CHHS research seminar: Dr Anna Farthing

The CHHS were joined by Dr Anna Farthing, on 03/10/18, to discuss ‘Culture in hospital settings: a conversation with UHBristol Arts Programme Director’

Dr Anna Farthing’s role is to ‘develop and implement a wide-ranging and high impact strategy incorporating diverse art forms from pictures to performance’. The University  Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust‘s first ever arts programme director is a role funded for 18 months by the charity Above & Beyond but accountable to the Trust’s chief executive. Farthing has been tasked to support the psychological and social needs of both patients and more than 9,000 staff, as well as help the Trust’s hospitals such as the BRI, St Michael’s and Children’s Hospital engage with Bristol’s civic community. The new role has been created as a response to increasing evidence of the links between wellbeing and engagement in creative and cultural activities. Farthing has previously worked with organisations including Tobacco Factory Theatres, M Shed, Bristol Green Capital, Bristol Festivals and Bristol Doors Open Days. She has a PhD from the University of Manchester and is a visiting fellow at the University of Bristol. [from:]

Contact:  Anna Farthing

CHHS workshop: Professor Mark Paterson

Professor Mark Paterson ran an afternoon workshop on ‘Haptic methodologies and multisensory mediations’ in room G.16 of Cotham House on 15/05/18.

Mark is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh. He has conducted funded research on the use of haptic technologies within museums, and on the mixed spaces of human-robotic interaction (HRI). He is the author of several books, including The Senses of Touch: Haptics, Affects and Technologies (2007), Seeing with the Hands: Blindness, Vision and Touch After Descartes (2016) and co-editor of Touching Place, Spacing Touch (with Martin Dodge, 2012). He is co-editor of a special issue of the journal New Media & Society on ‘Haptic Media Studies’ (2017). His current book project is How We Became Sensory- Motor: Mapping Movement and Modernity.

This workshop focussed on on the emergence of ‘multimodal analysis’ – which brings together the textual, visual, aural, embodied and spatial dimensions – and their potential value for scholars across the humanities & social sciences. It raised questions such as: what can scholars of the senses, and those engaging in the ‘multimodal turn’ in research, learn from each another? How can ‘haptic’ or relativistic ‘embodied’ methodologies make use of more distributed and accessible multimodal media? How does the archive incorporate such multisensory mediations, and what limits are there in interpretation? Is there an irresolvable tension between relativistic approaches to sensory practice and forms of research and dissemination that engage the audio-visual affordances of contemporary media? What might this all mean for the interdisciplinary endeavour that has become known as ‘sensory studies’? Finally, do the possibilities of multimodal (e.g. audio-visual) media foster more creative attitudes to data collection, and what would this look like for different humanities and social science fields?

Contact: Mark Paterson –

Public Lecture: Professor Lundy Braun

The University of Bristol’s Life of Breath Project, The Centre for Black Humanities, and The Centre for Health, Humanities and Science were delighted to welcome Professor Lundy Braun for a public lecture on “Race Correction” in Medicine: A History of Lung Function Measurements.

Lung function measurements are routinely “corrected” for race and/or ethnicity transnationally. This talk drew upon the historical and scientific literature on lung function measurements to examine how philosophical ideas of racial difference in lung function in the US became scientific; how race intersected with social class and gender; and how ideas of innate difference gained sufficient traction, such that they persist to the present day with little contestation.

Lundy Braun is a Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and Africana Studies at Brown University (USA) and author of Breathing Race into the Machine: The Surprising Career of the Spirometer from Plantation to Genetics (University of Minnesota Press, 2014).

After her lecture, Lundy Braun was joined by historians Dr Michael Bresalier (University of Swansea) and Dr Coreen McGuire (University of Bristol) for a panel discussion and audience Q&A, followed by reception with wine and light buffet.

Contact: Lundy Braun–

CHHS research seminar: Dr Coreen McGuire

Dr Coreen McGuire presented on ‘Unifying Partial Disability: The Medical Research Council and the Classification of Respiratory Disability in Britain’ on 25/04/18 in room G.63, 13 Woodland Road.

