Tim Beasley-Murray writes about the UCL German Department’s research project in the ‘medical inhumanities’, doctors who were also writers, and writers who were also goalkeepers.
The UCL German Department is in the process of launching its fourth Departmental Research project (the previous three having resulted in volumes on Laughter and ridicule in German culture, legacies of Norbert Elias, and questions of national identity). This new project, in which Central Europeanists in SSEES will also be taking part, is provisionally entitled ‘medical inhumanities’.
While one might object, on philosophical and ethical grounds, to the whole notion of ‘inhumanity’ as a way to describe human behaviour, there is no doubt that this is a fertile topic, provocatively framed – particularly for the study of German culture where, in the Nazi period, above all, inhumanity and medicine became so horribly enmeshed. Perhaps more prosaically, however, this project will be, one guesses, a contribution, not only to the study of inhumanity, but also to the field of the medical humanities. This is a field in which UCL has, in its time, played a leading role, and one to which, one hopes, it may yet return with initiatives under the auspices of the Grand Challenges of Human Wellbeing and Global Health.
The starting point of the concept of the medical humanities is the idea that medicine and the humanities both offer specific ways of viewing the world and the human being that, while they differ fundamentally, may also illuminate each other in productive ways. (more…)