Posts Tagged ‘ Patients’ Voices ’

CfP: “Patient Voices” symposium (Oxford, September 2017)

Patient Voices

Historical and Ethical Engagement with Patient Experiences of Healthcare, 1850–1948

An interdisciplinary, policy-focused symposium
New College, University of Oxford
18–19 September 2017

In 1948, diverse health provisions in Britain were consolidated into a single, state-directed service. After almost seventy years of the NHS—the bedrock of modern welfare—there is great concern about any return to a mixed economy of healthcare. The proposed privatisation of health services is controversial because it threatens to destabilise the complex relationships of patients with medical professionals and the state. It calls into question the structure and accessibility of healthcare, as well as the rights of patients, both as medical consumers and sources of medical data. Yet these are questions that equally shaped the development of the NHS prior to its foundation. Historical perspectives on pre-NHS healthcare—perspectives that are increasingly informed by the experiences of patients—are fundamental to understanding not just the past but also the choices before us.

Social historians of medicine have responded in various ways to Roy Porter’s 1985 call for histories incorporating the patient view. But despite work across diverse fields, patient voices before 1948 are yet to be fully integrated into historical scholarship. This symposium brings together historians, medical ethicists and archivists with interdisciplinary expertise to explore questions relating to the accessibility and ethics of the study of patient voices and data in the specific context of pre-NHS provisions. Through research presentations, roundtable discussions and interactive sessions, participants will explore the collection and qualitative use of historical medical records. The symposium will focus on methodological issues by investigating a range of available archives and piloting new strategies for retrieving as-yet-unheard historical patient voices. It will also address ethical issues arising from these pilot strategies, including questions of data protection, informed consent and the implications of new technologies in storing and analysing information.

Following the symposium, participants will be invited to submit articles for a special issue.

We welcome proposals for 20-minute papers that address one or more of the following questions:

  • How should historians access and interpret the experiences of patients, particularly those with stigmatising conditions?
  • How can historians negotiate archival ‘silences’ when locating patient voices?
  • What can patient experiences tell historians about past, present and future interactions between healthcare consumers and providers?
  • How can the study of historical patient experiences inform the social, political and clinical dimensions of healthcare in the future?
  • What ethical considerations should inform the collection, maintenance and use of sensitive medical archives, including digitisation, data analytics and discourse analysis?
  • How can attention to these ethical considerations shape the study of healthcare and facilitate high-quality medical-humanities research?

Proposals should not exceed 300 words and should be accompanied by a short biography. Please submit them to Anne Hanley (University of Oxford) and Jessica Meyer (University of Leeds) at by 1 April 2017.

This symposium is supported by the Ludwig Humanities Research Fund.

CfP – Tales from the Asylum: Patient Narratives and the (De)construction of Psychiatry

Tales from the Asylum

Patient Narratives and the (De)construction of Psychiatry

L0025917 Charcoal drawing: head from dissection

What is the patient’s role in shaping psychiatric practice? Thirty years after Roy Porter’s seminal article exhorting historians to turn to the neglected half of the doctor-patient dyad,[1] the time has come to reexamine the state of psychiatry and its history. Time and again (re)defined through a polyphony of narratives, mental illness has gone through a number of important changes over the past two centuries. Patients have played a significant role in these developments. Yet their stories in many ways remain to be told. At times frustrated, at times empowered, these men and women have used various channels to voice their suffering. How has madness been depicted, experienced, told by its main protagonists? How has its understanding been affected by broader socio-cultural developments, and vice versa? How have these changes come to shape and give rise to new identities? Delving into madness and its many narratives reveals a rich and intricate web of stories.

This special issue aims to provide a fresh and novel look into these psychiatric tales by critically reexamining recent historical and historiographical developments. From “outsider art” to clinical diaries, from popular accounts to autobiographical novels and from heated manifestoes to asylum scribbles—patients have cried out their ills in a variety of forms. These real and imagined stories of mental illness shed light on the complex ways in which psychiatry has been construed, explained and fictionalized since its inception. How have individual experiences influenced the construction of clinical categories? How have patients (and indeed their loved ones) come to play a decisive role in effecting medical and extra-medical changes? In what ways have patients chosen to voice their oppression? How have their demands been met by the legal system? And how have various methods of treatment—from the asylum to Freud to the DSM to the psychopharmacological turn—been accepted or rejected by those protagonists in differing social, cultural and political settings? By focusing on psychiatry’s ever-fluid identity, this issue will investigate the varied ways in which the patients’ voices have guided this discipline’s construction, deconstruction and reconstruction from 1800 to the present.

We welcome papers from both early career and more established scholars dealing with the above topics from historical, historiographical, theoretical and anthropological perspectives. Themes include (but are by no means limited to) accounts of mental illness examined through the following lenses:

  • Non-Western patient accounts
  • The impact of class and gender on formulations of mental illness
  • The juxtaposition of views “from above” and “from below”
  • The influence of the anti-psychiatry debate
  • Unedited correspondences between patients and physicians
  • Challenges to traditional (e.g., Foucauldian) theoretical approaches
  • The boundaries between fact and fiction
  • Alternative and little-known modes of representation
  • The impact of changing socio-political contexts on patient experience
  • The role of patients in altering diagnostic classifications and curative methods
  • Family and outsiders’ accounts
  • Particularities of psychiatric (vs. non-psychiatric) patients and their changes over time

Interested prospective authors should send 250-word paper descriptions, along with a tentative title and a short biographical statement, to H-Madness co-editor Alexandra Bacopoulos-Viau at by 30 June 2014. The full proposal with the selected contributions will be sent to a history of medicine journal shortly thereafter in view of an upcoming special issue.



[1]Roy Porter, “The Patient’s View: Doing Medical History From Below”, Theory and Society, vol. 14, no. 2 (March 1985): 175-198

Image courtesy of the Wellcome Library, London

%d bloggers like this: