6 Oct 2021 - 8 Oct 2021 All day Wolfson College and online



Ariane Hanemaayer (Visiting Fellow, CRASSH, Brandon University, Canada, University of Exeter)
Eftihia Mihelakis (Brandon University, Canada)


The medical humanities is a field as diverse as CRASSH, representing the arts (e.g., literature, theatre/performance, fine arts, and film), social sciences (e.g., sociology of health and disease, anthropology of medicine, the biopsychosocial model, social determinant of health, health geography), and humanities (e.g., bioethics, history of medicine, philosophy of medicine, comparative literature, and spirituality and healing). The interdisciplinary strength of this field is its ability to imagine otherwise, to view and analyse medical practice, knowledge and beliefs, and experiences of health and/or illness from perspectives beyond the imperialism of biomedicine in our daily lives. While some uses of the medical humanities have been instrumental in their appropriation of the tools, methods, and ideas of ‘outside’ disciplines to improve medical education or health care, the medical humanities also offer the critical and political promise of promoting and including otherwise marginalised voices and practices in medicine.

Our contemporary world has been globalised, and medicine has been organised and reorganised accordingly, both conscientiously and unwittingly. As lines between disciplines have been moved, settled, and colonised, so too have the health sciences and practices. Our health, our discourse and knowledge, and our health systems may appear as natural to us, but their naturalisation is tied to the globalising and organising currents that insert themselves therein. This terrain of struggle, of movement, of practice, requires cross-disciplinary conversation and analysis. To fully understand how medicine and the medical humanities coalesce, conjunct, and construct one another, we present three days of diverse and multi-disciplinary events in an in-person and digital hybrid format.

The events will engage with this idea of the global, medicine, and the medical humanities through the spectre of the milieu. The milieu is conceived as a space where language, practice, stories, knowledge, and experiences combine and are combined. The milieu is pressed upon from the outside, to recall a Deleuzean construction, yet its contours also push back. With this focus, we restore the milieu as central to understanding both medicine and the medical humanities, their relationship, function, and role in imagining what is possible within and outside the current space of practice and analysis. Each workshop, keynote presentation and panel will cultivate conversation across genres, performances, knowledges, and experiences. The panels aim to be transformative in our local milieux while also inciting radicality globally.

Supported by

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In person booking link and online attendance link

Speaker biographies, titles and abstracts can be viewed on the abstracts tab

All times are in BST (GMT +1)

Wednesday 6 October 2021
Lee Hall, Wolfson College

16.15 - 17.00

Registration and Opening Words
Ariane Hanemaayer and Eftihia Mihelakis

17.00 - 18.30

Panel A: Dance Performance and Workshop 

Lucille Toth (Ohio State University)
Global Mobility in Times of a Pandemic: A Participative Conference

Thursday 7 October 2021
Needham Room, Wolfson College

10.00 - 12.00

Panel B: Mobilities of Health 
Catherine Waldby (Australian National University)
Reproduction and Extinction in the Social Sciences and Humanities

Yasmin Gunaratnam (King’s College London)
Decolonial Presencing, Infrastructures of Violence and Joy

Ariane Hanemaayer (Brandon University, CRASSH, University of Exeter)
Problematising Space: Caring for People

12.00 - 13.30


13.30 - 15.00

Panel C: Spaces of Care-Caring Spaces

Dominique Hétu (Brandon University)
‘On the Lookout for a Crack’: Disruptive Becomings and Ambivalent Caring Spaces in Under the Stone

Daryl Martin (University of York)
Between Bodies and Buildings: The Place of Comfort within Therapeutic Spaces

Carrie Friese (The London School of Economics)
Title (TBA)

15.00 - 15.30


15.30 - 17.00

Keynote Presentation

Sasha Turner (Johns Hopkins University)
Slavery, Abolition and the Politics of Medical Knowledge Production

