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Reversing the medical humanities
  1. Helene Scott-Fordsmand
  1. Medical Museion, Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen 1310, Denmark
  1. Correspondence to Helene Scott-Fordsmand, Medical Museion, Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen 1310, Denmark; hesf{at}


The paper offers the concept of reversing the medical humanities. In agreement with the call from Kristeva et al to recognise the bidirectionality of the medical humanities, I propose moving beyond debates of attitude and aptitude in the application and engagement (either friendly or critical) of humanities to/in medicine, by considering a reversal of the directions of epistemic movement (a reversal of the flow of knowledge). I situate my proposal within existing articulations of the field found in the medical humanities meta-literature, pointing to a gap in the current terrain. I then develop the proposal by unfolding three reasons why we might gain something from exploring a reversed knowledge flow. First, a reversed knowledge flow seems to be an inherent—but still to be articulated—possibility in medical humanities and thus provides an opportunity for more knowledge. Second, the current unidirectionality of the field is founded on an inconsistency in the depiction of the connection between medicine and humanities, which risks creating the very divide that medical humanities set out to bridge. Practising a reversal may help avoid this divide. And third, a reversal might help rebalance the internal epistemic power, so as to motivate less external scepticism and in turn displace more external epistemic power towards medical humanities. I end the paper with a remark on precursors for a reversal, and ideas for where to go from here.

  • medical humanities

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  • Contributors HS-F is the sole author.

  • Funding Lundbeckfonden (travel stipend for participation at the conference).

  • 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.

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