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The view from the edgelands
  1. F Rapport2,
  2. P Wainwright1,
  3. G Elwyn2
  1. 1School of Health Science, University of Wales Swansea, Swansea, Wales
  2. 2Swansea Clinical School, University of Wales Swansea, Swansea, Wales
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr Paul Wainwright
 School of Health Science, University of Wales Swansea, Singleton Park, Swansea, SA2 8PP;

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Medical humanities is characterised as occupying the “edgelands” between science and the humanities

In a discussion of the built landscape, Shoard has coined the expression “the edgelands” to describe that interesting area to be found on the outskirts of towns, between rural and urban areas. This area is:

“an interfacial rim…characterised by rubbish tips and warehouses, superstores and derelict industrial plant, office parks and gypsy encampments, golf courses, allotments and fragmented, frequently scruffy farmland”.

The edgeland passes largely unnoticed although it is “a vaguely menacing frontier land hinting that here the normal rules governing human behaviour cannot altogether be relied upon”. However, Shoard argues, “if we fail to attend to the activity of the interface we forfeit the chance not only to shape that change but also to influence the effects of it on other parts of the environment”.1

If we take the urban environment as a metaphor for the natural sciences, with their hard edges and their objectivity, and if the rural landscape could be said to represent the humanities, softer, pastoral, more relaxed and more subjective, we could characterise the medical humanities as occupying the kind of “interfacial rim” that Shoard describes. Those working in the field might not appreciate their workplaces being compared to rubbish tips or gypsy encampments, but they might respond positively to the idea that there is something dangerous or romantic about being at home in an area described as “vaguely menacing”, a place where “the normal rules governing human behaviour cannot be altogether relied upon”.

Since its first edition, this journal has addressed the interface between science and the arts, working in the interstitial space between them and seeking to blur the boundaries and achieve some reintegration of the two. This is perhaps the only territory in which writers can explore topics …

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