Friday 8 October 2021
Needham Room, Wolfson College

11.00 - 12.00


12.15 - 13.45

Keynote Presentation

Sander L. Gilman (Emory University)
Pandemics, Xenophobia, and Fear

13.45 - 14.00


14.00 - 15.00

Panel D: Medicine and Humanities Out of Place 

Eftihia Mihelakis (Brandon University) in conversation with Catherine Mavrikakis (Université de Montréal)

15.00 - 15.30


15.30 - 17.00

Panel E: Assessing Limits

Cassie Thornton (The Re-Imagining Value Action Lab)
Undermining Imaginary Limitations in a Viral Peer to Peer Care Model

Mark Fabian (University of Cambridge)
Co-producing Wellbeing Public Policy

Riana Betzler (Washington University in St. Louis)
Empathy in Medicine: What Is it Good for?

17.00 - 17.30

Concluding Remarks and Future Directions

Speaker Biographies, Titles, and Abstracts

Speaker Biographies, Titles, and Summaries 

Riana Betzler is McDonnell Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology at Washington University in St. Louis.  She is engaged in a major research project on the “Science and Ethics of Empathy,” which she uses as a vehicle for pursuing Her other wide-ranging interests in the philosophy of science, cognitive science of morality, and biomedical ethics. She has published in journals such as the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, International Journal of Philosophical Studies, Medicine, Healthcare, and Philosophy, and Philosophical Psychology.

Tentative title: Empathy in medicine: What is it good for?

Summary: Empathy is widely assumed to be an important component of medical practice.  This assumption has come under scrutiny in recent years, however, largely in response to findings from neuroscience and social psychology showing that empathy can be biased towards those who are already within our circle of moral concern, that it leads us to favor the one over the many, and that it is not particularly motivating and may lead to burnout on the part of the empathizer.  These findings seem to threaten the idea that empathy can be a force for good within contemporary medical practice — especially if our aim is to foster the development of a more just, equitable, and accessible healthcare system.  In this paper, I argue that the findings from social psychology and neuroscience should give us pause but should not lead us to reject empathy wholesale.  Empathy can and should play a role in medical practice—but what exactly that role is must be more tightly specified.  I begin by discussing a conceptual issue that undermines the threat from social psychology and neuroscience.  I then argue that empathy should be conceived as having an epistemic role within the medical domain (and perhaps elsewhere); empathy is good insofar as it leads to understanding of the patient, their needs, and their values.  Appreciating the epistemic role of empathy also helps us to see how it is crucially implicated in facilitating informed consent, autonomy, and decision-making.


Mark Fabian is a postdoctoral Research Associate at the Bennett Institute for Public Policy at Cambridge University. He was previously a Fulbright Scholar at the Brookings Institution in DC, and an adjunct lecturer at the Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU. His research is an interdisciplinary exploration of well-being theory and measurement in a policy context. He has published articles in the Journal of Happiness Studies and Social Science Quarterly.

Title: Co-producing Wellbeing Public Policy (with Anna Alexandrova, Cambridge)

Summary: Wellbeing is a ‘thick concept’ – it both describes and evaluates. Scientists, notably happiness economists and hedonic psychologists, have historically neglected to engage substantively with the value-laden aspects of the construct. This is untenable in new ‘wellbeing public policy’ ventures, where citizens and other stakeholders ought to be empowered to make the value judgments inherent to defining and working with wellbeing. We report on recent efforts to democratise wellbeing policy by coproducing a conceptualisation and measures of wellbeing in a partnership between academics, the UK national charity Turn2Us, and people with a lived experience of financial hardship.


