Interdisciplinary Entanglements: Towards a ‘visual medical humanities’

Day: Friday 6 April


Fiona Johnstone (Middlesex University)
Natasha Ruiz-Gómez (University of Essex)

Roundtable Discussion

Visual culture (including art history, fine art, and museum studies) is currently a marginal discipline within the medical humanities. This may be changing, with the recent integration of arts methodologies into medical education, and a renewed interest in the efficacy of the arts as therapeutic tool. However, these developments have arguably served to instrumentalise the visual arts, and have failed to recognise that visual scholarship and practice has a vital role to play in the construction of knowledge (as opposed to simply the dissemination of it). We believe that practitioners of art history and visual culture have yet to convincingly articulate the contribution their discipline can make to this field. To address this, participants in this roundtable discussion will be invited to imagine the possibility of a ‘visual medical humanities’ as an arena for productive critical engagement. Acknowledging that ‘the space where one speaks’ and ‘the space where one looks’ operate according to different sets of rules (Foucault, 1970), a ‘visual medical humanities’ might advocate for an increased sensitivity to the potential of the visible (and invisible) to articulate that which may not be expressed in words. Given the necessarily interdisciplinary nature of the medical humanities, participants will consider how we might use the tensions between disciplines constructively, and how the ‘messiness’ of interdisciplinarity might offer a valuable space for critical collaboration and productive entanglement.

Roundtable participants

Suzannah Biernoff (Birkbeck, University of London)

Ed Juler (Newcastle University)

Natasha McEnroe (Keeper of Medicine, Science Museum)

Zoë Mendelson (Wimbledon College of Arts, UAL)

James Peto (Head of Programme, Wellcome Collection)

Susan Sidlauskas (Rutgers University)

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