Shame, Stigma and “Unexplained” Symptoms

Katharine Cheston discusses the isolation, disbelief and stigma experienced by people with poorly understood medical conditions Autobiographical accounts of illness tend to follow a similar script. Typically, they open with an interruption: new symptoms

‘Anthropology of Tobacco’: Book Review

Emily Sinclair reviews Andrew Russell’s Anthropology of Tobacco: Ethnographic adventures in non-human worlds (Routledge: 2019). In his Anthropology of Tobacco Andrew Russell takes a refreshing look at the history of this plant, both spirit and

Wendy Lowe reviews ‘Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Shame: Methods, Theory, Norms, Cultures and Politics’

Wendy Lowe takes a look at a new edited collection on shame, and explores its relevance to the medical humanities. In some ways, because Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Shame deals with a cultural tendency to

What’s it like to have ADHD?

David Ellis reflects on ADHD and the language – and judgements – around it. ‘But you said for me to write a couple of lines’, I protest as the teacher ushers me out of

Contagious! Visiting an Exhibition on Epidemic Diseases

What do objects from a bygone age tell us about epidemics today? Since opening in June, the exhibition Contagious! reflects on the history of pandemics, including patients’ painful experiences, coping and containment strategies, and examples of ground-breaking medical research. Ruben Verwaal reports on his recent visit.

‘Creating Romantic Obsession’: Book Review

Sierra Moreno reviews Kathleen Béres Rogers’ Creating Romantic Obsession: Scorpions in the Mind (Palgrave Macmillan: 2019) In Francisco Goya’s 1799 etching The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, a slumped figure is assailed by a cloud

Becoming an Image

Being a patient today increasingly means being an image. Liz Orton’s new artist’s book, Every Body is an Archive, takes the medical image as a site of critical enquiry to explore questions of ownership, language and power within the clinical encounter. Polyphony editor Fiona Johnstone met with Liz Orton to talk about the book, the centrality of image-making to medical practice, and how right now is a radical moment for the clinical gaze.

‘Educating Doctors’ Senses Through the Medical Humanities’: Book Review

Marie Allitt reviews Alan Bleakley’s Educating Doctors’ Senses Through the Medical Humanities: “How do I look?” (Routledge: 2020). Building on many years as professor of medical humanities in medical education, Alan Bleakley’s Educating Doctors’ Senses Through

Healthy Homes: Building Becontree

Karen Rushton, Borough Archivist at Valence House Museum London, introduces the Wellcome Trust funded “Building Becontree” project, reflecting on the estate’s history and significance at the time of today’s global pandemic and the relevance

‘Biblical and Theological Visions of Resilience’: Book Review

Lena Maria Lorenz reviews Nathan H. White & Christopher C.H. Cook’s Biblical and Theological Visions of Resilience: Pastoral and clinical insights (Routledge: 2020). The editors of this innovative volume of fifteen essays justly belief that

The Good Neighbours: Invisible Health Conditions during COVID-19

Laura Donald reflects on invisible health conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. I live in a Glasgow tenement building whose inhabitants pride themselves on their neighbourliness. Often I mute the residents’ WhatsApp group, sometimes for

Elsa of Arendelle: Depigmentation, Deafhood, and Genetic Difference

As part of her ongoing research, Dr Sara Louise Wheeler places Frozen’s protagonist Elsa in context of historical and contemporary depictions of those living with genetic conditions which cause depigmentation and deafness. Historically, hegemonic

Review of Moments of Rupture: The importance of affect in medical education and surgical training

How can trainee health professionals learn from the ‘messy reality of actual clinical practice’? Wendy Lowe reviews a new book exploring what learning is, or should be, in medical education. Moments of Rupture combines

I Want to Zoom with the Baby in My Womb: Pregnancy During the Pandemic

In this personal essay Cleo Hanaway-Oakley reflects on being pregnant during the pandemic and the importance of ultrasound scan imagery.

Review of Communicating Pain: Exploring Suffering through Language, Literature and Creative Writing

How do we convey an experience of pain to others? This question – which has long fascinated scholars in the medical humanities – is addressed in a new book, reviewed here by Susanne Main. Communicating Pain

Embodying Suicidal Emotions in England, 1700-1860

The ‘drooping of despondency’, Ella Sbaraini analyses a variety of source material to explore how the embodied nature of suicidal feelings in the past

The Perils and Possibilities of Retrospective Diagnosis

Anna Jamieson explores researchers’ urge to retrospectively diagnose historical and literary figures, outlining the dangers and possibilities of such diagnostic endeavours. 

“Nostalgia for the Future”: Projecting a Post-Disability Image through Retro-Futuristic Aesthetics in Viktoria Modesta’s “Prototype”

In her paper, presented at the online Cyberpunk Culture 2020 conference (the recording is available here), Julia Gatermann explores the re-signification of disability via cyberpunk aesthetics and posthumanism in Viktoria Modesta’s art. Self-labeled bionic

‘Making Bodies Kosher’: Book Review

Michal Raucher reviews Ben Kasstan’s Making Bodies Kosher: The Politics of Reproduction among Haredi Jews in England (Berghahn: 2019). In Making Bodies Kosher, Ben Kasstan explores the ways Orthodox Jews in Manchester, England respond to public

Lockdown theatre: Crips without Constraints

With the news that theatres are making slow steps towards re-opening, this week I am looking back to another digital performance based project that has been running during lockdown. Throughout lockdown Graeae theatre company

‘Moving Worlds’: Journal Issue Review

Neko Mellor reviews Moving World’s latest issue, ‘Literature, Medicine, Health’ (edited by Clare Barker). At the time of writing this review, the UK is in its seventh week of lockdown due to the covid-19 pandemic, and

What is Sub-Optimal Health?

Lijiaozi Cheng discusses the concept of sub-optimal health and the Chinese government’s colour-based “health code” for containing COVID-19 A label for me A few years ago, I was doing my masters in Edinburgh and

(Not) Looking at Historical Medical Images

How do researchers respond to the politics, ethics and emotions raised by archival medical images? Michaela Clark reviews the workshop ‘Emotions and Ethics: the Use and Abuse of Historical Images’, organised by AboutFace, 17 June 2020.

Muzzles, parrots and lifejackets: the uneasy objectification of the face mask

As lockdown eases and face coverings become mandatory in certain situations, Harriet Barratt uses object relations theory to consider the emotional responses that the mask engenders.

The Gendered Spectacle of Suffering

Lucy Weir explores the gendered nature of critical responses to on-stage violence I am an art historian by training, though my expertise lies in performance, from dance and theatre to live art. Throughout my