Review of the First Medical Humanities Research Network Scotland Symposium 2012

Cheryl McGeachan writes: The first Medical Humanities Research Network Scotland (MHRNS) Symposium took place last month in the School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow. Co-ordinated by Gavin Miller, David Shuttleton and Megan Coyer, the event consisted of a number of diverse, challenging and personal pieces based around the themes “Why Historicise?” and “Theory into Practice”.

Psychiatrist and Historian of Medicine Allan Beveridge opened the morning proceedings with a fantastically enlightening account of his personal journey through the histories of psychiatry. John Callender’s paper then turned to opening up disturbingly challenging debates over the psychopathic personality, bringing to light the personal and political dimensions to ordering personality types. Matthew Smith’s humorous, yet, poignant piece reflected the challenges of communicating across the medical humanities and health care professions. Andrew Gardiner then changed tact to ask the audience to think about the history of animal medicine, raising important questions about the nature of animal agency. Finally, Iain Smith closed the morning proceedings with a captivating glimpse into the histories of addictions, posing questions about the importance of historicising such issues in contemporary times.

Afternoon events were equally thought-provoking with papers such as Jane Macnaughton’s “Risking Enchantment: how are we to view the smoking person”, Desmond Ryan’s “From the ‘therapy of the word’ to ‘concordance’: is the freedom of the patient the basis of the humanity of the doctor?” and Tim Thornton’s “Clinical Judgement and the Medical Humanities”, all instigating discussion into the notion of engagement and opening up insights into the place of the medical humanities in these debates.

The event brought together a diverse range of people and ideas that challenged, inspired and provoked further discussion which we all hope to continue in the MHRNS events that are still to come.

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