An archive of past CHSSoHMT events
Research Methods in Arts and Health: Interdisciplinarity, Innovation, Impact.
School of the Arts Library, University of Liverpool
Research around arts and health has grown rapidly in recent years to keep pace with the widespread practice of arts activities in health contexts and with demands from health service providers for robust evidence of the efficacy of the arts in health care. This workshop brings together a range of disciplines and media (music, literature, film) to showcase methodologies which have evidenced the value of the arts in relation to mental health (dementia, depression and pain) and well-being. Innovative methods will be demonstrated alongside the application of established quantitative and qualitative approaches in this field.
Frances Ivens Annual Lecture: Professor Tom Shakespeare
17th July, 5:00-7:00pm, The Liverpool Medical Institute
Title: This talk is going to hurt me more than it hurts you: the problem of pain
The opiate crisis in America, and now increasingly in Britain, highlights the problem of pain. But pain has always been with us, as many disabled people can tell you. How do we talk about it, how do we think about it, what do we do about it? In this talk, I will consider the social model of disability, the McGill Pain Questionnaire, the use of metaphors, the thought of Ludwig Wittgenstein, mind/body dualism and the phenomenology of pain. How well do we understand pain? How does pain impact quality of life? Why are we so bad at responding to it?
Subversive Suffering: Pain and Patient Identity in Ancient and Modern Autobiographies - Workshop
Friday, 28 June 2019, 10.00-18.30
Arthur West Room, 8-11 Abercromby Square,
The University of Liverpool
The workshop brings together ancient and the modern pain narratives and explores, in particular, the ways in which pain offers individuals the capacity to revise and transform their understanding of themselves, their experiences, and their relationships with others. This mutually productive relationship, we maintain, leads to different understandings of pain and individual identity, but it also stretches the boundaries of narrative, leading to new and different ways to effective communicate what one experiences.
Non-Human Species Event
12-13 June 2019
Alder Hey Hospital
Join writers and researchers from the University of Liverpool in the atrium at Alder Hey for a creative and scientific exploration of animals and why they matter now more than ever!
Extreme Future Environments/Exhibition and Workshops
5-7 June 2019
Alder Hey Hospital
How do we talk about our environment in a changing world? In the face of global warming and pollution how can we preserve wonder, beauty and hope? On the 5th and 6th of June in the Alder Hey atrium you can join poets and academics from the University of Liverpool to explore visions of present and future environments through literature and art. Create your own illustrated artist books, write postcards from the future and think about how we might build a world we want to live in the face of profound ecological challenges
GRs and ECRs "Publishing in the social sciences: Tips, traps and transformations (Presentation and Workshop)
6th June 2019
University of Liverpool
This event will provide advice and guidance on publishing in the social sciences aimed at ECR/fixed-term/post-doc researchers cross-faculty, University of Liverpool. It will focus on contemporary challenges for writing, with a focus on interdisciplinarity work and publishing; the importance of open access; predatory publishing; impact; presenting data.
Kristen’s presentation on publishing will be followed by a guided workshop with coffee and cake!
Reading for Life: Shared Reading in Secure Mental Health Care
6th June 2019
University of Liverpool in London
33 Finsbury Square
This workshop will show case new research evidence from the Centre for Research and Reading, Literature and Society at the University of Liverpool and the Institute of Criminology Prisons Research Centre at the University of Cambridge on the impact of Shared Reading in secure forensic settings. Nick Benefield of the NHS/HMPPS Offender Personality Disorder Team will introduce the event which brings together reading practitioners, healthcare professionals and academic researchers to explore how best to achieve a culture of Shared Reading in secure mental healthcare.
Anti-microbialAvengers – Liverpool Light Night
17th May 2019
Liverpool University’s Arts-Lab and Liverpool School of Art and Design’s MA Art in Science programme presents the superheroes ‘Shark Girl’ and ‘Komodo Dragon’ versus the evil ‘Superbugs’ in the Antimicrobial Avengers!
Arts-Lab is a collection of researchers who are interested in sharing scientific knowledge through art, and The Art in Science programme provides exciting opportunities for artists and scientists to collaborate and explore the boundaries of art and science. As a collaborative team, they invite you to explore antimicrobial resistance through comics and superheroes.
