Health Humanities Lab

Art by Edouard Duval-CarriƩ Click here to visit the Health Humanities Lab Website

Health humanities represents an innovative interdisciplinary approach to advancing the health of populations worldwide through scholarship and practice grounded in histories, languages, and cultures. Combining humanities and interpretive social science scholarship with clinical medicine and public health, the field of health humanities seeks to improve communication in the clinical encounter, enhance the salience and sustainability of health systems in the clinic and beyond, and strengthen existing familial, cultural, and collective resilience. Dialogue and outreach on the continuum of social relationships to health and healing offers novel ways of reflecting on what it truly means to be "well."

The Franklin Humanities Institute first applied the vertically integrated personnel and design principles of science laboratories to collaborative humanities research and education in 2010. FHI Humanities labs have spanned regions (Haiti Lab, Global Brazil Lab, BorderWorks), technologies and media (GreaterthanGames, Audiovisualities, Digital Knowledge), and creative genres and modes (Story Lab). Funded by the Provost's Office and by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with strategic partnership from the Dean of Art and Sciences, the FHI humanities labs have historically fostered partnerships with a broader network of units including the Law School, the Nicholas School of Environment, the Duke Global Health Institute.

Building on this record of interdisciplinary innovations, the FHI has successfully proposed campus and medical center co-investment in a humanities lab strategically located in close proximity to the Duke medical school, nursing school, hospital and clinics, and the Trent Center for Bioethics. Launching in Fall 2016, the new FHI Health Humanities Lab is co-directed by Deborah Jenson (Romance Studies & Global Health / FHI), Brandon Kohrt (Duke Global Health Institute), and Harris Solomon (Cultural Anthropology and DGHI). Primary activities of the Lab will include the following:

  • Region-specific working groups: Faculty-mentored teams of undergraduates, doctoral students, and postdocs will assemble cultural portfolios of resources to strengthen knowledge of history, language, and culture relevant to faculty and student research
  • Seminars: Talks will either present a Health Humanities conceptual framework or methodological approach, or will bring together medical and humanities faculty working in the same study site or region for a collaborative presentation
  • Courses: Faculty exchanges between humanities and health courses; incorporation of Health Humanities concepts into existing courses; and developing a Health Humanities MOOC; facilitating distance-learning courses for languages not taught at Duke
  • Cultural consultancy: Build a network of social scientists and humanities scholars to advise faculty and student research in health fields and to provide assistance to improve health services to refugee, immigrant, minority, and other underserved populations

The DGHI engagement with local and global health disparities creates an apt environment to catalyze Duke's emerging "local to global" strategic emphasis. The Health Humanities lab will draw upon critical and historical studies of global health initiatives to guide future practices incorporating humanities insights and practices. It will explore avenues to contribute to enhancing the mission of the Duke medical center through providing humanities resources and expertise.

This lab is integrally related to a Duke FHI and UVA humanities Global South initiative with the University of Bologna, in which faculty and graduate students from many world sites come together in Bologna in the summer to interrogate global humanities in theory and practice. A key goal of the Health Humanities Lab is to link multidisciplinary teams of students and faculty at the three core university sites with collaborators at global research sites to create new models of health-related knowledge and practice. Using digital tools to produce interactive video and audio content, convene web-based seminars, and create powerful new modes for collaborative data collection (building on eHRAF and wikipage models).

** Learn more about FHI health humanities programs leading up to the Lab. **

Image: Edouard Duval-CarriƩ, "Little Crippled Haiti," 2006