Andrew W Mellon Foundation awards Medical Humanities Grant to the Faculty of Humanities, Wits University

WiSER is delighted to announce a major new funding grant in the field of Medical Humanities awarded by the Mellon Foundation for $880,000 over 4 years.

The Award has been made to the Faculty of Humanities at Wits University, and WiSER will play the major role in shaping and leading projects supported by this Award, drawing in academics from the Faculty of Humanities and other Faculties at this University. The intention is to constitute and develop the emerging field of African Medical Humanities. This field is established in other regions and is rooted in the interdisciplinary interests of a range of disciplines, including the social history of medicine, medical sociology and anthropology, visual culture, pedagogy, and law and ethics. Medical humanities is the site of crucial epistemological questions as wide ranging as the relationship between bodies and the social and cultural understandings of gender, and the relative influence of quantitative and qualitative forms of experiment, practice and reasoning in constituting knowledge. The interface of medicine and humanities invites a broadly interdisciplinary discussion about the meaning of evidence itself, critical in the formulation of all contemporary political argument and interventions, including health policies.

WiSER has been developing this field over several years.  For the last two years, Dr Catherine Burns has been working intensively with colleagues and centres across the University to establish Wits University as a site of excellence in medical humanities. To this end Wits University and WiSER hosted the first conference on the continent in this field, “Body Knowledge: Medicine and Humanities in Conversation” in 2013.

The core projects envisaged by the Award include:

  • Cultures of Ageing and Dying
  • The Meanings of Evidence
  • Transgendering and Intersexuality
  • Body Parts – Transfusion, Tissues, Transplants and the Commodification of the Body

The Award will support:

  • Research opportunities for Wits academics
  • Four doctoral fellowships
  • Cross faculty research workshops
  • Communicating excellent research through annual symposia. Bi-annual conferences will open these themes to wider involvement, and these will lead to scholarly publications.
  • Public engagement. This project is committed to the public work of developing and drawing wider audiences for this theme through creating local, national and international networks, so as to build sustained interest in this field.