Indian doctor taking the pulse of a patient. Gouache drawing. (Wellcome Library, London.) Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons
“Two distinct and separate parties interact with one another – not one mind (the physician’s), not one body (the patient’s), but two minds and two bodies.”
– Jay Katz, The Silent World of Doctor and Patient (1984)
The doctor-patient relationship is the primary way that we experience medicine: we go to the doctor when we are sick, think we may be sick, or are scared of becoming sick. Healthcare is constructed around encounters between practitioners and patients, and the relationship between them is integral to how medicine is practised, experienced, and represented around the world. It may be paternalistic or a partnership of equals, underpinned by acts of care and compassion or negligence and abuse.
In a one-day symposium on Friday 24 March 2017, we will explore the different ways in which encounters between medical practitioners and patients have been imagined or conceptualised across different historical and cultural contexts.
How has our understanding of these interactions been affected by factors such as scientific and technological advances, urbanisation, and increased patient demand? By interrogating these idiosyncratic and complex personal and professional relationships, how can we better understand broad themes, such as the professionalisation of medicine or the politics of identity? The doctor often tells us a great deal about the patient: but what can the patient tell us about the doctor?
We encourage proposals for 20-minute papers from scholars with an interest in medical humanities working across different disciplines, e.g. arts, humanities, social sciences, and medicine. While papers on the history of medicine in British and North American contexts are welcome, we would also like to hear from scholars working in languages other than English, and on areas of the world beyond Britain and North America.
Possible topics could include, but are not limited to:
• Representations of practitioners and patients in literature, visual arts, and film;
• Different types of medical practitioners, e.g. nurses, dentists, midwives;
• History of emotions: the affect of the medical encounter;
• Whose voice? Patient narratives and case histories;
• Living with diseases of the age: nervous attacks, melancholia, hysteria, shell-shock;
• Doctors, patients and identity politics: gender, sexuality, race, class;
• Professionalisation, power and authority;
• Experiencing and/or practising colonial, imperial, and indigenous medicine;
• Medical encounters in the institution: hospitals, workhouses, prisons, asylums;
• Psychiatry and mental health;
• Medicine, the state, and its citizens;
• The material culture surrounding doctor-patient relationships.
Proposals should be no more than 300 words in length and a short biography should be included in addition. Please submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org by 30 November 2016.