An exploration of what medical humanities can offer in view of narratives that address institutions and larger collective formations. Focus is put on how popular concerns about the dying/reviving of institutions dealing with health and wellbeing are expressed in creative, artful and innovative ways.
Medical humanities is an increasingly important field of study. However, there is need to rethink medical humanities from a perspective that not only foregrounds the humanities' approach to individual narratives of illness and misfortune. We argue that an expansion is required of what medical humanities can offer in view of narratives that address institutions and larger collective formations. In particular, we focus on dying and reviving institutions: those that increasingly lose value in society or (re)gain popularity. What do people invent to replace/reshape these dying institutions and rebuild institutions that work? The study of the narratives of these institutions (e.g. public hospitals, private clinics, traditional healers) means that new connections have to be established in terms of exploration and understanding; new connections across methods, artful expressions, humanities-cum-social science critical theory, as well as connections between individual and collective experiences. However, medical humanities also deal with disruptions; the arts may disrupt economic and technical management and intervention in disease, may unsettle common practices of health and well-being, and may question established (medical) authorities. We welcome proposals that deal with the question how popular concerns about the dying and reviving of institutions dealing with health and well-being are being expressed in creative, artful and innovative ways. How can we understand these expressive concerns about changes and disruptions of such institutions, how do they bespeak a collective narrative about them, and how do these expressions connect with or disrupt political or economic structures that manage health and well-being in African societies?