We’re Moving!

The Centre for Medical Humanities blog launched in September 2010 and has grown into a vibrant resource for medical humanities researchers, students, clinicians, arts-in-health practitioners, artists and general readers from around the world. Our 1,293 posts have been viewed 231,400 times and reach the inboxes and twitter feeds of over 3000 people.

Blog editors Angela Woods, Will Viney and Felicity Callard are delighted to announce the imminent launch of our new Centre for Medical Humanities blog at http://centreformedicalhumanities.org. Existing content has all been transferred, but further news, updates and insights about medical humanities research will be found here

Subscribers to this blog will have their subscriptions automatically transferred in the coming days, but please do update your bookmarks to the new site.

Thank you for your interest in and support of the CMH blog, and we hope you will continue to visit us in our new incarnation!

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Whistle While You Work (For Nothing): Positive Affect as Coercive Strategy – The Case of Workfare

In this post, Lynne Friedli and Robert Stearn look at the role of  psychological coercion, notably through the imposition of positive affect,  in UK Government workfare programmes. There has been little or no debate about the recruitment of psychology/psychologists into monitoring,  modifying and/or punishing  people who claim social security benefits. This silence raises important ethical questions, including about the relationship of psychology to the medical humanities.

Whistle while you work (for nothing): positive affect as coercive strategy
– the case of workfare [1]


The growth and influence of discourses of positive affect in systems of governance and ‘technologies of the self’ has been widely observed.[2]  ‘Strengths based discourse’ is a significant policy imperative in health and welfare reform[3] and underpins  ‘the application of  behavioural science and psychology to public policy’ via the UK government’s Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) or ‘nudge unit’.  Positive affect plays an important supporting role in policy preoccupations with how best to manage the intersection of long term conditions and long term unemployment, exemplified in the shift from rest cure, (signified by the sick note), to work cure, (signified by the fit note).

The deployment of positive affect within the active labour market policies  pursued by both Labour and the Coalition is legitimated by and reinforces the economic model that UK governments have drawn on over the last thirty years, according to which long-term unemployment is itself a barrier to employment. Unemployment – ‘worklessness’ – is held to be a harmful attribute that people may acquire, linked to ideas of debility and dependency, which makes them less employable.  Hence interventions designed to change individuals’ behaviour and tackle their alleged loss of ‘employability’ are posited as a reasonable approach to a macroeconomic problem.[4]  Workfare is increasingly central to such policy, combining twin imperatives of this supply-side package, this relentless focus on claimants: to change the behaviour of people whose employment-related behaviour is deemed inadequate and to make life lived on subsistence benefits (even) more punitive and less viable.

So the use of positive affect in the delivery of workfare has far ranging consequences for people who are unemployed, sick, disabled or in ‘in work’ poverty (i.e. deemed not to be working enough hours, or not doing enough to secure ‘better paid work’).  This includes mandatory participation in ‘positive psychology’ courses and the use of psychological referral as punishment for non-compliance  (regulated and ad-hoc) with the new regimes of welfare conditionality to which people claiming out of work benefits (or in future, universal credit) are subject. In addition to those currently claiming benefits,  those  who could be at risk of doing so – notably those currently adopting ‘unhealthy behaviours’ – are also regularly subjected to the blandishments of positive thinking.[5] Populations ‘marked out for wearing out’ as Lauren Berlant puts it.[6]  Central themes include  positive affect as ‘health asset’ and potent form of personal capital – in other words, positive affect as a substitute for income and security: ‘cruel optimism’  indeed.

These developments mean that positive psychology is now as significant a feature of conditionality in the lives of those who are poor as going to church once was, and they share a common evangelical language: ‘something within the spirit of individuals living within deprived communities that needs healed’ (SCDC 2011, 3).  Unfortunately,  the compulsions of positive affect are not confined to Sundays.

I am shy and have difficulty speaking to people and I will not do play acting in front of a group of people I am very uncomfortable with…. I was told I would be sanctioned if I didn’t take part, so I said I would get up, but I am not speaking…. After that, we had to fill out yet another ‘benefits of being assertive’ sheet.[7]

‘he was determined to change my ‘being’ which was apparently what is preventing me from getting a job …. The main point which was hammered home time and again was that if we believed we could get a job, then it would happen. It was simply our mindset that was the barrier and he seemed intent on us all having mini epiphanies there and then. ‘[8]

The choice was to accept psych eval, or go straight to MWA… [9]

The rise of psychological coercion, ‘positive affect as coercive strategy’, and the recruitment of psychology/psychologists into monitoring,  modifying and/or punishing  people who claim social security benefits raises important ethical questions about psychological authority ( being ‘nasty in a nice way’ – as one person on Job Seekers’ Allowance  (JSA)  put it).  It also invites reflection on the rarity of challenges to the authority of psychology,  (Whitehead’s ‘emerging cartel of psychocrats’), given its central role in the legitimising and implementation of workfare .[10]  So our first question concerns the relationship between psychology and psychologists and the field of medical humanities – critical or otherwise.

The complex supply chains of  the Work Programme, which makes heavy use of the voluntary sector,  make this question and the self-scrutiny it ought to provoke more pressing.  Such complexity serves to insulate charitable organisations (who advise or provide services for contractors, or who arrange and benefit from placements) from the decision of whether or not to sanction claimants and from accountability for the consequences.

Compulsory positive affect and psychological authority are being applied in workfare in three (overlapping) ways:

  • to identify psychological barriers to gaining employment
  • to punish people for non-compliance
  • to inculcate attributes and attitudes said to increase employability

Psychological  barriers: lack of motivation
One of the criteria for being sent on  Community Work Placements[11] is ‘lack of motivation’, regarded in the policy literature as a significant impediment to gaining employment – although how lack of motivation is defined and identified is vague and random.  Eligibility for both out of work and in work benefits is now explicitly contingent not only on certain behaviours, but also on possession of the right affect: conditions placed on who can receive social security are confused with demands on what recipients are and do, and disallowances (questionable on other grounds) are confused with sanctions, both to the detriment of claimants.[12]  Failure to be ‘actively seeking work’ accounts for the biggest share of the colossal – and accelerating – increase in sanction rates since 2004.[13]

The consistent failure of Work Programme interventions to improve work outcomes has resulted in a much greater focus on psychological or ‘soft outcomes’ – motivation, confidence, ‘job-seeking behaviour’, ‘a positive change in attitude to work’ – said to ‘move people closer to work’.[14]  The pool of forced work options available – the number of different workfare schemes, along with traineeships, apprenticeships, and intermediate labour markets, in combination with bogus self-employment and short-term or part-time minimum wage work (participation in all of  which is compelled directly or indirectly by sanctions) – creates a field within which affect becomes a major criterion for measuring one claimant against another.   An individual can shuttle between schemes, their work entirely disengaged from pay, which becomes an attribute of mindset: a wage, if ever introduced, will ‘more faithfully replicate the experience of work’.[15]

Efforts to achieve these soft outcomes – the right affect –  are evident in the course content of mandatory training programmes run by major workfare contractors like A4e and Ingeus.  The A4e Engage Module states: ‘to appreciate the importance of mindset to employers’ : students will learn how to develop the right mindset which will appeal to employers.   Other elements of this module are assertiveness, confidence, benefits of work, motivation, enhance your mood.

It’s worth reiterating here what these and other supported job search activities involve.  They are mandatory: refusal to participate can and does result in sanctions, plunging people into absolute poverty.  Sanctions are a significant factor in the escalating use of food banks.  These activities may involve tasks experienced as humiliating and pointless by job seekers.  There is no evidence that these interventions increase the  likelihood of gaining decent paid work.  In perpetuating notions of psychological failure, they shift attention from market failure and the growth of in-work poverty.  They contribute to the wider role of psychology in  the validation of an increasingly narrow range of attributes – self efficacy, aspiration, optimism, positive thinking, assertiveness  – with no reference to the contested nature of these terms or their ideological underpinnings and the processes through which they acquire social value and economic reward.