The Politics and Practices of Description – Symposium
14th May 2019
The recent call for a descriptive (re)turn from Heather Love (2010, 2013, 2015, 2016) is the product of a meeting between, and so a coming together of, literary criticism, cultural studies, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, history and STS research. Following Love, methods of description are key methodological practices and, insofar as they are also social and collaborative in all manner of ways, descriptions express meetings by virtue of what they bring together when and where they do. But descriptions are not neutral precisely because they are forms of social (and technical) practice. They do different kinds of things depending on how they are pursued and put together. While they bring things together, they can also produce points of theoretical, methodological and indeed political divergence, even exclusion and, from there, realignments of many kinds.
Environmental Humanities Masterclass on WH Auden and the Modernist Animal
20th February, 2019
Drawing on questions posed by animal studies and eco-phenomenology, this environmental humanities masterclass will put some of W. H. Auden's poems about natural science and wild words under the microscope to think about our own cultural stories of assumed human hierarchies, as well as the ways in which we hear (or fail to consider) the voices of the non-human world. No pre-reading or experience with poetry is necessary, although an interest in wordplay and environmental issues is helpful, and a sense of curiosity very important!
Power at the Edge: Energy Politics and the Periphery - Workshop
29th–30th November, 2018
This workshop, organised by the Centre for Environmental Humanities (Bristol) and the Centre for the Humanities and Social Sciences of Health, Medicine and Technology (Liverpool), brings together researchers exploring aspects of energy, politics, and geography to probe the relationship between remoteness and power (energetic and political) in Britain. It recognises a recent rise in interest in these issues by scholars of history, literature, geography, and policy,but also identifies significant gaps in the scholarship that are there to fill. The workshop aims to facilitate conversations between and across disciplines, to develop conceptual thinking around remoteness and energy, share current research, and stimulate new work and future collaborations between participants
‘Hearing Voices’: The Schizophrenist
19th October, 2018
Reshma Valliappan (ValResh) - mental health activist, author, artist, mime, known as 'The Schizophrenist' - talked about her work with young people in Pune, India and others with psychosocial diagnoses, of her own life living with multiple voices, her initiative to establish a 'Merchants of Madness' arts Festival across different cities in the country and more broadly, her struggles to challenge 'the idea that every human being is normal or, conversely, every human being is mad in their own unique way.'
Made From Light: The Art and Science of Renewable Energy – Workshop
11th-17th June, 2018
Renewable energy is considered to be a recent technological development, but in fact it has a long history. For centuries the possibility of harnessing the power of the sun has inspired scientists, engineers, writers and artists alike. The future of energy production and our environment will not only be shaped by science and technology: the arts also have a role to play in influencing our behaviour and imagination. Tate Exchange invites you to be part of that creative conversation.
Seminar to launch the CLEAN-Air(Africa) - Clean Energy Access for the Prevention of Non-Communicable Disease in Africa NIHR Global Health Research Group
28th November 2018
Globally, 3 billion people rely on charcoal, firewood and other polluting fuels for daily household energy, leading to an estimated 4 million annual premature deaths. As such, household air pollution (HAP) from solid fuel and kerosene use is one of the largest contributors to the Global Burden of Disease and WHO recommends rapid scale up of cleaner, modern fuels to improve indoor air quality and reduce its harmful health effects. The newly formed CLEAN-Air(Africa) NIHR Global Health Research Group is a collaboration between the University of Liverpool, the University of Ghana, Kintampo Health Research Centre (Ghana), Moi University (Kenya) and Douala General Hospital (Cameroon). CLEAN-Air(Africa)’s aim is to develop a programme of applied research and health systems strengthening which will support governments in Sub-Saharan Africa to scale up adoption of clean fuels to address the environmental and public health burdens arising from use of solid fuels for household energy.
The seminar will discuss the key challenges facing the Governments of Cameroon, Ghana and Kenya to facilitate equitable population access to clean fuels such as bottled gas (LPG) and highlight work with WHO to develop training packages for clinicians and community health workers to prevent non-communicable disease and pneumonia associated with household air pollution.
Prof Dame M Whitehead, W H Duncan Chair of Public Health and Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Policy Research on the Social Determinants of Health at the University of Liverpool
Energy, Air Pollution and Health within the WHO Collaborating Centre for Policy Research on the Social Determinants of Health.
Dr Dan Pope, Director, NIHR GHR CLEAN AIR(Africa)
From quantifying the public health burden of household air pollution, to interventions and prevention strategies.
