundee.


Hearing the Voice is delighted to announce two exciting opportunities to work with them on the production of a major exhibition on voice-hearing that will take place at Palace Green Library from 5 November 2016 to 26 February 2017. Hearing Voices: suffering, inspiration and the everyday will be one of the main ways that the project seeks to improve public understanding of voice-hearing, reduce stigma and discrimination and challenge some of the myths and misconceptions that surround this experience. Incorporating material from Durham University’s own collections as well as those of other local and national institutions, the exhibition aims to explore the cultural, clinical, scientific and spiritual aspects of voice-hearing, and to demonstrate how this phenomenon illuminates fascinating questions about many vital aspects of human experience. As part of the exhibition, HtV is looking to commission:

  • An individual artist or group of artists to create an installation that explores voice-hearing, and facilitates a better understanding of what it is like to have these experiences;
  • An individual or group of individuals from the voice-hearing community to co-curate a section of the exhibition, in collaboration with the exhibition’s academic and curatorial team, dedicated to an exploration of the communities that have formed around voice-hearing, with a particular focus on the Hearing Voices Movement.

For more information about the commission briefs, including fees and how to submit a proposal, please download the PDFs below. Call for proposals_What is it like to hear voices installation Call for proposals_Story of a People’s Movement Applications close at 12 noon on Friday 11 March 2016. For informal enquiries relating to the commissions, please contact Emma Hamlett. The original post can be found at the Hearing the Voice website.


Congratulations Dr Jan Pederson!

Jan Pedersen, the fourth of the four CMH Wellcome Trust-funded doctoral studentships in the original Strategic Award, has passed his doctoral examinations. His PhD thesis investigated the phenomenon of wonder.

Wonder, Jan offers, has fascinated scholars for centuries, yet today the subject is understudied and not rooted in any specific academic discipline. Attempts at building a preliminary account of wonder reveal that the experience of wonder is characterised by seven properties: wonder (1) is sudden, extraordinary and personal; (2) intensifies the cognitive focus; (3) intensifies the use of imagination; (4) instigates awareness of ignorance; (5) causes temporary displacement; (6) makes the world newly present; and (7) brings emotional upheaval. Furthermore, wonder can be distinguished from other similar altered states, including awe, horror, the sublime, curiosity, amazement, admiration and astonishment.

Human flourishing is a concept in ethics that has enjoyed a revival since Elizabeth Anscombe’s 1958 article ‘Modern Moral Philosophy’. Through the work of Neo-Aristotelian philosophers Douglas Rasmussen, Alasdair McIntyre and Martha Nussbaum who have contributed to the field a working model of human flourishing attentive to human nature was established.

As a result of in-depth examination of the contribution of both emotion and imagination in the experience of wonder through a Neo-Aristotelian lens it becomes evident that wonder may contribute to human flourishing via a number of effects, including (but not restricted to) widening of perception, extension of moral scope or sensitivity and prompting deep wonder, a wondrous afterglow, openness, humility, an imaginative attitude, reverence and gratitude. Importantly, for wonder to act as a strong contributor to human flourishing one needs to wonder at the right (or appropriate) thing, in the right amount, in the right time, in the right way and for the right purpose.

At viva (where he performed brilliantly) Jan was asked to make only minor corrections; these have all been undertaken and his thesis accepted, and he has been notified of the award of Doctor of Philosophy; he will graduate at a June/July ceremony. Many congratulations to the newest member of this successful group of Strategic Award doctoral studentships.


Newest Medical Humanities Research project to join the Centre for Medical Humanities.


Congratulations to Dr Felicity Callard, of Durham University's Centre for Medical Humanities, Postdoctoral research associate Hazel Morrison, based in Durham's Geography department, and three additional principal investigators based at the University of York, Cardiff University and the Max Planck Institute Leipzig, who comprise the research team for this new project. 'Wandering Minds: Interdisciplinary Experiments on Self-Generated Thought' was funded by the Volkswagen Foundation and is currently underway. Read more.


Congratulations to the recipients of the CMH/WRI Small Grants Awards!

CMH is pleased to announce the following individuals as receipients of the CMH/WRI Small Grants:

Dr Kwanwook Kim (Anthropology Department) has a project closely related to one of CMH’s themes –“Rest, activity, work, wellbeing: humour, leisure, creativity”. He will work with British volunteers (local people & students) at North Road Methodist Church, Durham and Keenan House, Ustinov College to develop a proper 'MPG' exercise manual tailored for the UK. MPG is a Korean ‘Stretching Body’ (=MOM-PYO-GI in Korean) exercise. At the same time, participants’ anecdotes of any benefits both physically and psychologically from doing MPG exercises will be collected. The anecdotes can be theoretically helpful to understand the lived experience of the relatedness of body and mind from a phenomenological perspective. Ultimately, this manual will be utilized in a programme with workers in NE England who might suffer from physico-psychological stress (e.g. call centre workers) as a kind of participatory research project in the local community.’

