The field of history of medicine during the age of empire has expanded considerably in the last two decades. Engagement with different kinds of colonialism and with varied indigenous socio-political cultures has led to a wide range of approaches to colonial medicine and indigenous modes of healing. The increasingly distinct historiographic traditions of colonial and indigenous medicines emerging in the various regions formerly ruled by different colonial powers have developed quite independently from each other. This has reinforced a geo-cultural divide and a regrettable lack of conceptual interaction between those working on North/East/West/South Africa, South Asia, South East Asia, Austral-Pacific and the Americas respectively. Moreover, conceptual and methodological debate between scholars specialising on British, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Dutch and German colonial contexts in different regions rarely occurs, as journals tend to focus on specific European traditions and researchers at medical history conferences find themselves usually streamed into separate groups and panels (e.g. Asian or South African, Chinese or South Asian etc).
Engagement with the diverse histories and historiographies of different colonial and indigenous medicines offers the opportunity to explore new conceptual perspectives and can facilitate critical reflection on how scholars’ embeddedness in specific palimpsests and approaches to the history of medicine and healing affects their research. This is important also in view of the manifold exchanges and entanglements between different modes of healing within and beyond the boundaries of nation states and colonial territories.
This conference therefore aims to provide a platform for exchange to scholars who are working on the history of medicines in different geographical regions in Asia, Africa, Austral-Pacific and the Americas and within the varied contexts of Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, German, Dutch and British colonialisms. In addition to appealing to researchers working on these various, seemingly clearly demarkated colonial and neo-colonial empires, contributions are invited from those who locate internal colonialism within the imperial metropoles (such as, for example, the Scottish Highlands, Canadian Arctic). Presentations on issues of transnational entanglements, ‘circulation’ of ideas and exchanges between different ways of healing within different colonial/medical contexts are particularly welcome.
Panels on the following themes will be offered:
1.Medical discourses/practices and global/local exchanges; 2.State policies and colonial and indigenous medical practices; 3.Medicine and healing and the contours of colonial and indigenous communities; 4.Medical theories, treatments and approaches to healing; 5.Medical experts and indigenous healers; 6.Patients, families and social networks;
Panels will be organised on a thematic (not geographic or ‘type of colonialism’-related) basis to encourage intellectual exchange on varied regional experiences. Each speaker will have 20 minutes for presentation followed by 20 minutes of discussion, to enable other delegates to engage with each contribution and provide feedback and comments for the speaker. There will be a conceptually focused plenary talk commenting on the historiographic approaches and conceptual frameworks employed by participants. A roundtable discussion on the six major panels/themes will highlight the scope and limitations of the different theoretical and historiographic traditions/fashions that have been employed. Papers will be pre-circulated.
Submission of abstracts (300 words) by 1 June 2008:
Could you please design the abstract with the following issues in mind: The conference aims at facilitating intellectual exchange and debate between delegates working within different academic traditions/networks. Emphasis is on the historiographic approaches and methodologies characteristic of participants’ geographic and network-specific specialisms. Apart from a brief outline of the topic, geographical area and period you are planning to talk about, it would therefore be useful if you also commented briefly on the historiographic approaches and methodologies that have hitherto been employed in your field of research. If appropriate, this should be followed by an indication of the approach/methodology that you have come to consider most valuable in your own work.
We hope that this kind of historiographic/methodological emphasis will enable us to focus our discussions at the conference on:
a) reflections on the varied mainstream, ‘orthodox’ approaches and methodologies that have been applied to the history of colonial and indigenous medicine by scholars working within different academic contexts/networks.
b) appraisal of the range of hitherto prevalent and newly emerging approaches in particular in relation to issues concerning the transnational character of healing practices and the manifold exchanges and entanglements between different modes of healing within and beyond the boundaries of nation states and colonial territories.
Abstracts will be scrutinised by the UK-based organising team (Anne Digby, Waltraud Ernst, Projit Mukharji), in collaboration with colleagues based in relevant former colonies and imperial nations.
Please submit an abstract only if you are prepared to provide us with a paper for pre-circulation.
Deadline for submission of papers for pre-circulation (2,000 words): 1 September 2008.
Please send enquiries and abstracts to Ms Manjita Palit at [email protected]
Prof Anne Digby Prof Waltraud Ernst Department of History Centre for Health, Medicine and Society: Past and Present Oxford Brookes University Oxford OX3 0BP
Dr Projit Mukharji Department of History Newcastle University Newcastle Upon Tyne NE1 7RU