Dr Elisa Puzzolo, Co-Director, NIHR GHR CLEAN AIR(Africa)
The role of bottled gas (LPG) in addressing the environmental and public health impacts of reliance on polluting fuels.
Dr Diana Menya, Senior Lecturer, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Moi University, Eldoret
The Kenyan context: household fuel use, HAP related disease burden and government policies for clean energy and health.
Prof Bertrand Mbatchou Ngahane, Associate Professor (University of Douala) and Respiratory Physician (Douala General Hospital)
The Cameroonian context: household fuel use, HAP related disease burden and government policies for clean energy and health.
Dr Kwaku Poku Asante, Director, Kintampo Health Research Centre
The Ghanaian context: household fuel use, HAP related disease burden and government policies for clean energy and health.
Dr Reginald Quansah, Senior Lecturer, College of Health Sciences, University of Ghana
Health Systems Capacity Building: raising awareness of the health damaging effects of household air pollution via clinicians and community health workers in Cameroon, Ghana and Kenya.
Dr Dan Pope, Director, NIHR GHR CLEAN AIR(Africa)
Overview of the NIHR GHR CLEAN AIR(Africa) programme: building multi-disciplinary, international research expertise.
Palliative Care, Architecture, Design and Technology Symposium
12 November 2018
This symposium will bring together researchers from different backgrounds to develop research methodology, to explore how architecture, design and technology can improve quality of life for people with palliative care needs. Several speakers across a range of disciplines have been confirmed.
The event is organised by Dr Amara Nwosu (Academic Palliative & End of Life Care Department, Royal Liverpool & Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust. Palliative Care Institute Liverpool, University of Liverpool) and is supported by Engage Liverpool (University of Liverpool), the Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences of Health Medicine and Technology (CHSSoHMT), the Global Digital Exemplar Programme, Royal Liverpool & Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) North West Clinical Research Network (CRN). This offers a wonderful opportunity for collaborative research and networking.
Creative Arts for Heath & Wellness
10 Oct 2018
This a joint venture between the Medical Humanities and Mental Health in Context research groups at the University of Liverpool. The event will show-case arts practice (music, reading, drama) as well as (less visibly) the university's research in relation to arts and mental health (emphasizing mental health and what the city's culture has to offer in promoting it).
We will be involving arts organizations, health partners (Mersey Care NHS Mental Health Trust, Royal Liverpool Hospital) and the general public. The aim is to make the event as participatory as possible, as well as informing attendees (via stalls, posters, leaflets etc) about the range of arts provision/opportunities.
Sex, Fun & Babies: Sexual and Parental Rights for Disabled People
17 July 2018
An open discussion about sexual and parental rights for Disabled People featuring presentations and provoctions from disabled people and legal experts to explore current thinking and what needs to change.
Refreshments and lunch will be provided
BSL Interpretors supplied. If you require any additional access support or dietary requirements, please request when booking online.
Presented in collaboration with DaDaFest
Society for the Social History of Medicine Conference 2018
Conformity, Dialogue and Deviance in Health and Medicine
11-13 July 2018
The Society for the Social History of Medicine hosts a major, biennial, international, and interdisciplinary conference, and from 11-13 July 2018 it will meet in Liverpool to explore the theme of ‘Conformity, Resistance, Dialogue and Deviance in Health and Medicine’.
Critical Medical Humanities and HLRU Public Lecture on Global Health: ‘Global Health and the Global South: Taking the National Interest Seriously’
29 May 2018
Professor John Harrington School of Law and Politics, Cardiff University.
"Massive resources have been directed to improving global health since the late 1990s. Investment by donor states and philanthropists is matched by increased attention from political leaders, policy makers and international relations experts. Diseases in one country, like Ebola, are seen as threatening stability and security more widely.
"As dense governance regimes have emerged to meet global health challenges and to ensure that the new money is well spent. They evaluate these measures in universalist terms: with reference to human rights, medical science and public health. By default, they assume that norms are simply diffused out from Washington and Geneva and mechanically implemented in the states of the global south. Drawing on extended fieldwork in Kenya, I challenge these assumptions. I argue that nation states play an active role in global health and that we need to recognize the authentic contribution of state institutions, and to account for the influence of specific constitutional, legal and bureaucratic arrangements. We need to attend to how the national interest in and against global health is articulated, in terms of security, sovereignty and development."