Carrie Friese is Associate Professor in Sociology at the London School of Economics. Her research is in medical sociology and science and technology studies, with a focus on reproduction across humans and animals. Her initial research focused on the use of assisted reproductive technologies for human reproduction in the context of infertility, with a particular focus on ageing and motherhood. I then explored the development of interspecies nuclear transfer (aka cloning) for endangered species preservation in zoos. Based on this research, she has also written and given talks on the ethics of de-extinction. She currently holds a Wellcome Trust New Investigator Award for the project “Care as Science: The Role of Animal Husbandry in Translational Medicine.” She has published such works as Situational Analysis: Grounded Theory after the Interpretive Turn and Cloning Wildlife: Zoos, Captivity, and the Future of Endangered Animals.

Title: Working Mice: In/visibility of Spaces of Care in the Knowledge Ecologies of Translational Medicine

Summary: This paper considers the theme of invisible care work in the context of translational medicine by foregroundin the animal model. The invisibility of the laboratory animal in vaccine production has been stark in public discussions regarding vaccines for Covid-19.  Based on observational research conducted in an animal facility that was caring for laboratory mice as well as an immunological laboratory that was conducting research regarding age and vaccine uptake using those mice, this paper explores how the biologies of mice, as well as technicians’ knowledge regarding those biologies, is rendered invisible through the flows of translation. I probe this invisibility as a site of where the social construction of ignorance is pronounce.


Sander L. Gilman is a distinguished professor of the Liberal Arts and Sciences as well as professor of psychiatry at Emory University. A cultural and literary historian, he is the author of Making the Body Beautiful: A Cultural History of Aesthetic Surgery (Princeton University Press), Are Racists Crazy? How Prejudice, Racism, and Antisemitism Became Markers of Insanity  (NYU Press), Seeing the Insane (University of Nebraska Press). For twenty-five years he was a member of the humanities and medical faculties at Cornell University where he held the Goldwin Smith Professorship of Humane Studies. For six years he held the Henry R. Luce Distinguished Service Professorship of the Liberal Arts in Human Biology at the University of Chicago. For four years he was a distinguished professor of the Liberal Arts and Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he created the Humanities Laboratory.  He has been a visiting professor at numerous universities in North America, South Africa, The United Kingdom, Germany, Israel, China, and New Zealand. He was president of the Modern Language Association in 1995 and has been awarded a Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) at the University of Toronto, elected an honorary professor of the Free University in Berlin, made an honorary member of the American Psychoanalytic Association, and made a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Title: Pandemics, Xenophobia, and Fear

Summary: Building on our “I KNOW WHO CAUSED CORONA-19”:  PANDEMICS AND XENOPHOBIA (Reaktion, 2021), I will examine the role of fear in narratives of pandemics from  Thucydides to the present.  My case study will focus on the role of fear in vaccine denial in the United States in mid-2021 and the resulting expansion of infections.


Yasmin Gunaratnam is Reader in Sociology at Goldsmiths College. She is interested in how different types of inequality and injustice are produced, lived with and remade and how these processes create new forms of local and global inclusion and dispossession. This interest extends to examining and questioning how academics produce knowledge, how we write, gather together, teach and think about thinking. Her research includes studies on dying migrants and care professionals, first time mothers and more recent projects on hospitality to migrants and cultures of gender in/equality in a global context. She has published Death and the Migrant: Bodies, Borders, Care, Palliative Care: Care for Life Limiting Illnesses – PALCOPE Information and Help for Older People, and Widening Access to Hospice Care – A Briefing Paper for Managers and Trustees.

Title: Decolonial Presencing, Infrastructures of Violence and Joy |

Summary: This contribution draws on research in the UK with dying migrants and in South Africa with sex workers to discuss experimental examples of how art can make present the strange times of infrastructures of violence and also what Frances Negrón-Muntaner calls ‘decolonial joy’.   Addressing how the historical weight of racism and colonialism can bear down upon lives, health, well-being and dying, I will describe the methodological implications of practices of decolonial presencing and care that entail working across chasms, distortions, exclusions and absences in archives and our hermeneutic resources, and which pose questions of how we write, teach, research and gather together.


