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On Futures: What do we need for the post-pandemic future?

How can the humanities, as well as the sciences, contribute to envisioning and planning a healthy, equitable future for all? In this seminar, our speakers will consider these crucial questions from clinical, linguistic and policy perspectives.

Professor Jane Macnaughton, Director of Institute for Medical Humanities, University of Durham

in conversation with

Professor Aditi Lahiri, CBE, Professor of Linguistics, University of Oxford and Vice President (Humanities), the British Academy

Professor Jane Macnaughton is Director of the Institute for Medical Humanities at Durham University, UK. She is clinically qualified and is active in women’s health. Her research focusses on the idea of the symptom and her most recent research project, supported by the Wellcome Trust, concerned the experience of breathlessness with a strong focus on the
health inequalities that symptom demonstrates, now brought into sharp focus by COVID.

Professor Aditi Lahiri CBE, Vice President (Humanities) British Academy, is Professor of Linguistics and Director of the Language and Brain Laboratory at the University of Oxford. Her research programme makes use of various methodologies from brain imaging technology to palaeographic investigation of old manuscripts, with the overarching theme of investigating the mental representation and historical development of the sounds of human language.
Her current research has been funded by grants from the ERC and AHRC

See below for a transcript of the zoom chat with some excellent links…

18:58:18 From AMH President to Everyone : Hello everyone, welcome to our event which will the event will start at 7.30 prompt. So please grab a cuppa or anything you may need and we’ll see you in a bit.

19:35:24 From AMH President to Everyone : It is wonderful to see everyone – many familiar faces and some new ones. Hello and welcome to all of you

19:46:30 From Jo Winning to Everyone : Please do feel free to post questions when they occur to you

19:49:37 From Tom Rosenal to Everyone : Will the interactions among the effects of the pandemic and other large events make interpretations and planning more difficult?  E.g. Brexit.  How will that be managed?  Thanks

19:54:59 From Rainer Brömer to Everyone : Isn’t there a big difference between even as horrible an event as war and the open-ended threat of COVID19? My understanding of wars was always that people somehow expect a return to normal after the atrocity, while we are not so clear about what to expect from a post(?) COVID period – climate change might be more similar in that respect, or rather the opposite way out, as the impact we have to anticipate is infinitely more severe… So we might have to ask ourselves how we can prepare ourselves for something that appears so new (because, as has been said, previous instances have by and large been forgotten)

19:56:53 From Alex Mermikides to Everyone : Jane’s point about how the pandemic foregrounds the entanglement of social, cultural, health, medicine rings very true. I’m struck by the incursion of public health/medical discourse into the home; also how hygine routines normally associated with medical domain (handwashing) are adopted in private life

20:07:44 From Diana Novaceanu to Everyone : It will be interesting (and vital) to see how the public image of physicians and other healthcare workers will change after the pandemic is if not truly “over”, dimmed from everyday life. Moving away from “Clap for the NHS” (and similar national initiatives) and realist portraits of essential workers made by artists who in some cases almost become self-titled “artists of the pandemic” (in some cases their work being framed in an almost militaristic “war artist” way by the media). There

20:10:02 From Alex Mermikides to Everyone : Question about role of (critical) medical humanities: do you think this crisis and recovery will return us to a model in which the arts & humanities taken on a ‘helper’ role in relation to the medical domain?

20:12:06 From Deborah Padfield to Everyone : I hope not, I see their role as much more valuable within a framework of exchange, of questioning or challenging status quo and of collaborative working to co-create new understanding and new knowledge and ways of being and perceiving – not as a ‘helper ‘

20:12:37 From Diana Novaceanu to Everyone : *’s already a growing sense of irony and satire in some visual media. So my very brief question would be, what is your insight into the entanglements of medicine and this arts at this particular moment? Thank you

20:13:36 From Zoe Playdon to Everyone : Reaching back into the history, in 1959 C P Snow’s Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution argued that the humanities were a clog on scientific progress; in 1976, the Tate Gallery ‘pile of bricks’ debate fuelled an alt-right attack on the arts and humanities as irrelevant, self-indulgent, and elitist; while the creation of a National Curriculum in 1988 initiated a growing vocalisation of secondary education, cemented by the creation of a Manpower Services Commission. Living through this, it felt, and sometimes still feels, like a neo-colonial positioning of arts and humanities as Other to science and technology. So while I agree wholeheartedly with our speakers’ view that these two broad branches of knowledge should be interdependent, equal, and mutually inclusive, I wonder how, in practice, such a decolonisation might take place?

