Alex Mold, Associate Professor and Deputy Director, Centre for History in Public Health
On 1 June 2017, the Centre for History in Public Health organised a one day workshop on the theme of health humanities. A group of researchers from across the School came together to consider the meaning of health humanities and how this could enhance our research, teaching and engagement activities.
The workshop began with a thought-provoking and insightful presentation from Professor Felicity Callard. She talked about her experiences in medical/health humanities at Durham, and in running Hubbub – an interdisciplinary project at the Wellcome Collection Hub. Felicity stated that there is a distinction between ‘medical’ and ‘health humanities’, but we should not get too hung up on labels: these are merely a placeholder. She also suggested that to build collaborative projects you need to a create a space where things can happen. This is both material (actual space, money, time) and conceptual (a shared understanding).
Felicity’s presentation led to an interesting discussion amongst workshop attendees about the ways in which health humanities could be a useful framing for work at the LSHTM. The question arose as to whether there is such a thing as ‘public health humanities’. If there is, what would it look like? Developing this could be an area of growth for research at the School.
The second session of the day featured presentations from Hannah Whiteman, Head of Strategic Research and Erin Lafferty, Public Engagement Coordinator. Hannah outlined some of the key funders and funding programmes available in health humanities. Erin discussed some of the public engagement opportunities on offer within a health humanities framework. A very useful group discussion followed. Attendees talked about the need to have ideas bubbling along that can then be worked up in response to targeted calls. Engagement opportunities were also highlighted, such as the possibility of using the new café at Tavistock Place as a space that could be used to try out engagement activities.
In the final session, Virginia Berridge offered some thoughts on the discussion so far and brought together ideas for future developments. From her talk, Kara Hanson’s closing remarks, and the plenary discussion, one of the ways to take this forward included setting up a series of research/topic based meetings to build collaboration. Several potential themes to develop were suggested. There are lots of exciting possibilities here, and this could be a real area of growth for research, engagement and teaching at LSHTM.