‘Basically what I’m saying in short is that I feel there is no place in society for a quiet, shy, creative person like me. And now I feel I don’t even deserve to call myself creative, because I don’t even do that anymore, because I am too depressed’ [16]

There are a number of personal testimonies of  people being referred to a psychologist  for non-compliant behaviour e.g. asking to record interviews with job centre advisors  or raising questions:

‘ I have been claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance for about 8 weeks. I haven’t sworn or shouted at anyone. I have had 3 advisor interviews already; yesterday my adviser asked me to see their psychologist.  I did not consent. I have been told that I shouldn’t look into things too deeply… and that I am asking too many questions…. They were concerned that there might be ‘some undiagnosed mental illness’ which they said they were unqualified to identify’ (email to Boycott Workfare)

Increasing positive affect
In addition to mandatory training informed by positive psychology, claimants are subjected to a wide range of strengths based interventions, including on-line psychometric testing ( ‘failure to comply may result in loss of benefits’).[17]  As Cromby and Willis have noted, not only was the  Values in Action (VIA) ‘Inventory of Signature Strengths’ test recently imposed on claimants known to have failed validation, every aspect of its use contravened the British Psychological Society’s ethical code.[18]

The messages in the course handout for the A4e (mandatory) ‘Healthy Attitudes for Living’ course take these themes a step further, intended, perhaps, to counter any residual yearnings in the ‘job seeker’ for either justice or security.

‘Sometimes life’s just plain unfair.  Bad things happen to the nicest of people.  On top of being unfair, life’s unpredictable and uncertain a great deal of the time.  And really, that’s just the way life is…. ‘

‘Life’s unfair to pretty much everyone from time to time.  If you can accept the cold hard reality of injustice and uncertainty, you’re far more likely to bounce back when life slaps you in the face.  You’re also less likely to be anxious about making decisions and taking risks.  But remember, you can still strive to play fair yourself ‘
–  A4e Healthy Attitudes for Living

The reminder that ‘you can still play fair yourself’ delegates the role of ‘playing fair’ to people in situations of poverty and unpaid labour and of course also tends to pre-empt reflection on structural injustice.[19]

This general conspiracy of optimism, normative cheerfulness and resilience in the face of adversity, is part of a larger problem of the denial of pain,[20] companion to denial of the problem of neoliberal economics.  Positive affect as it is now deployed constitutes a more and more arduous and demeaning array of tasks whose insufficient performance is a sanctionable offence. Working on these deficits becomes the full time unpaid labour of millions of people, which, together with mandatory job search activities, ensures that these days,  people who are poor have both no money and no time.

In thinking about positive affect as psychological coercion, we have  felt that the whole area of workfare is under-theorised. Perhaps partly because a surprising range of people subscribe to the view that both positive affect and work are deeply desirable, cures for many ills and sources of meaning: conferring agency and dignity.[21]

The level of professional silence on these questions is a matter of serious concern: the failure of  the British Psychological Society, for example, to engage with the issue of workfare.  When a profession gains social value  (and lucrative contracts) from instilling the very attributes admired – insisted upon – by neoliberal economics and the Cabinet Office, it must necessarily avert its gaze from those plunged into absolute poverty  by  sanctions applied for various defects of behaviour, character and attitude.  Issues of complicity are very pressing. But a shared analysis of power is a riposte to bogus and restricted agency: join the resistance.

[1] We draw on personal testimonies from people blogging about their experiences of workfare and on our own experiences with the Boycott Workfare Campaign, of which we are both members.  Our views are our own and we do not speak on behalf of Boycott Workfare or, of course, on behalf of the 1.35 million people claiming Job Seekers Allowance.

[2] Berlant Lauren (2006) Cruel Optimism,  Differences 17.5: 21-36; and New Formations (2008) (longer version);  (2007) Slow Death, Critical Inquiry 33: 754-780; Howell A & Veronka J  (2012) The Politics of Resilience & recovery in mental health care

[3] Friedli L (2012) What we’ve tried hasn’t worked: the politics of asset based public health, Critical Public Health

[4] David Webster (2005) Long-term unemployment, the invention of ‘hysteresis’ and the misdiagnosis of structural unemployment in the UK, Cambridge Journal of Economics, 29, 975-95

[5] McLean, J. 2011. Asset Based Approaches to Health Improvement: Redressing the Balance. Briefing Paper 9 Glasgow: Glasgow Centre for Population Health

[6] Berlant L (2007) Slow Death  Critical Inquiry 33:4

[7] K Day, What?! You’re Telling Me You Lost My Dunce Work? The Joy of the JobCentre Programme blog, 20 August 2013.

