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Call for Papers

Cultural Histories of Air and Illness Conference
University of Warwick
8–9 June 2018


Image: Temperature and Mortality of London for Every Week of 11 Years (1840–1850) in William Farr, Report on the Mortality of Cholera in England, 1848–49 (London: W. Clowes and Sons, 1852), Plate 4.
Wellcome Library, London. © Wellcome Images.

Keynote Speakers

Jennifer Tucker (Wesleyan University)
Richard Hamblyn (Birkbeck, University of London)

Air has always had an influence on the health of individuals, societies, cities, and nations. From Hippocrates’s belief that air affected the human body to Victorian medical theories on tropical climates and bad air as the source of disease, air was understood to have a direct effect on health and to be a cause of illness. With the advent of modern medicine, the role of air’s impact on human health has shifted, but remains present. For instance, current concerns about air pollution and respiratory disease, as well as the role climate change is playing on the health of ecosystems and nations, demonstrate the continued significance of air’s relationship to health.

The Cultural Histories of Air and Illness Conference will span disciplines and periods to explore broadly the link between human health and the air. How have we thought about, studied, and depicted the connections between air and illness? In what ways have we represented air as a source or carrier of visible and invisible dangers? How have humans constructed their relationship with the environment and what role has the environment played in the history of human health? How has air pollution and climate change impacted health across a globalized world?

Topics might include, but are not limited to:

  • Medical theories about air and the body across history
  • Representations of the relationship between air and health in literature, art, visual culture, film, theatre, and the media
  • Cultural constructions of healthy and unhealthy environments
  • Air as a vector of disease
  • Medical topography, meteorology, and climatology
  • Air pollution and industrialization
  • Urban planning, gardens, and green lungs
  • Radiation and the threat of the invisible
  • Climate change and global health

The conference welcomes proposals of 250 words for twenty-minute papers suitable for an interdisciplinary audience. The deadline for proposals is 15 January 2018. Please use the conference organizer’s email address for all correspondence and proposals: Dr Amanda Sciampacone (a dot sciampacone at warwick dot ac dot uk).

Conference Organizer: Dr Amanda Sciampacone.

This conference is generously supported by the Leverhulme Trust and the University of Warwick’s Humanities Research Centre.

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