2018 Frances Ivens Lecture
Title: Symptom and sensation in breathlessness: neuroscience meets the humanities
22 May 2018
Research in medical humanities is taking a radical new turn. Not content to be the ‘handmaiden’ of clinical practice, we are now getting engaged in the complexities of clinical science, aiming to work alongside colleagues who are seeking to answer some of the most difficult questions in clinical practice. For example, the symptom of breathlessness presents a dilemma in that symptom experience does not correlate well with measured lung function. In this lecture I will describe how a medical humanities project is working with neuroscience to understand this problem. Avoiding destructive ‘two culture’ clashes we have developed collaborations that we hope will improve the lives of patients.
Jane Macnaughton is Professor of Medical Humanities at Durham University in the UK and Director of the University’s Centre for Medical Humanities (CMH). She has been centrally involved in the development of medical humanities in the UK since 1998. Most recently she conceived the idea of the Northern Network for Medical Humanities Research which was established on the back of a meeting she initiated at Durham in February 2013 with the purpose of strengthening the visibility of medical humanities research and encouraging collaboration across universities in the North of England, including Liverpool, and Scotland.
Jane currently holds two large awards from Wellcome: a Development Grant for the Centre for Medical Humanities and a Senior Investigator Award for her project, the Life of Breath. She sits on the Wellcome Trust Expert Review Group for established career awards in medical humanities. Her research focusses on the idea of the ‘symptom’: its initial appearance, development and evolution in connection with medical contexts, habits and technologies. She continues to be clinically active and is an Honorary Consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University Hospital of North Durham.
The Big Infection Day - Developing our Interdisciplinary Infection Research
22 May 2018
Developing the University’s Interdisciplinary Infection Research Programme, plus the Launch of a new Inter-Faculty Infection Pump Priming Competition.
University of Liverpool academic staff from all three faculties are invited to attend, whether their research already has an infection focus, or it has a potential connection or application to infection which could be explored. To foster interdisciplinarity, representatives from the Faculty of Science and Engineering, or the Faculty of Humanities and Social Science are very much welcomed, as well as colleagues from Faculty of Health and Life Sciences.
This day will take the form of a seminar exploring our interdisciplinary infection research, and an interdisciplinary sandpit to generate new research ideas and collaborations. These could then be taken forward with support from the Inter-Faculty Infection Pump Priming Competition, which will be launched on the day.
Career Challenges in the Medical Humanities
22 May 2018
Jane Macnaughton, Professor of Medical Humanities at Durham University and Director of the University’s Centre for Medical Humanities (CMH), will be giving this year’s Frances Ivens’ annual lecture. ‘Symptom and Sensation in Breathlessness: Neuroscience meets the Humanities’ will explore how symptom experience does not correlate with measured lung function. Open to everyone, the lecture will be taking place on the 25th of May at 5.30pm in the Liverpool Medical Institution.
Prior to the lecture, Professor Macnaughton will be running a seminar for PGR’s and ECR’s on the challenges of working in the medical humanities. In the last decade, the number of individuals working in this area has grown substantially. It is a field which has the potential to radically change how we think about health and practice medicine. However, in order to do this we must take seriously the challenges presented to researchers. In this seminar Professor Macnaughton will reflect on the future of the medical humanities and consider what exactly can be done to support research[ers]. Free tea and cake will be on offer!
BSA Regional Postgraduate Event:
Empirical Research on Drug and Alcohol Use: Methodological concerns, ethical practices and the question of impact
11th May 2018
The sociology of drug and alcohol is a growing international field, with current research covering a wide spectrum of empirical approaches, including evidence-based evaluations of drug policies, visual methods, comparative qualitative studies between the UK and other contexts, and more localised drug using ethnographies.
Focusing on methodological issues, researchers in the field will present and discuss their own experiences of undertaking and conducting empirical research, as well as how the existing methods and practices in the sociology of drug and alcohol inform a wider discussion on policy-making. By bringing together established academics and researchers at the start of their careers, the aim of the conference is to provide a space for open dialogue for those interested in the methodological tools deployed in the wider spectrum of sociological research.
