CFP. Ailing Empires: Medicine, Science, and Imperialism

Interdisciplinary symposium at the University of Edinburgh

31st May 2019

Keynote speaker: Dr Samiksha Sehrawat (Newcastle)

Twitter: @AEconference



2018 has begun as a period of renewed public and academic debate over the history and legacies of colonialism. Among their many faults, detached inquiries regarding the supposed benefits of colonial endeavours, however, miss the significance of everyday experiences of empire as expressed in a range of historical, literary, and visual evidence.


‘Ailing Empires’ is a one-day symposium that seeks to explore the extent to which narratives of health, medicine and science are inextricably bound with experiences of empire and colonialism throughout the nineteenth and twentieth-centuries. Through focus on a range of colonial contexts, textualities and sources, this symposium hopes to address questions such as: How did different colonial empires instrumentalise medicine and science? What role did healthcare and/or science play within the respective colonial project? Is ‘medical imperialism’ a useful term across different colonial contexts? In what way(s) did exchanges between Western and non-Western medical knowledge function as contact zones? How can scholarship engage with legacies of colonial medicine in the postcolonial age?


In order to explore to these questions, we invite papers and presentations from a variety of disciplinary and comparative perspectives from across the humanities, and particularly encourage submissions from postgraduate and early-career researchers. We are delighted to be able to offer two travel bursaries of up to £100 each to PhD students, whose institutions or funding bodies do not reimburse travel expenses.


The following is an indicative, but by no means exhaustive, selection of the kinds of issues we would like to address:


– Medical imperialism

– Postcolonial legacies

– Control and resistance

– Medical encounters and knowledge exchange

– Medicine and ecology

– Mental health

– The doctor-patient encounter

– Missionaries and nurses

– Sex and gender

– Class and access/restriction

– Infrastructures

– Literary and visual representations

– Medicine and travel writing

– Authority and authorship

– Drugs and healing practices

– Hygiene, disease, and public health

– Health reform and policies


Please send proposals of no more than 300 words detailing your topic, along with a brief bio, to by 1 March 2019. We invite the ‘traditional’ 20-minute paper, as well as alternative formats of presentation. Please indicate in your email whether you would like to be considered for the PhD travel bursaries.


Contact: Dr Sam Goodman (Bournemouth): | Dr Sarah Arens (Edinburgh):


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