20:15:18 From Deborah Padfield to Everyone : An Arts and humanities Sage – notion Jane suggested?

20:16:56 From AMH President to Everyone : I wonder if the fatigue that Jane mentions might also be linked to the shifting futures and the notions of uncertainty and the future becoming a shifting thing – yet ironically the things that is not and had not changed is disadvantage and the stratification of inequalities – nationally here and globally too.

20:20:32 From Deborah Padfield to Everyone : Is it because the ‘enemy’ is unclear – the literal enemy is invisible but there are all sorts of other enemies as you have both indicated which have exacerbated the impacts and the inequalities of the impacts

20:20:48 From Rainer Brömer to Everyone : Maybe wars are just more morally charged than a pandemic? We can already see that some people try to charge COVID morally, pointing out the effect of climate change and overpopulation on pushing viruses from wildlife into human population?

20:20:56 From Deborah Padfield to Everyone : War has a more common ‘enemy’

20:27:30 From Catherine Jenkins to Everyone : Given the mass trauma of the pandemic, and it’s short- and long-term mental health impacts, I am hopeful that some of the stigmatization around mental health issues will be reduced post-pandemic.

20:30:31 From Tamar Wildwing to Everyone : I have similar hope about long covid- hopefully it will contribute to improved acceptability of chronic fatigue syndrome and other ‘functional’ neurological conditions

20:30:58 From Zoe Playdon to Everyone : By way of consolation, I recall how important philosophy departments suddenly became in the 1980s as computing began to work in Artificial Intelligence, and realised they had to confront fundamental question such as what is knowledge, how it differs from intelligence, and the relationship between epistemologies and ontologies

20:38:02 From AMH President to Everyone : I am thinking about your point Alex, on hand washing and medical routines being imported such as hand washing – and how this is often, biomedical symptomatic of OCD and therefore a signified of increasing levels of anxiety.  I think there are also serious issues in research funding where interdisciplinary methodologies and simply not understood by medical reviewers. This is an issue that challenges our actions, so this seems critically important.

20:38:06 From Zoe Playdon to Everyone : If all else fails, ask the humanities! It sounds like a choice between waiting for systemic failure or developing transdiciplinarity at a fundamental policy level: perhaps we need a parliamentary SHAPE and STEM Committee to examine ways and means of change, rather like the function performed by the Women and Equalities Committee

20:41:02 From Tamar Wildwing to Everyone : yes! terrible hierarchy of illness is seen already

20:43:01 From Alex Mermikides to Everyone : I suppose pandemic has blurred lines between kingdoms of well/sick – we are asked to ‘act as if we’ve got it’

20:43:44 From Bridget MacDonald to Everyone : The number of patients in Croydon ED with psychiatric symptoms/diagnoses has increased significatly (doubled I think but not 100% sure of axact ffigure)

20:43:59 From Jo Winning to Everyone : That is a very interesting point Alex – a remaking of citizenship in Sontag’s terms

20:46:58 From Alex Mermikides to Everyone : another boundary crossing: health workers simultaneously heroes and victims (the PPE/frontline)

20:49:13 From Bridget MacDonald to Everyone : Totally agree

20:55:33 From Tom Rosenal to Everyone : John le Carre says the difference between nationalism & patriotism is that the former requires an enemy.  Perhaps the pandemic lacks a human enemy.

20:57:57 From Hanna Slattne to Everyone : What dates in June will the conference take place?

20:58:16 From Jo Winning to Everyone : 16th-18th June

20:58:23 From Rainer Brömer to Everyone : Thanks everybody, been a really instructive conversation

20:58:41 From Alex Mermikides to Everyone : thank you for fascinating discussion

20:59:00 From Diana Novaceanu to Everyone : thank you everyone! Brilliant session

20:59:19 From Hanna Slattne to Everyone : Thank you!

20:59:25 From Catherine Jenkins to Everyone : Thank you everyone! Great and thought-provoking exchange.

20:59:27 From Theresa Tran to Everyone : Thank you – some lovely insights/thoughts raised

20:59:29 From Neerali Soni to Everyone : Thank-you for this – it has been very insightful and interesting!

20:59:52 From angela hodgson-teall to Everyone : Thank you for tremendously insightful talks and discussions

21:00:19 From Linda Turner to Everyone : Thanks everyone

21:00:28 From Ulrika Maude to Everyone : Thank you very much to everyone!

21:00:30 From Harriet Cooper to Everyone : Thank you!

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