‘The Medical’ and ‘Health’ in a Critical Medical Humanities

Journal of Medical Humanities 36 (1):71-81 (2015)
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Abstract

As befits an emerging field of enquiry, there is on-going discussion about the scope, role and future of the medical humanities. One relatively recent contribution to this debate proposes a differentiation of the field into two distinct terrains, ‘medical humanities’ and ‘health humanities,’ and calls for a supersession of the former by the latter. In this paper, we revisit the conceptual underpinnings for a distinction between ‘the medical’ and ‘health’ by looking at the history of an analogous debate between ‘medical geography’ and ‘the geographies of health’ that has, over the last few years, witnessed a re-blurring of the distinction. Highlighting the value of this debate within the social sciences for the future development of the medical humanities, we call for scholars to take seriously the challenges of critical and cultural theory, community-based arts and health, and the counter-cultural creative practices and strategies of activist movements in order to meet the new research challenges and fulfill the radical potential of a critical medical humanities.

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