Ariane Hanemaayer is Associate Professor of Sociology at Brandon University and Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Research in Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Cambridge, and Visiting Scholar at Egenis, Centre for the Study of the Life Sciences at University of Exeter. She is author of The Impossible Clinic: A Critical Sociology of Evidence Based Medicine (2019), The Impossible System: A critical sociology of public health (forthcoming), and editor of AI and Its Discontents: Critiques across the humanities and social sciences. Generally, she uses an adaptation of Michel Foucault’s counter-human method of genealogy to explain how health systems come to define their goals and the conditions that render those objectives attainable, or not.

Title: Problematising Space: Caring for People

Summary: Security assemblages exist at the intersection of the population and the milieu. This presentation explains how the apparatus of security problematised space in such a way that it justified a reduction in the role of government in the name of better care and cost savings. I examine the emergence of the UK’s public health policy Caring for People in the 1980s, which played a significant role is reorganizing social care by promoting individual choice in lieu of institutionalisation. While the policy’s stated aims were to improve the lives of those who depend on care, the result was a greater burden on individuals and less investment in infrastructures of care.


Dominique Hétu is Assistant Professor in the Department of Classical and Modern Languages at Brandon University, on Treaty 2 territory. Her research brings together feminist care ethics, ordinary ethics, and women’s writing. She has published in Canadian Literature, Mosaic, Nouvelles vues and Temps zéro, and in the edited collection Comparative Literature for the New Century (McGill-Queen’s, 2018). Her most recent publications are “Pratiques du care, politiques de l’hospitalité: L’ordinaire et l’extraordinaire chez Heather O’Neill,” in Les éthiques de l’hospitalité, du don et du care: regards croisés, actualité (U of Ottawa P, 2020), and “Penser les lieux du care: fiction, wonder et vies ordinaires,”in the journal A Contrario (no. 31, Université de Lausanne, forthcoming).

Title: ‘On the Lookout for a Crack’: Disruptive Becomings and Ambivalent Caring Spaces in Under the Stone.

Summary: The novel Under the Stone rethinks vulnerability and agency by imagining different relational interactions and new ethical, spatial, and corporeal responses to pain. Karoline Georges’ novel is not about hope: it instead reflects her work on suffering and on envisioning, through an artistic approach informed by medical science and technology, responses to the world’s many crises and the overwhelming sense of fear and passivity that they can create.


Daryl Martin is a Lecturer in Sociology at the University of York (UK) with research interests increasingly focused on the intersection of architecture, embodiment, and care. These complement his long-standing interests in cities, northern landscapes, mobilities, and literary approaches to documenting the social.

Title: Between bodies and buildings: the place of comfort within therapeutic spaces

Summary: In this paper, I focus on the ways in which comfort has been discussed in my research with visitors and staff members of Maggie’s, an organisation which provides practical, emotional and social support for people with cancer, their families and friends. The paper seeks to open out a discussion of comfort as an important heuristic when thinking about the experience of care. I make use of David Bissell’s understanding of comfort as a highly complex sensibility, where comfort is enacted through the interactions and relations between individual bodies, objects and environments. Bissell’s multiple definitions of comfort are set into dialogue empirically with data from my research across Maggie’s sites, and the importance of comfort within my participants’ experience of their Centres is explored. Ultimately, comfort is presented as an achievement of professional practice and spatial design, and an accomplishment through the co-production of these places by their visitors and volunteers, and the experiences they bring.


Catherine Mavrikakis is Professor of Literature and Creative Writing in the Department of French at Université de Montréal and an award-winning writer who has published nine novels, including La ballade d’Ali Baba, Les derniers jours de Smokey Nelson, Le ciel de Bay City, Oscar De Profundis and L’Annexe and is the author of an oratorio, Omaha Beach. She also writes essays, including Diamanda Galás. Guerrière et gorgone and L’éternité en accéléré. Her books have been translated into several languages (Flowers of Spit, Bookthug Press) and have won numerous awards. As a researcher, she has worked on different subjects, such as transmission, mourning, and illness in modern writing. Her research attempts to think about the literary and social discourse on current health issues (Foucault), the ideas of contamination, contagion and influence in the writings of AIDS and the imagination of confession, of suffering in contemporary narratives. She is interested in the creative process in psychoanalytic theory and in the discourse of writers.