[8] Izzy Koksal, Adventures at A4E, Izzy Koksal blog, 13 April 2012

[9] Email to Boycott Workfare. MWA is mandatory unpaid work activity

[10] Whitehead M, Jones R and Pykett J. (2011) Governing irrationality, or a more than rational government? Reflections on the rescientisation of decision making in British public policy. Environment and Planning A 43: 2819-2837.

[11] Mandatory unpaid labour for up to 30 hours per week, for up to 30 weeks, alongside up to 15 hours per week of supported job search

[13] Ibid.; Webster points out that the definition of employment adopted in 1919 – to be unemployed one must be looking for work – has been contested ever since its inception, and was abolished for much of the 20th century.

[14] Rahim et al  (2012) Evaluation of SVLTU DWP Research Summary (emphasis added)

[15] Email from Graham Parry (Groundwork London) to Peter Purdie (Head of Estate Services, Homes for Haringey), 17th January 2012 (made available via Freedom of Information request)

[16] K Day, How Work Programme Makes Me Feel,  The Joy of the JobCentre Programme blog, 18 August 2013.

[17] The Skwawkbox, DWP: Fake Psych ‘Test’ Training Given by Unqualified ‘Experts, The Skwawkbox blog, 4 July 2013.

[19] This delegation resonates with Mel Y Chen’s description of compassion: ‘an affective obligation separated from justice.’

[20] Nussbaum M (2012) Who is the happy warrior? Philosophy, happiness research, and public policy International Review of Economics, 2012, vol. 59, issue 4, pages 335-361

[21] There is a wider debate to be had about discourses of positive affect that have their roots in resistance – notably in resistance to the imposition of psychiatric labels and diagnostic categories.  It’s an important question: what distinguishes the stories that form part of these traditions (making political meaning out of adversity) from the ‘recovery stories’ appropriated and expropriated by mental health and other institutions? Howell A and Veronka J The Politics of Resilience & recovery in mental health care

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Exhibition by people with neurological impairments: “In the Realm of Others”


In The Realm of Others

Sat 26 Sep 2015-
Sun 29 Nov 2015

Free entry

De La Warr Pavilion

In the Realm of Others is a new collaboration between Project Art Works and De La Warr Pavilion intended to question perceptions about the process of making art. Over forty-five large and small-scale paintings, drawings and sculptures – produced by fourteen makers with profound intellectual impairment – are presented in a living, evolving installation that offers a rare glimpse into unknowable, creative states of being.

In the Realm of Others is a choreographed navigation through the hidden worlds of Paul Colley, Stanley Ellis, Albert Geere, Neville Jermyn, David Marriott, Louise Newham, Sharif Persaud, Michelle Roberts, Jonathan Rogers, Carl Sexton, Brian Simpkin, George Smith, Sam Smith and Darryl Spencer, revealed through a changing exhibition of recent works selected from the 4,000 held in Project Art Works’ collection. Periodically the makers are present…

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Book announcement – Work, psychiatry and society, c. 1750-2010

Note that Dr Jennifer Laws, a member of Durham’s Centre for Medical Humanities, is a contributor (see “The hollow gardener and other stories: Reason and relation in the work cure”) to this volume — which we imagine will be of interest to many of our readers.


Screenshot from 2015-05-03 12:06:21Work and psychiatry seems to be the new ‘hot’ topic in the history of psychiatry. Our latest post was dedicated to this theme, and this book announcement is also related to “Work, psychiatry and society”. The blurb of the volume edited by Waltraud Ernst announces:

This edited book offers a systematic critical appraisal of the uses of work and work therapy in psychiatric institutions across the globe, from the late eighteenth to the end of the twentieth century. Contributors explore the daily routine in psychiatric institutions within the context of the wider socio-political welfare and control policies and economic conditions. They explore whether work was therapy, part of a regime of punishment, or a means of exploiting free labour. By focusing on mental patients’ day-to-day life in closed institutions, the authors fill a gap in the history of psychiatric regimes. The geographic scope is wide, ranging from Northern America to…

