20-21 April 2007
Venue: Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), 17 Mill Lane, Cambridge
Organized by John Forrester and Lauren Kassell
'The Case' is a term with multiple meanings that overlap, sometimes creating reinforcements of meaning and sometimes tensions if not contradictions. Referring to something or someone as 'a case' can be an attempt to recognize its singular individuality, or it can be taken as an attempt to crush that individuality, to 'pigeon-hole' it. A case can refer to a set of proceedings, to a piece of writing, to an attitude of mind. Within European cultures, 'cases' are also well- established genres within the older professions of law and medicine (with historical priority usually being ceded to the former). The internal development and interaction between these genres has been studied for some time, but the level of sophistication and self- awareness of this historical work has in recent years taken a decisive step forward. A conference which focuses primarily on this historical work but is also attentive to philosophical and historiographical questions will be a landmark and a book developed from the proceedings will define the field.
The conference will consist of four half-day sessions, with two substantial position papers delivered within each session, followed by compact formal commentaries and then open discussion. The choice of themes is intended to allow broad-ranging reflections on the development of the genre of the case and on recent developments in which 'the case' is taken as the basic unit for medico-legal and ethical studies; it will also allow more detailed historical studies extending from the early modern period to the developments in the twentieth century which saw new professions and mass techniques in new disciplines (such as social work, management science and psychotherapy) employing the case.