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Reviewed by:
  • The Edinburgh Companion to the Critical Medical Humanities ed. by Anne Whitehead and Angela Woods
  • Katrina Hinson
Whitehead, Anne, and Angela Woods, eds. The Edinburgh Companion to the Critical Medical Humanities. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2016. Pp. 700 illus. £175.00.

The Edinburgh Companion to the Critical Medical Humanities, edited by Anne Whitehead and Angela Woods, brings together cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural research in biomedical sciences, humanities and social sciences, and the arts. The selections included in the thirty-six chapters of this text outline, define, explain, and explore the second wave developing in the medical humanities field. The text is divided into four sections: "Evidence and Experiment," "The Body and the Senses," "Mind, Imagination, and Affect," and "Health, Care, and Citizens." Included at the end of each section is a thoughtful afterword by leading critics of the field of medical humanities research.

Part One begins with an article that, perhaps, highlights the evolution of medical humanities as a field by introducing an "entangled" concept of medical humanities that explores the field, not from the stance of 'breaking' down boundaries, but growing to include the space between boundaries in such a way that does not ask difference [End Page 518] to be overcome, but asks questions about why the differences matter. This first chapter introduces a new way to consider how research is conducted related to medical humanities, and calls researchers to develop experimental systems that honour the interdisciplinary nature of what occurs in medical humanities research and yet breaks away from positivist models that privilege empirical research above anything else. Moving beyond the expected topoi of the medical narrative, the selections in Part One call for critical medical humanities to become a field in which knowledge is not owned by any one discipline over another, but is instead shared, co-authored, and co-owned equally, and where the combination of disciplinary difference could actually lead to the construction of a pure product of the experimental process that would not have come to be in any other fashion. The essays in this section call for an examination of the entanglement of the sciences and humanities so as to challenge the assumption that hard evidence comes only from the "hard sciences." The only way in which to highlight and expose limitations and biases is by developing interdisciplinary knowledge-making experiments that continue to challenge and question what is biologically real. As the field of critical medical humanities continues to evolve, it will have to do so with a conscientious reflexive gaze that is self-aware enough to recognize the entangled knotted messiness of its experimental knowledge-making systems.

Section Two addresses ideas related to the body and the senses. The essays in this section attempt to challenge dominant cultural ideologies about the body and the senses, both from the medical field and from without. The authors of these essays demonstrate the rich potential that can be found when all of our senses are engaged in understanding the human body and what it means to be both an individual body and a body in connection with diverse other bodies. Historically, biomedicine has adopted a visually-centred approach to the human body and the challenge for contemporary research in biomedicine and medical humanities is to develop transdisciplinary means of approaching the body not just visually, but sensually, holistically through all of the senses at their disposal. At the heart of the essays in this section is the underlying challenge of discovering the human body anew through more than the sense of sight. Biomedical and critical medial humanities researchers in these selections highlight how senses other than sight can be of service to treating the human body. Scholars of critical medical humanities may be able to provide the tools that build bridges between the clinical, the classroom, and the laboratory approaches to understanding the human body more holistically.

Section Three addresses topics of the mind, imagination, and affect. The essays in this section are varied and diverse both in content and in tone. These essays serve as excellent reminders of the profound differences in how scholars in varied disciplines recount or account for human experiences, and that those...


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pp. 518-520
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