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Medical Humanities at Umeå University, Sweden – a Special Issue of Kulturella Perspektiv (Cultural Perspectives)

Britta Lundgren is professor of Ethnology at the Department of Culture and Media Studies Screen Shot 2015-02-14 at 13.39.57at Umeå University in Sweden. She is currently working with the project “Epidemics, Vaccination, and the Power of Narratives”, financed by the Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg Foundation. She is also the coordinator of The Medical Humanities Network, which assembles around 30 researchers from different departments in the Faculty of Arts. The network also collaborates with Umeå Studies in Science, Technology and Environment.

To present the medical humanities in Umeå, the Swedish journal Kulturella Perspektiv publishes seven articles together with an introduction in its forthcoming February issue. The articles are published in Swedish.

As an introduction, the guest editor Britta Lundgren presents a brief overview of the debates and critiques involved in the pedagogical uses and also a discussion about medical humanities’ critical potential for multi- and interdisciplinary research. Here follows a brief description of the other articles:

Virginia Langum and Asbjørg Westum:Plague, Medicine, and the Supernatural in English and Swedish Sources.

The article examines how the causes of Black Death were conceived and discussed in two distinct contexts: learned sources from late medieval England and oral Swedish legends that were collected and recorded many centuries after the outbreak. While focused on discussions of a particular disease – plague, otherwise known as the bacterium yersinia pestis – the geographical, chronological and material range enables a greater perspective upon the continuities and transitions of how theories of causality are framed. Keywords: Black Death, plague, etiology, medieval medicine and culture, Swedish folklore, popular medicine

Karin Ljuslinder: ‘Exaggerated Alarm or Fatal Flu. A Study of News Media Reporting on Influenza Pandemics.’

This study examines how historic pandemics have been represented in a printed daily newspaper (Dagens Nyheter), the only Swedish news medium that has existed during the entire studied time period, 1898–2009. The result shows that the representations shift from reports of an uncontrollable force of nature (1898) to representations of medical science and society’s control (1969) and, in 2009, back to reports about the swine flu as an apocalyptic catastrophe. Keywords. media, pandemics, media logic, discourse

Helena Haage and Lotta Vikström: ‘A Shorter Life than Others? Disabilities, Death Risks and Attitudes in Nineteenth-Century Society.’
The study follows disabled individuals over their lifespan to examine their mortality risks in 19th-century society, in comparison to non-disabled people. The aim is to detect whether people, due to their disability, had a higher probability of meeting a premature death. Sweden’s 19th-century parish registers are used to identify people the ministers defined as disabled, and employ theories on deviance and gender to grasp the statistical mortality findings. Disability significantly jeopardized the survival of individuals and particularly of men, probably because impairment limited their chances to match the breadwinner ideals associated with the male gender. Keywords: death, disability, gender, life course, nineteenth century, stigma, Sweden.

Jenny Eklöf: ‘Between Health and Sickness: The Mindfulness Panacea.’
Mindfulness meditation started its academic career in the 1970s within behavioural medicine and mind-body research. Now, you find it in psychotherapy, neuroscience and clinical psychology, but also increasingly in the social sciences such as education, organization studies, social work and economics. Mindfulness meditation is offered as a secular program for healing, self-understanding and growth, and has moved from the cultural margins (Buddhism) to the mainstream, both scientifically and culturally. The variety of problems that mindfulness addresses is made possible by the fact that it actually spans both the pathological and the normal or healthy. The article shows how in actual fact, it collapses that distinction regularly.  Keywords: mindfulness, Buddhism, clinical psychology, scientization, meditation.

Christer Nordlund: The Spice of Life? On Swedish snus as an Object of Study for Medical Humanities.’
While smoking has decreased in Sweden since the 1970s, the use of Swedish snus (a domestic moist tobacco product) has simultaneously increased, especially among men. About 20 percent of the men and 3 percent of the women in Sweden are currently using snus every day. The article argues that the use of snus needs to be explored and understood from a humanistic point of view, and proposes four interrelated aspects: the scientific uncertainty and controversies concerning the health risks; the divergent politics and regulations on the national level and EU level respectively; the business and marketing of the product; and finally cultural dimensions regarding tradition, norms, identity, experience and meaning in different social contexts. Keywords: Swedish snus; smokeless tobacco; medical risk; scientific uncertainty; marketing regulations; cultural meaning

Helena Pettersson, Katarzyna Wolanik Boström and Magnus Öhlander: ‘Analyzing Knowledge– What Internationalized and Mobile Medical Professionals Learn from Working Abroad.’

