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It’s about time: on the need of a temporal language for ecologically dimensioned medical humanities and public health scholarship
  1. Julia Zielke
  1. School of Public Health, Bielefeld University, Bielefeld 33615, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Dr Julia Zielke, School of Public Health, Bielefeld University, Bielefeld 33615, Germany; julia.zielke{at}


The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted multiple system dependencies that urge us to rethink our relationship with other humans, non-humans and their various environments. Whereas a growing body of literature highlights the need for ecologically dimensioned medical humanities, focusing on where and how our healths unfold relationally through their ecologies, this paper argues that little attention has been paid to the when of health. In reply, this paper sets out to expand this understanding, first by grounding the ecological argument for medical humanities in a wider net of relational ontologies, and second by highlighting the need to think temporally, specifically multitemporally, about the relationalities of health. The paper advances the sociological concepts of ‘time’ and ‘temporalities’ to help us think about various tempi, rhythms, urgencies and legacies of how health unfolds unevenly into the future.

  • philosophy of medicine/health care
  • philosophy of science
  • COVID-19
  • medical anthropology
  • public health

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  • Contributors JZ is the sole author and guarantor of this paper.

  • 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.

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