Eftihia Mihelakis is Assistant Professor in the Department of Classical and Modern Languages and affiliated to the Gender & Women’s Studies Program at Brandon University. She specializes in critical theory, medical humanities, comparative literature, and feminist epistemologies. She is co-director of the Medical Humanities Research Group (with Dr. Ariane Hanemaayer). Her research analyses the impact that normative signs of the body have on underlying medical, legal, and artistic narratives. She published a monograph in 2017, The Question of Virginity (La virginité en question, Les Presses de l’Université de Montréal) in which she shows how the “hymen” has been historically contested as a biological sign. She proves that this equivocal sign actually functions as a key cultural signifier, the critical underpinnings of which sit at the confluence of the construction of knowledge that passes through mind/body divide and the hierarchy of interpretative regimes that amplify, preserve, or render them invisible or obsolete.


Cassie Thornton is an artist and activist from the USA, currently living in Canada. She is the author of The Hologram : Feminist, Peer-to-Peer Health for a Post-Pandemic Future (Pluto Books, 2021) is a radical new approach to health and caregiving in the age of COVID-19. She refers to herself as a feminist economist, a title that frames her work as that of a social scientist actively preparing for the economics of a future society that produces health and life without the tools that reproduce oppression— like money, police or prisons. Since before the 2008 financial collapse, Thornton has focused on researching and revealing the complex nature of debt through socially engaged art. She has produced large and small social projects and writings with activist and art organizations, festivals, conferences, and institutions including Transmediale, Bemis Center for the Arts, MoneyLab, Furtherfield Gallery, MayWorks-Halifax, Strike Debt, Headlands Center for the Arts, Cannonball Miami, Volta Fair in Basel, Mass Arts, PS-1, Brooklyn Museum, Flux Factory, Gallery 400 in Chicago, Southern Exposure, SFMoMA, EFA Project Space, and more. Her early research into the social and imaginal impact of financial debt systems makes her role as artist at educational and cultural institutions to be like that of an ethics accountant or janitorial shaman for the political economy (who delves into the closets to check on the ghosts that every institution keeps hidden). She is currently the co-director of the Re-Imagining Value Action Lab in Thunder Bay, an art and social center at Lakehead University in Ontario, Canada.

Title: Undermining Imaginary Limitations in a Viral Peer to Peer Care Model

Summary: Cassie Thornton will discuss key issues presented in The Hologram: Feminist, Peer-to-Peer Health for a Post-Pandemic Future, a manifesto/art/science fiction book launched as a collectively organized, viral, anti-capitalist health practice that is now thriving, with hundreds of people practicing it from their couches around the world. She will argue that this simple, but revolutionary protocol gives a clear structure for how an individual can organize their own consistent, long term care from a team of non-professional caretakers, without money, while the caretakers are also equally well cared for. Thornton will discuss the ways that The Hologram practice challenges users’ personal habits and beliefs around care, individualism, authority, and exchange.