Dr Patrick Zuk (Music Department) is presenting a paper titled 'Broken Narratives and the Lived Body’ at an international conference. This will allow for valuable insight into an emerging field in which he is preparing to apply for further funding with the Wellcome Trust and eventually a larger project on this topic would be conducted through UK research council funding and/or EU funding. This conference will allow him (i) to receive critical feedback on his initial findings, which will be presented at this event; and (ii) to network and identify potential participants in an international scholarly network that would undertake a larger-scale collaborative project on music and trauma once a smaller trial project has been completed. The conference paper and subsequent research that will come from this grant activities fall in line with the CMH theme “Mind, memory, affect”.

Dr Patrick Gray (English Studies) is organising a public lecture in line with the CMH theme “Mind, memory, affect”. This public lecture will be given by Nancy Sherman, University Professor of Philosophy, Georgetown, on ethics and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in keeping with her recent book, Afterwar: Healing the Moral Wounds of Our Soldiers (Oxford UP, 2015). Ideally this lecture would also include a public dialogue with Pat Barker, acclaimed novelist and Durham resident; Barker is winner of the Man Booker Prize and author of the Regeneration Trilogy, depicting PTSD in the lives of soldiers after WWI. Sherman is a great fan of Barker’s novels and discusses them in detail in her research. It will be intriguing to bring them together and coordinate this public engagement with publicity surrounding the transition of the collection at the Durham Light Infantry Museum to an exhibition at the Palace Green Library in Durham next year.


“"We want to know how people's life experiences - of work and worklessness, of health and ill-health - affect their ability to rest. Data from The Rest Test will allow us to look at, from a whole range of different angles, who rests most, least, and how - and who feels they can't get rest."”

Dr Felicity Callard, Director of Hubbub and geographer at Durham University

How Do You Rest?

(4 November 2015)

The British public are being invited to share their experiences of rest as part of a national ‘Rest Test’.

The Rest Test is an online survey to investigate the nation’s resting habits and their attitudes towards relaxation and busyness. It is part of a wider collaboration between BBC Radio 4 and Wellcome Collection's researchers in residence, Hubbub.

With thousands of people expected to take part, this will be the world’s largest ever survey into subjective experiences of rest.

It comes at a time when the topic of rest is at the forefront of many people’s minds. Interest in self-tracking tools such as Fitbits is soaring and wellbeing has become a matter of public policy with an all-party parliamentary group exploring the benefits of mindfulness. There is increasing scrutiny of working patterns, whether through Virgin’s new annual leave policy allowing staff to take as much holiday as they need or the move to a six hour working day by Swedish companies.

The results will increase understanding of people’s perceptions of rest and the way these relate to an individual’s work or daily habits, as well as their experiences of health, illness, disability, satisfaction with life and the tendency to mind wander.

The kinds of questions the survey will address include:

  • How does rest affect health and wellbeing?
  • How do people vary in what they experience as restful?
  • Does an individual’s personality, health history and caring responsibilities have an effect on how much rest they get or the kinds of activities they find restful?
  • How do attitudes to and experiences of rest vary between different countries in the world?

Members of the public are invited to contribute their experiences of seeking rest and explore how they compare with others. They will also be encouraged to discuss the topic online and to share images of themselves at rest around the world using the hashtag #RestTest.

The Rest Test has been designed by Hubbub, an international collective of social scientists, artists, humanities researchers, scientists, broadcasters, public engagement professionals and mental health experts, in residence at the Hub at Wellcome Collection in London, led by Durham University and its Centre for Medical Humanities.

Dr Felicity Callard, Director of Hubbub and geographer at Durham University, said: "We want to know how people's life experiences - of work and worklessness, of health and ill-health - affect their ability to rest. Data from The Rest Test will allow us to look at, from a whole range of different angles, who rests most, least, and how - and who feels they can't get rest."

"In time, these data might well help us to rethink how work might be re-organised, and how societal interventions might find more creative ways in which to facilitate people's bodily and mental rest."

Claudia Hammond, presenter of Radio 4's All in the Mind and associate director of Hubbub, explains: "Rest is widely regarded as important to our wellbeing but there's so much we don't know about it. We vary a lot in how much time we have to spend resting and even what we consider it to be. Running might feel relaxing to one person, but exhausting to another. Sometimes we want to calm our minds, while at other times we focus on letting our bodies recover. The test will help us find out more about our relationships with rest and how it affects all our lives."

The questionnaire is split into two parts, with an initial section taking 5 - 10 minutes, followed by more in-depth questions which can be completed in stages.

The results will be analysed and announced on All in the Mind on BBC Radio 4 in April 2016.

The Rest Test can be taken on the BBC Radio 4 website and at resttest.org.



Past Events

Full details of our past events can be found here 

Contact Details

Centre for Medical Humanities
Caedmon Building
Leazes Road
Durham
DH1 1SZ

Tel: +44 (0)191 33 48277 
Email: mail.cmh@durham.ac.uk