Beauty and the Hospital in History: Call for Papers

International Network for the History of Hospitals
Malta, 6–8 April 2017
Hosted by the Mediterranean Institute at the University of Malta, and the University of Warwick

INHH pics

 

Beauty, and its perceived absence or loss, has been a part of hospital experiences, therapies, and
planning throughout history. This conference aims to shed new light onto the history of beauty and
health by exploring the subjective concepts of beauty, ‘normality’, and their opposites within and
around the hospital.
This eleventh INHH conference will consider the relationship between beauty and the hospital in
history through an examination of five key themes: (1) the arts and the hospital; (2) landscape and
environment; (3) restoring beauty; (4) patient and staff experiences; and (5) beauty and the senses.
Below are more details about the themes the conference will address, along with related questions.
These themes and questions are by no means exhaustive, however, and we encourage the submission
of abstracts that discuss other aspects of beauty and the hospital in history in innovative ways.

Key Themes and Questions to be Explored:

1. The Arts and the Hospital:

  • How has the beauty of the arts been perceived to affect encounters within the hospital,
    been promoted by hospital patrons, or been used as a healing therapy in the hospital?

    •  Examples: Music, painting/s, festivities, crafts, creativity, architecture

2. Landscape and Environment:

  • How has the beauty of a landscape or environment — or its absence — shaped the choice
    of location for hospitals, and why?

    • Example: A medieval or colonial leprosy hospital situated in a beautiful landscape
      for its therapeutic value
      o Example: Asylums, isolation hospitals, or prison hospitals intentionally located in
      marginal, inaccessible or ‘ugly’ spaces, both urban and rural, and the consequences
      this was perceived to have on the health of patients
  • How have landscape and environment been adapted to affect hospital therapies and
    conditions?

    • Example: Hospital gardens
  • How did ancient ideas about the influence of environmental conditions upon health
    affect hospital care in the medieval and early modern periods?

3. Restoring Beauty:

  • Who decides what is beautiful or aesthetic, and whether and how that beauty should be
    restored? What strategies have been used in hospitals to restore or enhance that beauty,
    be it physical, mental, or emotional?

    • Example: Cosmetic surgery, prosthetics
    • Example: Psychotherapy to restore the perceived beauty of the mind
  • What happens when beauty or health cannot be fully restored? How have such
    therapies been depicted?

    • Example: Palliative care aimed at lessening suffering or alleviating the effects of
      ‘ugliness’; depictions of such care in before and after photographs, textbooks, and
      publicity material

4. Patient and Staff Experiences:

  • How have patients and staff experienced beauty or ugliness in hospitals? How and why
    has their access to beauty been encouraged or restricted?

    • Example: Hospital gardens for the use of patients only
    • Example: The isolation of patients in ‘ugly’ spaces as punishment
    • Example: The most beautiful spaces in a hospital compound restricted for the
      accommodation of European or white staff and patients
  • How was daily life in the hospital informed by the desire to create a beautiful order
    structuring the resident community?

    • Example: Ordinances and regulations inspired by religious or imperial precepts that
      guided daily life in residential hospitals

5. Beauty and the Senses:

  • How can we understand beauty — or its perceived absence — through the senses of
    smell, touch, sight, taste, and hearing? How has the hospital been a place for the care,
    enhancement, or experience of the beauty of these senses?

    • Example: Disgust surrounding ugly smells in hospitals; strategies to silence or
      shroud unsightly patients and practices
    • Example: The preferential hospitalisation of patients considered damaged in terms
      of their senses, e.g. the predominance of in-patients with a loss of nerve sensation
      in their hands and feet in colonial leprosy settlements

The Advisory Board of the INHH, as organisers of this conference, wish to invite proposals for 20
minute papers which address the conference theme. Potential contributors are asked to bear in mind
that engagement with the theme of beauty and the hospital will be a key criterion in determining
which papers are accepted onto the programme.

Abstracts should be a maximum of 300 words in length, in English and accompanied by a brief self
biography of no more than 200 words. Proposals should be sent to beauty.inhh@gmail.com by
15 May 2016. As with previous INHH conferences, it is intended that an edited volume of the
conference papers will be published. Submissions are particularly encouraged from researchers who
have not previously given a paper at an INHH conference.

Upon provision of full receipts, we hope to be able to support attendance at this conference,
particularly for postgraduates and early career researchers. Speakers will be asked to make use of
alternative sources of funding where these are available.

Any queries may be directed to
beauty.inhh@gmail.com.

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