Dr. Angus Bancroft: ‘Drugs as a service: Learning from illicit markets’ (University of Edinburgh)
Prof. Ross Coomber: ‘Is what you see/find what is really there? Key respondents, data triangulation and visual methods’ (University of Liverpool)
Dr. Fay Dennis: ‘Body mapping: ‘Relating to’ embodied experiences of injecting drug use’ (Goldsmiths University of London)
Dr. Carly Lightowlers: ‘Patterns, trends and inference: The utility of quantitative methods in researching alcohol, crime and justice’ (University of Liverpool)
Dr. Nicole Vitellone: ‘Situating the Syringe’ (University of Liverpool)
2018/2019 Health Services Research Seminar Series:
‘Being Vulnerable: Situating Adult Safeguarding Policy’, Presented by Kirsty Keywood, Manchester
18 April 2018
Kirsty is a member of the Centre for Social Ethics and Policy and a fellow of the Institute of Medicine, Law and Bioethics. She is also a member of the Arts and Humanities Research Council peer review college. She works closely with mental health and learning disability professionals, delivering training and development and providing consultancy on case reviews and inquiries
"Blood is Memory without Language: Archives and the Inscription of Suffering", James Lowry (Liverpool University Centre for Archive Studies) and Co-presenter (tbc)
18 April 2018
This paper will examine a number of initiatives currently being undertaken by members of the Liverpool University Centre for Archive Studies (LUCAS) to consider what archives can reveal about suffering, pain and trauma, and how such records can be preserved and used. Such initiatives include Records and ICT at the Boundaries of the State, a project being conducted with the University of California, Los Angeles, that examines the uses of records, including genetic and biometric data, in the lives, movements and rights of refugees, and Sudan Memory, a collaboration between LUCAS and Digital Humanities at KCL, which will be digitising archives in Sudan, a country suffering from historical and persistent violence.
The seminar will also discuss Written in Blood, a study of automatic writing in blood in the work of performance artist Jon John and the use of these texts in his memorialisation after his recent death, which will link archival texts with the pain and memory of loss.
“Trauma, healing and conflict: ngozi spirits in Zimbabwe”, Dr. Diana Jeater (University of Liverpool)
11 April 2018
Informal trauma healing initiatives based on spirit beliefs are found worldwide. In Zimbabwean Shona traditions, there is belief in a type of spirit called ngozi. This isn't a kind spirit, although it is associated with reconciliation. It uses its own form of terror to impel those who carried out atrocities and injustices to reconcile with and compensate victims’ families.
In the 1980s, ngozi spirit beliefs were widely understood as an effective indigenous way of treating PTSD. More recently, ngozi beliefs have aroused community tensions between Christians and traditionalists.This paper attempts to trace the long history of contestations over the role of spirit beliefs in trauma healing.
The Quipu Project: Constructing a History from Testimonies about Unconsented Sterilization in 1990s Peru, Prof Matthew Brown (University of Bristol)
7 March 2018
storytelling, which presents the testimonies of Peruvians who were sterilised without their consent in Peru under the presidency of Alberto Fujimori. It will present reflections on the author's December 2017 trip to Huancabamba, Piura, for a three-day meeting with the women who shared their testimonies with Quipu back in 2014, around the meanings and limitations of the project.
Internal Networking Meeting (Arts, Mental Health and Wellbeing Theme)
20 March 2018
The meeting is designed to bring together staff and postgraduates from the two research groupings to explore common ground and potential collaborations for future research studies, impact initiatives, funding applications.
1.45-3.15pm: Brief Presentations, introduced by Chris Dowrick, Professor of Primary Medical Care.
• Ross White, MHiC Lead: Mental Health in Context
• Sally Sheard, CHSSoMHT, Director: Centre for the Humanities and Social Sciences of Health, Medicine and Technology
• Philip Davis and/or Josie Billington, Centre for Research into Reading, Literature and Society (CRILS). Literary Reading and Mental Health.
• Thomas Schramme (Dept of Philosophy and co-lead, Arts, Mental Health and Wellbeing, CHSSoMHT). Philosophy of Medicine/Psychiatry.
• Eduardo Coutinho, Dept of Music. Music, Emotion and Healthcare.
• Catrin Eames (Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, IPHS). Mindfulness and Mental Health.
• Rhiannon Corcoran (IPHS). Mental Health & Wellbeing in Places & Communities.
3.30-4.30pm: Plenary encouraging PhDs/RAs from MHiC and CHSSoMHT to speak about their research areas/interests.
2018/2019 Health Services Research Seminar Series
‘Resilience in ageing’, Presented by Dr Bram Vanhoutten, Cathie Marsh Centre, University of Manchester.