The article discusses international mobility among highly skilled professionals in the medical field. The aim is to classify and analyse different types of knowledge as physicians and medical researchers who have worked abroad and then returned to Sweden tell about their experiences. The article focuses the interdependency between declarative knowledge (facts, theoretical knowledge); skills and embodied knowhow; meta knowledge (about how the medical field works, i.e. publication strategies) and reflexive abilities (broaden one’s vision, learn about and be able to deal with cultural variations, extend professional habitus). Professional knowledge is defined as process is difficult to completely separate from everyday knowledge and everyday life, hence reflexive abilities play a vital role.
Keywords: knowledge, skills, medical field, internationalization, physicians, molecular biologists

Karine Aasgaard Jansen: Beyond “Illness” and “Disease: An Historical Introduction to Medical Anthropology.

The article introduces readers to the history of medical anthropology and discusses primarily medical anthropology’s theoretical relevance for the broader field of medical humanities. In focusing on the so-called interpretative and critical perspectives, the author suggests a revitalization of Nancy Scheper-Hughes and Margaret Lock’s (1987) model of the three bodies as a reconciliatory approach between the two perspectives. Rather than approaching illness and disease from either the perspective of phenomenology or social constructivism, this model enables studies which acknowledge the interrelations between macro and micro processes in the shaping of local medical knowledge, meaning and experience. Keywords: history of medical anthropology, interpretative approach, critical perspective, medical humanities, social medicine.

For more information about this special issue or about the Medical Humanities at Umeå University please contact Britta Lundgren.

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Disability and Disciplines: The International Conference on Educational, Cultural, and Disability Studies (CfP, Conference, 1-2 July 2014)

Keynote Speakers:
Julie Allan (University of Birmingham, UK)
Peter Beresford (Brunel University London, UK)
David Mitchell (George Washington University, USA)
Sharon Snyder (George Washington University, USA)

Centre for Culture and Disability Studies, Faculty of Education, Liverpool Hope University

When we think of disability in Higher Education we are likely to think in terms of access, Learning Support Plans, and so on. These and other such things are of great importance but only represent part of the approach proposed at the biennial CCDS conference. What we explore is a more complex understanding of disability that challenges assumptions and prejudicial actions but also recognises qualities and positivity. While inclusive education is generally an improvement on integration and segregation, it often constitutes little more than what, in The Biopolitics of Disability (2015), David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder call a weakened strain of inclusionism. Until disability is recognised in the context of alternative lives and values that neither enforce nor reify normalcy we cannot truly encounter the material and ethical alternatives disabled lives engage. Inclusion may well be a legal requirement in some parts of the world, and perhaps a moral imperative everywhere, but it is also an educational opportunity. Not only students but also staff who identify as disabled should, as Mitchell and Snyder assert, recognize this peripheral embodiment as something to be cultivated as a form of alternative expertise, meaning that disability can become an active, unabashed, and less stigmatising part of classroom discourse. The aim of this biennial conference, then, is to encourage the transformation of academic disciplines by appreciating rather than avoiding disability.

The keynote presentations have now been confirmed:
•       ‘The Arts and Inclusive Imagination: Spaces for Civic Engagement’, Julie Allan
•       ‘From Psychiatry to Disability Studies and Mad Studies: Exploring Uncharted Relationships’, Peter Beresford
•       ‘The Crip Art of Failure in Education’, David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder

We welcome proposals from professors, lecturers, students, and other interested parties for papers that explore the benefits of interdisciplinarity between Disability Studies and subjects such as Aesthetics, Art, Business Studies, Creative Writing, Cultural Studies, Film Studies, Holocaust Studies, International Studies, Literary Studies, Literacy Studies, Management Studies, Media Studies, Medical Humanities, Museum Studies, Philosophy, Professional Studies, Special Educational Needs, and Technology. This list is meant to be suggestive rather than exhaustive.

