Reflections on a field across time and space: the emergent medical and health humanities in South Africa

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Medical Humanities, Volume 44, p.263–269 (2018)



<p>In this paper, we draw on our own cross-cultural experience of engaging with different incarnations of the medical and health humanities (MHH) in the UK and South Africa to reflect on what is distinct and the same about MHH in these locations. MHH spaces, whether departments, programmes or networks, have espoused a common critique of biomedical dualism and reductionism, a celebration of qualitative evidence and the value of visual and performative arts for their research, therapeutic and transformative social potential. However, there have also been differences, and importantly a different &lsquo;identity&rsquo; among some leading South African scholars and practitioners, who have felt that if MHH were to speak from the South as opposed to the North, they would say something quite different. We seek to contextualise our personal reflections on the development of the field in South Africa over recent years within wider debates about MHH in the context of South African academia and practice, drawing in part on interviews conducted by one of the authors with South African researchers and practitioners and our own reflections as &lsquo;Northerners&rsquo; in the &lsquo;South&rsquo;.</p>