Postcolonial Health: Global Perspectives on the Medical Humanities

A conference focusing on the relationship between colonialism, its aftermath and the impact on human health.

Keynote speakers:

Professor Deepika Bahri, Professor of English, Emory University, author of Postcolonial Biology: Psyche and Flesh After Empire (2017)

Professor Sanjoy Bhattacharya, Professor in the History of Medicine, Director of the Centre for Global Health Histories, and Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Global Health Histories, University of York


European colonialism has had direct, immediate and obvious impacts on human health, from the spread of disease upon contact to the effects of environmental damage, as well as the incalculable trauma produced by colonial violence and dispossession. Ongoing conditions of colonisation for the indigenous inhabitants of settler states continue to produce huge health disparities, while recent developments in epigenetics have provided scientific explanations for what many colonised subjects already know: that social and cultural oppression can have somatic effects and that these are heritable, potentially affecting future generations.

In this conference we seek to think critically about the complex and multiple relationships between colonialism, its aftermath, and human health, and to extend dialogues between postcolonial studies and the medical humanities (and related biocultural fields). In recent years we have seen frequent calls to ‘decolonise’ biomedicine, the life sciences, and the health humanities, and we welcome papers that engage with this process by asking: what might such a decolonisation mean for health research and medical practice? How can postcolonial studies contribute to more equitable health futures?

 This conference is funded by a Wellcome Trust Seed Award. Attendance is free and catering will be provided for all delegates. Booking is now open via Eventbrite. 


Thursday 20th June

08:30-09.45 Registration and coffee

09:45-11:00  Keynote Lecture - Sanjoy Bhattacharya, University of York

‘Global Health Histories, Humanities and the Profitabilities of Culturing Transparency and Empowerment’

11:00-11:30 Coffee break 

11:30-13:00 Panel sessions

1.1 Indigenous Trauma and Mental Health  Text

Chair: Emily Timms, University of Leeds

Amy Rushton, Nottingham Trent University

“Indian Sick”: Mental Distress, Healing, Memoir 

Anna Kemball, University of Edinburgh

Healing and Recovery in Residential School and Stolen Generation Narratives 

Abdenour Bouich, University of Exeter

Indigenous Trauma, (Post)colonial Survivance in Richard Wagamese’s Indian Horse (2012) 

1.2 Adolescence and Sexual Healthitle Text

Manjari Nandy, Central University of Gujarat

Medicalising Sex Education Programme: A Post-Colonial Effect?

Stanley Wanjala, Tilberg University

HIV Disclosure Practices and Stigma: The Perspective of Infected Adolescents in Coastal Kenya

Mobolanle Ebunoluwa Sotunsa, Babcock University

The Utilization of Yoruba Talking Drum Performance in HIV/AIDS Prevention Among Nigerian Adolescents

13:00-14:00 Lunch

14:00-15:30 Panel sessions

2.1 Women’s Health, Women’s Voices e Text

Chair: Mobolanle Ebunoluwa Sotunsa, Babcock University

Anna Adima, University of York

The Sound of Silence: The 1929-31 Kikuyu Female Circumcision Controversy and the Discursive Suppression of African Women’s Voices

Rebecca Macklin, University of Leeds

Natural Violence, Unnatural Bodies: Animacy Hierarchies in Narratives of Violence against Indigenous Women 

Emily Kate Timms, University of Leeds

‘This isn’t Africa’: Ageing, Care, and Intergenerational Trauma in Caribbean Women’s Writing 

2.2 Soldiers, Veterans, Race and Disability Text

Chair: Alexia Moncrieff, University of Leeds

Michelle Jarman, University of Wyoming

Racial Erasure and Rehabilitation in the Great War

Samraghni Bonnerjee, University of Sheffield

‘No Nurses for Indians’: Cultural Contamination and Segregation in the Medical Treatment of Indian Soldiers during the First World War 

Abir Hamdar, Durham University

The Living Martyr: Disability and Conflict in Arab Visual and Media Culture 

15:30-16:00 Coffee break

16:00-17:30 Panel sessions

3.1 Bodies, Minds, and Literary Form

Chair: Samraghni Bonnerjee, University of Sheffield

Dominic Davies, City, University of London

Decomposing Fictions of Occupied Baghdad: Body Parts and Body Politics in Hassan Blasim’s ‘The Corpse Exhibition’ and Ahmed Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad 

Lucía López Serrano, University of Salamanca

The Medical Establishment and the Marginal Body in Nalo Hopkinson’s Speculative Fictions: Examining Brown Girl in the Ring and ‘A Habit of Waste’ 

Ruby Srivastava, King’s College London

Representations of Mental Health Amongst Indian Women in Late Colonial and Postcolonial Fiction and Life Writing

3.2 Security and Citizenship

Chair: Amy Rushton, Nottingham Trent University

Tarek Younis, University College London

Psychopathologising Dissent with Resilience: Global Mental Health in the Global War on Terror

Jieun Kim, University of Leeds

Between Nationhood and Global Citizenship: Promoting Blood Donation in Postcolonial South Korea

Sola Owonibi, Adekunle Ajasin University

Insecurity and Literary Imagination in Africa: Construing the Arab Spring as Socio-Political Illness in Hisham Matar’s In The Country Of Men 

19:00 Conference dinner

Friday 21st June

09.45-11.00 Keynote lecture - Deepika Bahri, Emory University ‘Biocolonialism 2.0’

11:00-11:30 Coffee break

11.30 - 13:00 Panel sessions

4.1 Medical Institutions and Pedagogy

Chair: Branwyn Poleykett, University of Exeter

Sandhya Shetty, University of New Hampshire

Anatomy Without Borders: Recasting Colonial Medicine 

Shelley Angelie Saggar, Science Museum

Collecting the World: The Colonial Inheritance of Henry Wellcome’s Medical Collections

Susannah M. Boyed, Franca Keicher, Ramón Martinez and Zahra H. Khan, Columbia University

That Makes Me Uncomfortable: Disrupting the Health Humanities with a Pedagogy of Discomfort

4.2 Disability and Stigmatisation

Chair: Arthur Rose, University of Bristol

Yvonne Wechuli, University of Cologne

Disability and Postcolonial Studies: Common Ground, Missing Links and Mutual Inspiration

Rimjhim Bhattacherjee, Institute of Development Studies, Kolkata 

Corporealising Resistance: Indra Sinha’s Animal’s People and Global Disability Discourses 

Ndubuisi Martins Aniemeka, University of Ibadan

Strength in Weakness: Representations of Sickler’s Forte against Illness and Stigmatisation in Yinka Egbokhare’s Dazzling Mirage

13:00-14:00 Lunch

14.00-15:30 Panel sessions

5.1 Culture-Bound Conditions? Myths and Monstrosity

Chair: Yvonne Wechuli, University of Cologne

Tobias Schlosser, Independent Scholar

A Culture-Bound Psychosis? (Re)Conceptualising the Windigo in Native Canadian Culture 

Alex Henry, University of Leeds

‘Go Home’: Female Illness, ‘Monstrosity’ and White Appetite in Helen Oyeyemi’s White is for Witching

Arya Thampuran, Durham University

Medicine or Myth? Decolonising Traumatic Testimony in Contemporary African Literature 

5.2 Decolonising Disease 

Chair: Frances Hemsley, University of Bristol

Branwyn Poleykett, University of Exeter

Commoning, Care and Decolonisation: Responding to Chronic Disease in Dakar 

Edna Bonhomme, Max Planck Institute for History of Science

Epidemics in the Time of War

Arthur Rose, University of Bristol

Literary Tobacco Relations in the Age of Planetary Health