Lucille Toth is Assistant Professor of French at OSU-Newark, affiliated with Ohio State Dance department. Trained in contemporary dance in France, her research interests lie at the intersection of dance, literature, medical humanities, gender and migration studies. Her first book Danse et pandémie. Du SIDA au COVID-19  (Dance and Pandemics. From AIDS to COVID-19) traces the links between contamination and dance in France and beyond in order to challenge contemporary cultural, political and artistic metaphors about movement. Her new project Moving Bodies, Moving Borders confronts migration and movement with current discourses on purity and identity. In 2015, she co-edited the volume Danse contemporaine et littérature (Paris: Centre National de la Danse, 2015). As a choreographer, an immigrant and women’s rights advocate, she is the founder and artistic director of On Border(hers), a dance project based on the testimonies of immigrants that shows how global mobility is part of contemporary national and global history.  On Board (hers) now welcomes groups in the US, in Mexico, Germany and France. This dance project has been supported by different grants including a Coca Cola Critical Difference for Women Grant, and an Outreach Grant from OSU-Newark, and received good press coverage from NPR, Columbus Alive and WOSU, among others. As part of this project, Dr. Lucille Toth gave a TEDxTalk in 2019 entitled “Yes she has an accent. Why don’t you?

Title: Global Mobility in Times of a Pandemic: A Participative Conference

Summary: This participative conference is inspired by community-based project On Board(hers) and three years of dance workshops and performances with immigrants in the US, France and Mexico. Participants will be invited to explore their own relationship to mobility in times of a pandemic while critically and kinesthetically addressing how techniques and technologies of border security impact mobility.


Sasha Turner is Associate Professor of History in the Department of History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University. Her current research examines emotions as a site of gendered racial subjectivity. Tentatively titled, Slavery, Emotions, and Gender, her new research explores the role of emotion in structuring the power struggles that defined enslavement, including how enslaver and enslaved deployed emotion for social, cultural, and political goals. Her interest in emotions emerged from her first book, Contested Bodies: Pregnancy, Childrearing and Slavery in Jamaica (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017). She became motivated by the inexplicable sense of loss she felt conducting research into the high rates of infant and child mortality in the Caribbean colonies. After spending years piecing together the ritual and community lives of enslaved women, their dead children were not simply statistics recorded on a page; enslaved women were flesh and blood people whose lives remained haunted by the specter of death. Dr. Turner wanted to know more about what these deaths meant for enslaved women who experienced death on a daily basis, and how the peculiar circumstances of a life of enslavement shaped feelings and emotions.

Title: Slavery, Abolition and the Politics of Medical Knowledge Production

Summary: This presentation examines the new meanings abolition imputed to race and gender in colonial medical exchanges. Racism, sexism, and commodification continued to intersect in the knowledge colonial elites, expatriate physicians, and slaveholders produced about black medical practitioners. Abolition, however, dictated the kinds of questions doctors were interested in researching and how they perceived black healing practices they encountered.


Catherine Waldby is Director of the Research School of Social Sciences, at the Australian National University, and Visiting Professor at the Department of Social Science and Medicine at King’s College London. Her research focuses on social studies of biomedicine and the life sciences. Her recent books include The Global Politics of Human Embryonic Stem Cell Science: Regenerative Medicine in Transition, (with Herbert Gottweis and Brian Salter, Palgrave 2009) and Clinical Labour: Tissue donors and Research Subjects in the Global Bioeconomy (with Melinda Cooper, Duke University Press 2014). With Nikolas Rose and Hannah Landecker, she is the editor of BioSocieties: an interdisciplinary journal for the social studies of life sciences. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia and a member of the History and Philosophy committee of the Academy of Science.  She has received national and international research grants for her work on stem cells, blood donation and biobanking.

Title: Reproduction and Extinction in the Social Sciences and Humanities

Summary: If human reproduction were to cease, homo sapiens sapiens would become extinct and the social world we make together would be extinguished. In this sense, human reproduction, the conception, gestation, birth and nurture of children, is the foundational act of social life, the primary condition in which any social world can exist. While human reproduction is central to biological and biomedical disciplines, this centrality to the social is differentially acknowledged in the HASS disciplines, and in most cases it is relegated to the margins. This paper will present some preliminary ideas towards an analysis of the status of reproduction in the HASS disciplines and argue for a better acknowledgement of the ways the social and the biological are imbricated. Such acknowledgement is important for both the human world and the life of the planet.

Upcoming Events


Tel: +44 1223 766886
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