The Centre for the Humanities and Health aims to create in the UK a world leader in research in the Medical Humanities through a multi-stranded programme of research on "The Boundaries of Illness". It engages scholars from arts, Humanities and health disciplines nationally and internationally (from Literature, Philosophy, History, the Visual Arts, Film Studies, Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry, Medicine and Nursing) all of whom will support the development of a new Master's programme in the Medical Humanities, and extend the College's existing capacity in Medical Humanities at masters, doctoral, post-doctoral and international levels.
Why the Humanities Matter in Health
Clinical practice daily encompasses patient experience in its cultural contexts. But biomedical science essentially focuses on causes, mechanisms and treatments, and accounts for human experiences only partially and schematically. As long as the meaning of illness to individuals, families and to society falls outside the purview of biomedical science, biomedical science alone will offer less than a full foundation for clinical practice.
Personal cultural meanings are fundamental to the sick and those who care for and nurse them. The unique potential of the Humanities in this domain has not been developed in a systematic scholarly fashion. “The Boundaries of Illness” is a broad cross-disciplinary programme of research that begins to make good that shortcoming by examining these healthcare dimensions – experience of illness and its cultural meaning – in different of contexts, using a variety of methods.
Patient subjectivity and values – sometimes bundled together as ‘the patient voice’ – are expressed in a wide diversity of cultural objects and settings (texts, symbolic figurings rendered in portraits, films and in conceptual constructions), which it is the task of the Medical Humanities to identify, research and illuminate. The promise of this programme is not simply to offer a forum in which the patient voice becomes more voluble, but to uncover the diversity and complexity of voices pertaining to illness and disease embedded in cultural activities and products. The project is one where the Humanities have much to offer biomedicine and health care.
King's and the Medical Humanities
King's is among the best-placed institutions in the world to develop this field. Its School of Biomedical and Health Sciences represents one of the largest and strongest concentrations of biomedical research and teaching in Europe and its School of Humanities is renowned internationally for its scholarship and innovation. The Centre builds on these strengths and on the growing cross disciplinary culture in this emergent academic area at King’s.
The College set up an MSc in the Philosophy of Mental Disorder in 2000 jointly in its Institute of Psychiatry and Department of Philosophy (which had already developed a dedicated and extremely successful BSc in Philosophy for medical undergraduate intercalators)
In 2005 the Dept of English established what is believed to be the world's first Master's degree in Literature and Medicine
In 2008 a programme of Culture and Care was inaugurated to introduce the arts and Humanities into nursing and midwifery within the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery (two of these modules were added to the BSc Nursing degree at King’s in 2009)
In 2010 the College launched its new MA or MSc Master's Programme in the Medical Humanities.
Download the 2011 Annual Report