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Durham University

Institute for Medical Humanities

Strands

Embodied Symptoms

Listen to Jane Macnaughton talking about 'Embodied Symptoms'

How do we become aware of the feeling that something is ‘wrong’ with our body? How do we decide whether or not to seek help for this new experience? Seeking help changes this feeling into a symptom to be described and implies an underlying problem to be revealed and treated. This research theme will explore how symptoms come into being and how they are given meaning in the everyday world and in the clinic. Drawing on phenomenology, social science and cultural history Embodied Symptoms, led by Professor Jane Macnaughton, will explore topics including menopause and post-natal depression.

Thinking, Feeling, Imagining

How can literature, history, music and drama illuminate our understanding of human experience? How do thought, feeling, emotion, memory and imagination contribute to our sense of wellness or illness and our construction of the self and others? This strand, led by Professor Corinne Saunders, will explore how insights from the arts and humanities, through literary and cultural sources from classical to contemporary, might be used to enrich and complicate our concepts of normal and pathological experience, with a particular focus on trauma, touch and deafness.

Fringe Cognition

Can experiences at the periphery of everyday life, for example dreams, provide insights on larger issues such as consciousness, the self, social cognition, and our relationship with reality? Drawing on the intersections of cognitive literary studies, psychology and medical humanities this strand, led by Dr Marco Bernini and Dr Ben Alderson-Day explores liminal, ephemeral experience, which is both absent in and intractable to scientific models.

Everyday Environments

The time, space and place we occupy can both positively and negatively affect our individual and collective experiences of health. How can we understand experience related to health that is situated within our ‘everyday environments’ - as both socially formed and socially differentiated within personal and collective, lived and imagined histories, materialities, politics and cultures? The strand, led by Professor Sarah Atkinson, will explore a situated human experience of health through natural, social and cultural environments spanning physical and mental illness and addiction.

Science of Human Experience

How do we access the contents of consciousness including thoughts, emotions, sensations and perceptions? This strand, led by Professor Charles Fernyhough will improve methods for studying human inner experience and use them to advance models of mind and brain, particularly the ways in which social and environmental settings affect psychology and physiology. Areas of exploration include visual hallucinations, memory, mind-wandering, dreaming, imagining and spirituality.

Critical Concepts

This cross-cutting strand led by Dr Angela Woods and Creative Facilitator Mary Robson will reflect on the processes and methods used to generate knowledge in this field, bringing together insights from across the strands through regular research meetings. As well as producing new thinking about human experience, we hope to influence scholars, practitioners and stakeholders through creative and ambitious training programmes.