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Education University of Groningen Summer Schools

Health Inequalities: approaches from the humanities

The humanities (i.e. history, philosophy, politics, arts and literature) are hugely important in answering questions related to the world-wide problem of health inequalities. Public health programs are often based on the research models of the medical- and social sciences. Yet, organizations like the WHO and medical journals increasingly call for changing vocabularies and strategies to deal with today’s health challenges. During the summer school we will explore how the humanities are essential in this current call for change. The module follows the new methodology of the critical medical humanities, which assumes that the humanities and health sciences are entangled and ask for non-reductionist and non-hierarchical forms of interdisciplinary cooperation. To this end we encourage students and researchers from the humanities and the health sciences to apply.

The Humanities week consists of five parts:

  1. Part 1 will introduce students to the methodology of critical medical humanities as well as the summerschool’s ‘regulative cycle’ and the related question of what the humanities can contribute to questions of health inequality.

  2. The underlying idea of the summer school is that poverty is a bad thing, responsible for bad health, and that the humanities can play a constructive role in mitigating the situation. However, we should also face up to the fact that for a long time in Western culture, poverty has been presented as irrelevant or even as healthy for body and soul. We will look at the longue durée of this strand in Western culture: from ancient Greco-Roman philosophy and Christian monasticism to Enlightenment praise for the health effects of poverty.

  3. Part 3 will focus on the politics of global health (international health governance, access to health care, colonialism and decoloniality in health, inequalities and injustices, and grassroots resistance etc.). Students will critically examine the structures of global health governance such as infectious disease and population politics, as well as policy discourses to understand underlying cultural and political narratives and myths

  4. Part 4 will deal with the ways art practices and art consumption affect wellbeing and the differential access individuals have to participation in and ways of understanding the arts. We will ask: How do the arts foster wellbeing? What roadblocks prevent participation in or time spent with various art practices that are consequential for our wellbeing? And, how can we create greater equity in terms of access to art, arts-related thinking, and artistic ways of being in the world?

  5. The summer school closes with communication in health settings, which is very heterogeneous both in terms of goals, settings, modalities, and participant frameworks. In this session, we will discuss the challenges for both medical professionals and patients for successful communication. We will discuss how research from the humanities can help to analyze different discourse on health and how outcomes from communication research can help to optimize health communication in different settings.

During our week, we will seek active links with the previous weeks in the 5-week summer school on Health Inequalities - although this week can also be attended as a standalone course.

Practical information

Dates & location 20 - 24 June 2022, Groningen, the Netherlands
Level Graduate level

Including participation, lunches, coffee/tea and social programme

€ 300 for University of Groningen students
€ 400 for students from partner universities
€ 500 for students from other universities

Academic coordinator Prof. dr. Rina Knoeff
Contact (please mention the name of the summer school in the subject)

Partner universities

European partner universities

  • Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg
  • University of Hamburg
  • University of Copenhagen

Non-European partner universities

  • Stellenbosch University
  • Nanyang Technological University
  • Osaka University
  • Universitas Gadjah Mada
  • Universidad de Antioquia
  • Universidad de Chile
  • Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
  • Universidade de São Paulo
  • Macquarie University

This summer school has been designed for students and researchers from the humanities and the health sciences.

It is expected that the participants have a sufficient command of the English language to actively participate in the discussions and to present their own work in English.

Learning outcomes

After completing the summer school, students

  • have an increased understanding of what the humanities can contribute to questions of inequality;
  • have an increased understanding of the history of ideas related to the concepts of 'poverty' and 'health';
  • have an increased understanding of the structures of global health governance and policy discourses, particularly in the fields of infectious diseases and population politics, and their relation to health and socioeconomic inequities;
  • have an increased understanding of the ways artistic practices and consumptions have implications for poverty and health and the ways community arts interventions can be facilitated to better community health;
  • have a general overview of the field of Health Communication and know how communication research contributes to optimizing health communication.

The deadline for application is 15 May 2022. We are no longer accepting applications.

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Last modified:16 May 2022 3.33 p.m.