The Black Health and the Humanities Network is now hosted by the Institute for Medical Humanities at Durham University.
The Wellcome Trust-funded network is a community of scholars from a range of disciplinary and institutional backgrounds, whose research is broadly situated in the field of Black health. The network was born of a critical call to address issues related to racism in healthcare, particularly in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement which surfaced the urgency of attending to the disproportionate impact of healthcare crises and asymmetrical affordances of care in marginalised communities.
Originally led by Principal Investigator, Dr Josie Gill, and Research Associate, Dr Amber Lascelles, based at the University of Bristol’s Centre for Black Humanities, the network will now be led by Dr Arya Thampuran, Assistant Professor at the Institute for Medical Humanities, Durham and Co-PI, Dr Shelda-Jane Smith, Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Liverpool.
From October 2020-September 2022, the network ran a training programme for its members. The programme offered a series of virtual workshops led by artists and activists, deploying formats as diverse as creative writing exercises to archival work to critically interrogate how institutional and creative practices mediate ecologies of healthcare in Britain. At its core, the network created a supportive space for expressing and addressing critical issues that confront us as researchers in the medical humanities, and in our communities – from mental and sexual health, to the climate crisis and environmental racism. What emerged was vital connections that exceeded academic collaborations, during what was often an isolating experience of researching and living through the pandemic.
Now hosted at IMH, the network will continue to be member-led and is committed to supporting the needs of members identified through the training programme, providing research support, mentorship, and an outlet for creative productions. This institutional transfer offers exciting prospects for expanding the interdisciplinary partnerships that have proven invaluable in the last year, with the infrastructural support to build upon the network’s legacy as it develops beyond this academic year.
Durham’s leadership in the Northern Network for Medical Humanities Research and its existing research communities, such as the Neurodivergent Humanities Network, can valuably bridge further cross-institutional and cross-disciplinary dialogue. There is much scope for collaborative conferences, reading groups, and publications that draw on the wide-ranging skills and interests across these scholarly communities. The network will also facilitate regular work-in-progress forums for existing members to meet their research and career support needs. In the longer-term, there is a view towards extending the membership model and incorporating a mentorship programme for precarious scholars in the field.
Through the research activities planned for this year, Arya and Shelda are aiming to develop a best practice methodology document which will outline principles for engaging with sensitive material informed by the network’s facilitation of research activities, and that can, in turn, shape pedagogical practice within and beyond academic spaces.
Prof Angela Woods, IMH Director said:
"We are delighted to welcome Arya to IMH in her new role as Black Health and Humanities Network Co-Lead. It will be a privilege to support Arya and Shelda in taking forward the important work started by Josie and Amber at Bristol, and through this for us as an Institute to identify new directions for and new practices within medical humanities research."
Find out more about the Black Health and the Humanities network at https://www.blackhealthandhumanities.org/
Follow BHH on twitter at https://twitter.com/bhhproject