CFP: ‘The Disease of Caring’: Medical Professionals and Activism from the Nineteenth Century to the Present

Friday 26 October 2018

School of Arts, Birkbeck, University of London

Supported by the Birkbeck/Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund and the Birkbeck Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies

Keynote speaker: Dr Anne Hanley (Birkbeck)

In In Darkest London (1891), Margaret Harkness’s popular novel about activism to alleviate poverty conditions in late nineteenth-century London, a doctor practising in a slum neighbourhood speaks of the ‘disease of caring’ that prompts him to give medical care to people in need of much wider social change. Harkness herself had trained as a nurse and pharmacist and her medical knowledge continued to inform her activist work throughout her working life. Both her own career and the fictional doctor in her novel reflect how, as medical care became increasingly professionalised over the course of the nineteenth century, discourses of medicine, social influence, and activism also grew interlinked. From the radical revisions of care provision developed by nurses such as Mary Seacole and Florence Nightingale during and after the Crimean War, to the widening of access to safe and effective birth control by activists from Annie Besant to Marie Stopes, to the founding of the NHS, to protests of junior doctors in the present day, the giving of medical care has often been a radical act, and givers of medical care have often allied themselves with a wide range of activist causes. This one-day symposium will aim to create a dialogue between examples and intentions of medical activists historically and in the present day.

We welcome proposals for 20-minute papers on medical activism in a broad sense. Papers may wish to address the following topics:

* Equality of care and access to care

* Conditions for medical work and care-giving, from field hospitals in the Crimean War to present-day hospital crises

* Personal recognition within the medical profession, from women’s right to practise to demonstrations and strikes of junior doctors

* Public health, from sanitation projects in the nineteenth century to obesity in the present day

* Medical care as activism, from slum doctors in the nineteenth century to Médecins sans frontières

* The activism of medical professionals in non-medical fields

* Patient choice and engagement

Please submit abstracts of no more than 300 words to <> by Monday 30 July. Please include with your abstract a biographical statement of no more than 100 words.

Proposals for poster presentations are also welcome. If your proposal is for a poster presentation, please indicate this clearly.

For more information, please visit: Follow us on Twitter: @diseaseofcaring