search the archive
search the archive
Call for Essays: Circulations of Religion and Medicine in North American Culture [Abstracts due July 15, 2012]
full name / name of organization:
Ashley Reed and Kelly Bezio
As twenty-first-century critics we are inclined to think of medicine and religion as oppositional disciplines with incompatible approaches to the world. The “secularization thesis,” promulgated in the work of Max Weber and other early-twentieth-century sociologists, has positioned scientific objectivity as replacing religious superstition, with medicine “switching sides” from a spiritual discourse controlled by ministers and shamans to a scientific one produced by doctors and researchers. But this relatively new thesis elides how, as anthropologist Linda L. Barnes notes, “religious and medical practices often converge in that both deal with pain and suffering, birth and death, and sexuality, growth, and decay.” This points to an exciting new avenue for cultural studies scholarship that takes seriously the confluence of these ostensibly exclusive disciplines.
We are seeking contributions for an edited collection that challenges the secularization thesis as it has been applied to religion and medicine in the United States since colonization. We are particularly interested in cultural studies approaches that engage written texts--literature, autobiography/life writing, sermons, poetry, creative nonfiction, and the like--as well as film, music, and the visual arts.
Recent scholarship, flourishing particularly in fields that study American literature before World War II, has begun to uncover how for many Americans medicine and religion have constituted one capacious body of knowledge. Studies from a range of disciplines, such as literary critic Justine Murison’s The Politics of Anxiety in Nineteenth-Century Literature (2011) and religious historian Christopher White’s Unsettled Minds: Psychology and the American Search for Spiritual Assurance (2009), eschew an analytical approach that presumes practical, cultural, or epistemological conflicts between matters of the spirit and matters of the flesh. Instead, new scholarship in a range of fields underscores how medical knowledge was used by Americans to undergird new definitions of morality and systems of faith.
We are interested in essays that articulate overlooked relationships between these two discourses and their attendant vocations. Additionally, we are looking for pieces that continue to interpret colonial and nineteenth-century contexts, during which confluences between religion and medicine were more readily apparent, but also pieces that consider the uneven disaggregation, in the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries, of medical knowledge and institutions from religious authority and practice. Contributions are encouraged from scholars with interests in the representation of religion and medicine across a range of fields, including but not limited to literary criticism, history, cultural studies, religious studies, critical and cultural theory, anthropology, and medical humanities.
Proposal Guidelines and Projected Timeline:
Please send 750-word abstracts or completed essays (no more than 10,000 words including notes and bibliography) and a brief c.v. by July 1, 2012 to Ashley Reed (email@example.com) or Kelly Bezio (firstname.lastname@example.org). Notification of acceptance will be sent by July 15, 2012, with completed essays expected by January 15, 2013.
Suggested topics might include (but are not limited to):
Religion and medicine in historical-cultural context:
Professionalization and its discontents:
Structures of meaning-making: