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Open Access Publications from the University of California


The University of California Medical Humanities Consortium was founded in January 2010 through a grant from UC’s Office of the President, establishing it as a Multicampus Research Program. Recognizing that the medical humanities was pursued at multiple UC medical schools and health science centers, faculty directors from UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Irvine, and UCSF can now support collaborative student research projects, publications, and resources for courses and public events.

Our aim is to have a substantial record of achievement and innovation in particular themes that we collectively pursue through our allocated research funding at the end of our five year grant period. We then hope to expand our efforts to include faculty and students at the remaining UC health science centers to promote an even more rigorous and representative approach to supporting humanism in medicine and health science education.

UC Medical Humanities Consortium

There are 18 publications in this collection, published between 1998 and 2015.
Essays and Articles (5)

'I, witness: The Grand Tour and the Georgian Lady of Letters

While the status and lifestyles (if we can excuse that word) of English women may not have been the key feature of what has come to be characteristic of English culture in the Age of Enlightenment, this paper considers it something of an enigma as to why English women could not find happiness at home and wanted to leave their land to travel abroad. European women believed that continental travel had something to offer everyone—from climate to artistic culture—but if we focus on the opinions of women who were seeking political and intellectual enlightenment, European and British women saw in each other something they did not see in themselves. By examining the writings of eighteenth-century women travellers, this paper explores themes of identity, education, experience, and enlightenment.

Cultural Relativism or Eurocentrism? A Historical Perspective

This paper explores how international identities have been historically treated which allows us to see how cultural relativity has grown to be part of the treatment of foreign, as well as one’s own, society. Whether referring to present concerns over human rights and environmentalism or historical concerns over imperial expansion, the distribution of disease, or rights to ‘citizenship,’ different nations have used cultural comparisons to distinguish the progressive society from the barbaric, the civilised from the uncivilised, the modern from the ‘traditional’ society. These categories, like all classification systems, have always had problematic boundaries. But through travel and the uses of Enlightenment ‘sciences of man’ to inspect foreign frontiers, strides were made to map the margins of the historical and scientific classification of populations—‘primitive’ or ‘enlightened,’ within a ‘European’ or ‘extra-European’ domain. This paper looks at eighteenth-century theories of European identity.

Imperial Archives: French and British Museology from the 'Land of Lost Gods'

This paper discusses some of the ways that museological activities in France and Britain (in the Louvre and the British Museum) were aligned with the human sciences to offer new commentaries about the development and maintenance of civilisation—both ancient and modern. During what I partly anachronistically refer to as the ‘revolutionary’ decades—the 1790s to the 1810s (a reference I stick to because it falls in the middle of Eric Hobsbawm’s ‘Age of Revolution’)—British and French commentators chose to represent ancient civilisation in such a way as to show that they were respectively the inheritors of the ancient principles of virtue, liberty, and democracy. Today, I sketch the apparent associations that were made between the civility of the ancients and the self-defined civility of modern imperial rulers, the missionaries of the civilising process of the rest of the world.

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Perspectives in Medical Humanities (13)

Patient Poets; Illness from Inside Out

Patient Poets: Illness from Inside Out invites readers to consider what caregivers and medical professionals may learn from poetry by patients. It offers reflections on poetry as a particularly apt vehicle for articulating the often isolating experiences of pain, fatigue, changed life rhythms, altered self-understanding, embarrassment, resistance, and acceptance.

To Feel What Others Feel: Social Sources of the Placebo Effect

How is it that people in search of healing were at one time able to experience the therapeutic effects of "animal magnetism"? The evidence suggests that those who went in for treatments we would now call placebos didn’t feign their sensations but felt what they supposed others felt; they reacted as social beings. In one way or another, so do we today. But while the feeling of membership buoys us and may contribute to health, that is not all it can do, medically speaking. In this study a humanist looks at the placebo effect, taking into account both its history and its ambiguity and bringing out the more questionable potential of some health fashions, trends, and movements of our own time.

Humanitas: Readings in the Development of the Medical Humanities

This reader reprints critical essays published over the course of a 100-year history that grapple with the challenges of defining and justifying the presence of humanities instruction in medical education. It provides insights to some of the newer approaches that branch out from the familiar subjects of history and literature to include theater, art, poetry, and disability studies. With a comprehensive historiographical introduction as well as prefaces to each article, including new reflections by many of the authors themselves, the volume enables reflection on how the diversity of disciplinary perspectives and multiplicity of theoretical frameworks relate to each other historically and thematically. This volume is an invaluable resource for anyone engaged with humanities in health care education.

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