McGuire noted that during the first half of the twentieth century, the mining industry in Britain represented a site of contested medical knowledge, in which the risk to miners’ lungs from coal dust was disputed by various governmental, industrial, and medical bodies. Following the legal introduction of ‘partial disability’ in 1931, attempts to unify these bodies in standard interpretations of respiratory disability were promoted through the Medical Research Council’s medical surveys of the South Wales coalfields undertaken between 1936-1942. However, adjudicating disability was complex and involved creating new sets of standardised classifications for what measurable changes constituted disability in relation to respiratory disease. In her paper, McGuire considered how technology was used by the Medical Research Council in their attempt to create objective measurements of such respiratory disability changes. To combat the difficulty of measuring breathlessness and the impossibility of making direct measurements of lung capacity, the surrogate measurement of vital capacity was made using spirometers. The MRC used this measurement to numerically code breathlessness, which allowed them to scale, standardise, and adjudicate for levels of respiratory disability. Yet such efforts were permeated by disunity between miners’ subjective reports of breathlessness and the objective correlate. Analysing the creation of respiratory disability standards through vital capacity measurements reveals one of the myriad ways in which seemingly objective technology has been used to mask the political and social construction of disability. Moreover, this historical case study demonstrates that there is evidence of embedded epistemic injustice inherent to the processes of instrumental testing that social support and compensation necessitates.

Contact: Coreen McGuire –


CHHS reading group: Dr Mimi Thebo

Dr Mimi Thebo joined us at our Centre for Health, Humanities and Science event on 18/04/2018 in room G.16 of Cotham House.

Mimi is Reader in Creative Writing at the University of Bristol and a Carnegie-longlisted author for children and teens. Her work has been translated into twelve languages, adapted for a BAFTA-winning BBC film, illustrated in light and signed for deaf children by ITV. Trauma is one of her main narrative interests: Hospital High, in particular, is based on her own experience of a severe car accident. It was of special interest to those of us working on illness narratives, on hospitals, and on respiratory conditions.

This event took the form of a ‘reading group’ style meeting. Those who attended were encouraged to read Hospital High in advance of the meeting; copies were available to borrow from the Arts and Social Sciences Library, or could be purchased online following this link.

Contact: Mimi Thebo–


Regional Networking Event

A Regional Networking event was held on 28/03/18 in the Victoria Rooms, Bristol. During the day there were opportunities to discuss shared research interests, engage in interactive workshops and forge new relationships. There were also talks given by Professor Havi Carel and Professor Laura Salisbury.

The event was hosted by the Bristol Centre for Health, Humanities and Science and the Exeter Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health, in association with the Regional Medical Humanities Network.

The Regional Networking event sought to respond to the training and development needs of our delegates. In order to do this, we asked all attendees to reply to the following question: ‘What is one challenge that you currently face in your work?’ prior to the event. The myriad answers we received were collated, and the event programme was directly informed by the common themes identified.

We welcomed over sixty attendees from across the South West and Wales. Assistance was made available to help with the costs of travel; and priority was given to Postgraduate Research Students and those travelling from Exeter.


CHHS research seminar: Professor Martin Willis

Professor Martin Willis joined CHHS members on 07/01/18 to discuss “Collaborative Practices between the Humanities and the Sciences: Rethinking Consilience.”

Willis noted that since the sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson appropriated William Whewell’s term, consilience, to articulate a vision of the “jumping together” of the sciences and the humanities, consilience has been one key strand of the intellectual debate on the relationships between the sciences, literature, and the broader humanities. Willis discussed the ways in which consilience, and especially Wilson’s construction of it as a way for the humanities to become more scientific, has been contested and celebrated. Using this as a starting point, Willis took some of the concerns emerging from consilient ideologies to develop a broader argument about the relationships between the humanities and the sciences, focussing on some of the theoretical, political and practical concerns that typify our contemporary moment.

Contact: Martin Willis–

CHHS research seminar: Dr Giovanni Biglino and Sofie Layton

For our first CHHS meeting on 06/12/18 we were joined by Dr Giovanni Biglino (Lecturer in Cardiovascular Bioinformatics & Medical Statistics, School of Clinical Sciences) and artist Sofie Layton, who has extensive experience of participatory arts practice in a medical context. They presented on the pioneering The Heart of the Matterproject. Attendees then had the opportunity to discuss the interplay of arts, humanities, and biomedical sciences, as well as the presence of literal and figurative hearts in their work.

Contact: Giovanni Biglino–

Sofie Layton