Some anticipated panels include:
•       The Art of Disability: Disability Studies and the Arts
•       Medical Matters: Disability Studies and Medical Humanities
•       Learning to Read People: Disability Studies and Children’s Fiction
•       Beyond the Rhetoric of Inclusion: Disability Studies and Special Educational Needs
•       Telling Stories: Disability Studies and Creative Writing

Paper proposals of 150-200 words should be sent to disciplines@hope.ac.uk on or before 1 February, 2015. Paper presentations are allocated 20 minute slots and themed panels of 3 papers are also encouraged.

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Reminder: British Society for Literature and Science (CfP, Liverpool, 16-18 April 2014)

The tenth annual conference of the British Society for Literature and Science will take place at the University of Liverpool, on 16-18 April 2015. Keynote talks will be given by Professor Keith Barnham (Imperial College London), Dr Patricia Fara (University of Cambridge), and Dr Claire Preston (Queen Mary University of London).

The BSLS invites proposals for twenty-minute papers, or panels of three papers, on any subjects within the field of literature and science. In addition, ‘flash talks’ of up to 7 minutes on any topic are invited for a special plenary session. Other formats are also welcomed, but please email your suggestion to the organisers (via bsls2015@liverpool.ac.uk) for consideration, well in advance of the submission deadline.

This year the organisers would particularly welcome proposals addressing the themes of light, optics, vision and colour, and proposals for papers, panels or roundtables on engaging the public with literature and science research. However, the BSLS remains committed to supporting and showcasing work on all aspects of literature – including comparative literature and European and world literatures – and science, medicine and technology.

Proposals of no more than 250 words, together with the name and institutional affiliation of the speaker, and a biographical note of around 50 words, should be sent in the body of messages (not in attachments) to bsls2015@liverpool.ac.uk. Proposals for panels should include a separate proposal and biographical note for each paper. The closing date for submissions is Friday 5 December 2014.

The conference fee will be waived for two graduate students in exchange for written reports on the conference, to be published in the BSLS Newsletter. If you are interested in being selected for one of these awards, please mention this when sending in your proposal. To qualify you will need to be registered for a postgraduate degree at the time of the conference.

Accommodation: please note that those attending the conference will need to make their own arrangements for accommodation. Information on local hotels will be made available soon on the forthcoming conference website.

Membership: conference delegates will need to register as members of the BSLS (annual membership: £25 waged/ £10 unwaged). It will be possible to join the BSLS when registering for the conference online.

For further information and updates about the conference, please contact Greg Lynall: bsls2015@liverpool.ac.uk

In addition, the Liverpool University webpage for the conference is now online, including details of the conference fees:


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Mark the date Dec 11 NSN Symposium on ‘Towards Neuro-Social Science: The Politics and Pragmatics of Collaboration’

Department of Global Health & Social Medicine at King's College, London

When: Thursday December 11th, 9 1m-5 pm
Where: Room 1.71, Franklin Wilkins Building, Waterloo Campus, King’s College London

The more we experiment on and with the human brain and nervous system, the more we realize that our neurobiological inheritances are bound up with cultural, semiotic, bodily, societal and aesthetic ‘webs’ – and vice versa. New forms of exchange between neuroscientists, social scientists, and humanities scholars are emerging, leading to experimentation with concepts  of nature and culture, biology and society, affect and cognition, life and death beyond out-moded ideas of ‘nature versus nurture’. There are, however, few accounts of how such collaborations can or should be done, or of what it is like to experience them. The Neuroscience and Society Network
Symposium will help to close this gap, by exploring the ‘politics  and pragmatics’ of collaboration between the social sciences, humanities and life sciences with researchers invested and engaged in these ‘interdisciplinary’ exchanges. The symposium…

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Wellcome Library Makes Digitized Asylum Records Available Online


Ticehurst Hospital Ticehurst Hospital The Wellcome Library has made around 1000 patient records from the Ticehurst Hospital during the years 1793-1925 freely available online. You will find a description of and access to the holdings here.

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