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Symposium report: Contemporary Narratives of Care

On 25th October the Centre for Contemporary Literature held a day-long symposium on the issue of care (both professional and non-professional) within the rapidly growing field of medical humanities.

Symposium report: Contemporary Narratives of Care

On 25th October the Centre for Contemporary Literature held a day-long symposium on the issue of care (both professional and non-professional) within the rapidly growing field of medical humanities. The event brought together academics, artists and medical practitioners, and featured a mixture of 20-minute academic papers and more informal, 10-minute presentations.

The symposium was organised by Reina van der Wiel. She reports: “‘Contemporary Narratives of Care’ drew together delegates from across the globe to discuss and debate issues of care relating to parenting, mental distress, physical illness, disability and aging. In consideration of the British government’s welfare reforms and the recent revelations about the failure of care in some hospitals, this discussion could not have been more timely.” The symposium was highly interdisciplinary and examined the personal, political, ethical and professional dimensions of care-giving from multiple perspectives.

The day started with a panel on the phenomenology and politics of informal care, followed by a session specifically on dementia and Alzheimer’s care. Presentations explored music therapy, the experiences of family carers and graphic life narratives. A panel on identity and care investigated the language of ‘carer’ versus ‘caring’ as well as narratives of ageing. The increasing use of literature in medical education was demonstrated in the fourth session, which included a recording of a theatre workshop using Samuel Beckett’s plays in clinical education. The topic of (non)recovery closed a very successful event.

Reina comments: “The symposium was an opportunity to put all these voices from different fields in touch with one another so we can help each other grapple with contemporary issues of care. In particular, it looked at the role narrative, and literature more generally, could play in re-thinking what it means to care.”

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