‘Classification’, ‘Identity’ and ‘The Body’

13 June 2008

CRASSH, 17 Mill Lane




  • John Forrester (HPS)
  • Simon Szreter (History)

This interdisciplinary symposium brought together researchers working on diverse aspects of health and welfare. The one-day workshop organised by the Health and Welfare Research Group was designed to showcase on-going research by postgraduate and early research fellows in Cambridge. It attempted to promote academic exchange and to encourage future collaboration.

The Health and Welfare Research Group is a graduate-faculty research group at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH). From an interdisciplinary perspective, the group explores the malleable and sometimes recursive nature of knowledge about health, disease, and society.

The symposium aimed to use this comparative approach to focus on the construction and conceptualisation of human and social well-being in diverse historical periods and geographical areas. Discussion of the impact of these ideas on the practice of healthcare and the implementation of welfare policy was particularly encouraged. 

The symposium focused on three themes - 'Classification', 'Identity' and 'The Body'. These strands have been the focus of the seminar programme during the academic year 2007-8, which has encouraged interchange between researchers not just from arts, humanities and social science faculties, but also from scientific and medical backgrounds. A keynote lecture by Professor Joanna Bourke (Birkbeck, University of London) drew these themes together at the workshop.


Part of the  Health and Welfare Research Group


9.00 - 9.25


Registration (tea and coffee provided)

9.25 - 9.30


9.30 - 11.15

Panel 1: Classification This panel investigates the ways in which constructions and classifications of health and disease have an impact on patient care and treatment.

Chair: Simon Szreter (History, Cambridge)

Richard Barnett (Wellcome Centre for the History of Medicine, UCL)
The politics of potency: pethidine analgesia for British mothers and midwives 1939-1955
Mandisa Mbali (Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, Oxford)
Women in AIDS Epidemiology and Activism: Political Effects of the ‘Feminisation’ and ‘heterosexualisation’ of AIDS in South Africa

Jonathan Graffy (General Practice and Primary Care Research Unit, Cambridge)
Patients’ experiences of services for Type 2 Diabetes: A resource to improve care?

11.15 - 11.30

Break (tea and coffee provided)

11.30 - 13.15

Panel 2: The Body This panel considers the definition of the ‘healthy’ body and its role in shaping relationships between citizens and states and patients and healthcare providers.

Chair: Vanessa Heggie (HPS, Cambridge)

Katharine Young (Law, Harvard)
Health, the Body and the State

Elise Juzda (History, Cambridge)
From the British Body to the Healthy Body: Anthropometric Surveys, 1860-1910

Ian Miller (CHSTM, Manchester)
The “rise” of Duodenal Ulcer Disease c.1900-1920

13.15 - 14.15

Break (lunch provided)

14.15 - 16.00

Panel 3: Identity and Welfare This panel explores personhood and identity and how they are mediated by the state, the law and society.

Chair: Simon Cohn (General Practice and Primary Care Research Unit, Cambridge)

Elma Brenner (History, Cambridge/ English Heritage)
Outside the city walls: leprosy, exclusion, and social identity in medieval Rouen

Rachel Parry (Learning Disability Research Group, Cambridge)
Standardising personalisation: consequences for adults with profound and multiple learning disabilities

Brian Sloan (Law, Cambridge)
Recognising the “Carer” in Property Law

16.00 - 16.30

Break (tea and coffee provided)

16.30 - 18.00 

Keynote paper: Joanna Bourke (History, Birkbeck, London)
Sexual violence and trauma theory: a history

Chair: Deborah Thom (Cambridge)


Wine Reception 

Poster presentations
Bonnie Kemske (Royal College of Art, London) Touch, Tactility, and the Thoughtful Body:Embracing Well-being through Sculpture

Lisa Frost Ramsay (Geography, Cambridge) Local understandings of environmental health: the South Durban case study

Adewale Olubukola Oparinde and Ekin Birol (Land Economy, Cambridge and International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, D.C.) Investigating the Relationship between Income, Health and Biomass consumption