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Towards a translational medical humanities: introducing the cultural crossings of care
  1. Eivind Engebretsen1,
  2. Gina Fraas Henrichsen2,
  3. John Ødemark3
  1. 1 Institute of Health and Society, University of Oslo Faculty of Medicine, Oslo, Norway
  2. 2 Centre for Health Science Education, University of Oslo Faculty of Medicine, Oslo, Norway
  3. 3 Department of Cultural Studies and Oriental Languages, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
  1. Correspondence to Professor Eivind Engebretsen, Institute of Health and Society, University of Oslo Faculty of Medicine, 0372 Oslo, Norway; eivind.engebretsen{at}


In this introductory essay, we will present a translational medical humanities approach where the humanities are not only an auxiliary to medical science and practice, but also an interdisciplinary space where both medicine and the humanities mutually challenge and inform each other. First, we explore how medicine’s attempt to tackle the nature–culture divide is emblematically expressed in the concept and practice of knowledge translation (hereinafter KT). Second, we compare and contrast KT as an epistemic ideology and a socio-medical practice, with concepts and practices of translation developed in the human sciences. In particular, we emphasise Derrida’s understanding of translation as inherent in all meaning making, as a fundamentally textual process and as a process necessarily creating difference rather than semantic equivalence. Finally, we analyse a case from clinical medicine showing how a more refined notion of translation can enlighten the interaction between biomedical and cultural factors. Such a translational medical humanities approach also requires a rethinking of the concept of evidence in medicine.

  • medical humanities
  • cross-cultural studies
  • cultural history

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  • Contributors EE and JØ conceptualised the paper. EE wrote first draft. JØ and GFH revised the paper. All authors have accepted final version.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement No data. Theoretical paper.

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