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Publication details for Professor Felicity Callard

Fitzgerald, Des & Callard, Felicity (2016). Entangling the medical humanities. In The Edinburgh Companion to the Critical Medical Humanities. Whitehead, Anne, Woods, Angela, Atkinson, Sarah, Macnaughton, Jane & Richards, Jennifer Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. 35-49.

Author(s) from Durham


The medical humanities are at a critical juncture. On the one hand, practitioners of this field can bask in their recent successes: in the UK, at least, what was once a loose set of intuitions – broadly about animating the clinical and research spaces of biomedicine with concepts and methods from the humanities – has become a visible and coherent set of interventions, with its own journals, conferences, centres, funding streams and students. On the other hand, the growth, coherence and stratification of this heterogeneous domain have raised the spectre of just what, exactly, the medical humanities is growing into. In particular, scholars have begun to worry that the success of the medical humanities is tied up with being useful to biomedicine, that the medical humanities has been able to establish itself only by appearing as the domain of pleasant (but more or less inconsequential) helpmeets – lurking hopefully, poetry books in hand, at the edges of the clinical encounter’s ‘primal scene’. This is, we know, a caricature; still, it is not without its truth. Some, then, have begun to ask what a more critical medical humanities would look like: how might the methodological and intellectual legacies of the humanities intervene more consequentially in the clinical research practices of biomedicine – situating accounts of illness, suffering, intervention and cure in a much thicker attention to the social, human and cultural contexts in which those accounts, as well as the bodies to which they attend, become both thinkable and visible?