What is medical humanities?

Medical humanities research draws on the methods and source materials of the arts, humanities and social sciences to improve our understanding of health and human experience. It strives to be interdisciplinary and is often conducted in collaboration with non-academic partners such as health and voluntary sector professionals, people living with complex health conditions, family members, activists, advocates and creative practitioners. Medical humanities researchers seek societal change as well as transformations in scholarly understanding.

At Durham University’s Institute for Medical Humanities, we conduct interdisciplinary and cross-sector research into what we call ‘hidden experience.’  We investigate experiences of health and illness which are marginalised, difficult, unspeakable, unacknowledged or invisible.

Two women talking animatedly. They are sitting at a desk.

Starting with the complexities of experience enables new questions to be posed, new methodological approaches to be harnessed, and new understandings of biomedical accounts to be developed, with tangible health benefits to individuals and communities. 

You can find out more about the kind of work that we do by reading our brochure: The Institute for Medical Humanities (2018–2023). You can also keep up to date with recent debates in the medical humanities by reading The Polyphony – our online platform for those aiming to stimulate, catalyse, provoke, expand and intensify conversations in the critical medical humanities.