CFP: (Post)colonial Health: Global Perspectives on the Medical Humanities

Conference Call for Papers

(Post)colonial Health: Global Perspectives on the Medical Humanities 

Weetwood Hall, University of Leeds, 20-21 June 2019


Keynote speakers:

Professor Deepika Bahri, Professor of English, Emory University, author of Postcolonial Biology: Psyche and Flesh After Empire (2017)

Professor Sanjoy Bhattacharya, Professor in the History of Medicine, Director of the Centre for Global Health Histories, and Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Global Health Histories, University of York

European colonialism has had direct, immediate and obvious impacts on human health, from the spread of disease upon contact to the effects of environmental damage, as well as the incalculable trauma produced by colonial violence and dispossession. Ongoing conditions of colonisation for the indigenous inhabitants of settler states continue to produce huge health disparities, while recent developments in epigenetics have provided scientific explanations for what many colonised subjects already know: that social and cultural oppression can have somatic effects and that these are heritable, potentially affecting future generations.

In this conference we seek to think critically about the complex and multiple relationships between colonialism, its aftermath, and human health, and to extend dialogues between postcolonial studies and the medical humanities (and related biocultural fields). In recent years we have seen frequent calls to ‘decolonise’ biomedicine, the life sciences, and the health humanities, and we welcome papers that engage with this process by asking: what might such a decolonisation mean for health research and medical practice? How can postcolonial studies contribute to more equitable health futures?

For the purposes of this conference, we interpret ‘health’ as broadly as possible, including concepts of disease, illness, wellness, mental health, ability, disability, debility, spiritual and family health, cognition, care, embodiment, the bodymind, and wellbeing. Papers must be presented in English but ‘colonialism’ may refer to any imperial history or context – including contemporary neoimperial formations – and we welcome papers that look beyond the Anglophone world.

Topics for consideration may include, but are not limited to, the following:

·      Local and global health histories;

·      Critical engagements with ‘global health’ frameworks (ideology, policy, governance, economics, the UN/WHO);

·      Creative representations of health, illness, disability, the body/mind, and biomedicine, in postcolonial/world literature, film, visual and performance art;

·      Conceptualising health, medicine and care across regions, cultures, communities, and languages;

·      Intersections between race, gender, ability, sexuality, religion and health;

·      (Post)colonial environments and health (e.g. pollution, radiation, toxicity);

·      Postcolonial trauma/postcolonial stress disorders/soul wounds;

·      Globalisation, neoliberalism, and health-related industries (e.g. foreign aid, big pharma);

·      The ‘decolonisation’ of medical practice, health research, the life sciences, and/or the medical humanities.

We welcome perspectives across disciplines and proposals can be submitted for 20-minute conference papers, 10-minute provocations, themed panels, roundtable discussions, creative sessions (film screenings, readings, performances, art exhibits), or presentations in other non-traditional formats. We are also keen to include participation from creative practitioners (writers, filmmakers, visual artists, performance artists) whose work engages with (post)colonial health.

Please submit 300-word proposals, 3-5 keywords, and a short bio (100 words) to Dr Clare Barker at The closing date for submissions is Friday 15 February 2019.

‘Colonial and Postcolonial Health’ is a major research theme of the Leeds Centre for Medical Humanities.This conference is funded by a Wellcome Trust Seed Award [grant number 106839/Z/15/Z]. Attendance is free and catering will be provided for all delegates. 

Dr. Clare Barker
Associate Professor in English Literature
School of English
University of Leeds
Phone: (0113) 343 4750