Health Humanities: Building the Future of Research and Teaching

An Obermann Working Symposium

April 4-5, 2014

In Spring 2014, as part of the Obermann Center's yearlong series Designing the Future, we will  host a working symposium on the health or medical humanities. This two-day event will bring together faculty, staff, students, and community members  who are interested in this burgeoning subfield in order to assess current models and discuss potential collaborations at the UI. Several leaders in the field will join us to share their experiences in programming, research, and partner building.

The primary goals for the symposium are to:

·  Appraise the current state of the subfield, especially in anticipation of two major “Health Humanities” collections forthcoming in Spring 2014 (Jones et al. [Rutgers], Crawford et al. [Palgrave]).

·  Critically assess the role of the humanities in the study of “health”—its hypothetical and demonstrated value in curricular initiatives and pedagogy, program-building, and the “health humanities” more broadly conceived and to envision greater engagement with arts and humanities departments.

·  Improve understanding of the opportunities, challenges, and problems faced by researchers and educators in the health humanities, including grantsmanship; tenure and promotion; research and publication; curricular, (inter-) disciplinary, and institutional barriers.

·  Generate dialogue and action plans for future interdisciplinary humanities initiatives, including postsecondary training for students and researchers in the humanities that translates effectively into other non-traditional sectors (such as medicine and the allied health professions).

·  Connect colleagues at the University of Iowa and assess the resources we have in place for programming, courses, and research groups that will engage not only those in the health sciences, but also faculty and students in the cultural and performing sectors—artists, humanities scholars (from anthropology, literature, history, law, philosophy, religious studies, the Division of World Literatures and Languages), archivists, museum curators and educators, and performance venues like Hancher and the Division of Performing Arts. 

We encourage all participants (in-person and virtual) to actively engage with the symposium's events and speakers.  If you're on Twitter, be sure to use our designated symposium hashtag: #UIHealthHum.

With co-sponsorship from the College of Public Health, Fundraising and Philanthropy Certificate in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication, the Departments of Classics, Communication Studies, English, and Gender, Women's & Sexuality Studies, the Division of World Languages, Literatures, & Cultures, College of Dentistry, College of Education, the Graduate College, College of Engineering, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Hancher, International Writing Program, Program in Bioethics and Humanities, the Writers' Workshop, the College of Nursing, and UIHC Project Art.

For more information on the symposium, contact symposium organizer Andrea Charise,, or for logistical assistance, Erin Hackathorn, 319.335.4034,

About the art:  The 3D model used in the web site banner and poster for this conference is of the HIV virus and was designed by the M.C. Ginsberg 3D team. HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the cause of AIDS-acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. The World Health Organization estimates that 34 million people are living with HIV worldwide, including more than 3 million children under the age of 15. About 25 million people have died of HIV/AIDS to date. M. C. Ginsberg’s 3D team, which includes skills and talents in sculpture, ceramics, bench jeweler/mechanic, machining, and 3D modeling, has combined their art “to present the dichotomy between the aesthetic beauty of pathogens and the havoc they wreak on humanity.” This is one in a series of works depicting viruses and bacteria at many times their actual size.  Mark Ginsberg has consulted with the University of Iowa’s College of Public Health to ensure the forms were scientifically accurate; “I assembled our team of highly specialized artists to bring this vision to fruition. A limited edition of each microbe are produced for sale—unfortunately, their potentially lethal counterparts aren’t nearly so rare…”