6 March 2018
Dr Bram Vanhoutte is a quantitative sociologist, researching the heterogeneous experiences in ageing from an interdisciplinary perspective, bridging psychological, sociological and medical perspectives. He currently holds a Simon Research Fellowship to examine resilience in ageing form a sociological perspective. Ageing is normally associated with losses in health, partnership and wealth, but some people manage to limit the impact of these events on their wellbeing substantially. Using innovative theoretical insights into the nature of resilience and a mixed method approach incorporating unique comparative longitudinal data on ageing in conjunction with qualitative insights into meaning and everyday context.
The Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research (CMIST) was launched in August 2014.The Institute provides a focal point at
The University of Manchester for the application of quantitative methods in interdisciplinary social science research.
A distinctive feature of the Institute is the application of advanced and innovative methods, within an interdisciplinary framework, to address social, economic and political questions.
“Heroic Collaboration or Scientific Sacrifice? Dogs and the Health of the American Nation, 1940-1966”, Edmund Ramsden (Queen Mary) and Dr Robert Kirk (University of Manchester)
21 February 2018
This paper will examine the antivivisectionist campaign and the medical professions’ response to it in Baltimore, Maryland, in the 1940s and ‘50s, particularly its recasting of the human-dog relationship as the heroic sacrifice of one species for the good of another. One dog, named Anna, came to symbolize and embody canine heroic sacrifice, and became a model for national campaigns, conducted at state level, designed to create a favourable legal climate for animal experimentation.
By reconstructing the story of Anna, we will show that the canine hero's active role in helping medical science accrue favourable city and state-level legislation was a critical component in shifting antivivisectionist resistance to animal experimentation to the Federal level, ultimately resulting in the Animal Welfare Act of 1966.
2018/2019 Health Services Research Seminar Series:
‘What should we do when people disagree? Priority setting in relation to end of life and cancer drugs’ (Prof Rachel Baker, Glasgow Caledonian University)
12 February 2018
There are legitimate arguments for public involvement in health care priority setting. One approach is to elicit societal preferences between different treatment provision options, or to examine societal viewpoints in relation to the principles or practices of priority setting but there is little guidance on what to do when findings indicate substantial disagreement. Drawing on a body of empirical research, and focussing specifically on work funded by the MRC Methodology Panel to investigate societal viewpoints on the subject of NHS provision of life-extending technologies for terminally ill patients, Rachel will illustrate and discuss plurality in societal perspectives.
Assuming that ‘the public’ will almost always present a number of competing perspectives – both in terms of allegiances with different high-level principles and with respect to specific priority setting questions – how should researchers and policy makers respond? Rachel will raise questions for future research in relation to plurality in societal values and consistency, coherence and consensus.
Rachel Baker is Professor of Health Economics and Director of the Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health at Glasgow Caledonian University. Before moving to Glasgow in 2010, she worked at the University of Newcastle where she completed her PhD funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and her Postdoctoral Fellowship funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). Rachel’s research interests focus on societal values with respect to health care resource allocation and understanding choice. She was involved in the UK Social Value of a QALY and European Value of a QALY projects and has expertise in Q methodology and qualitative methods as well as health economic approaches to valuation and preference elicitation. With funding from the MRC Methodology Panel, from 2011-2014, Rachel led research to explore societal perspectives on the relative value of life-extending treatments for people with terminal illnesses. She is Past President of the International Q Methodology Society.
“Ghosts of the Jake Walk: Surviving Jamaica Ginger Paralysis”, Dr. Stephen Mawdsley (University of Bristol)
7 February 2018
During America's Great Depression and before Prohibition was repealed, the popular patent medicine, Jamaica Ginger (JG), became adulterated with a toxic substance that could cause limb paralysis or death. Contaminated JG affected many, including poor white and African American sharecroppers and mill workers, who sought the medicine during Prohibition due to its high alcohol content. Between 50,000 and 100,000 people became afflicted with Jamaica Ginger Paralysis (JGP), leaving survivors with lasting physical disability, limited economic opportunity, and severe social stigmas.
This paper will trace the little- known story of why people consumed the patent medicine and how survivors experienced paralysis and negotiated a society discomforted by their condition. Although the memories of survivors were shaped by time, age, and community, they provide a remarkable window into their experiences. The paper argues that although most survivors faced prejudice, poverty, and disability, they showed remarkable determination in rebuilding their lives, testing new therapies, and adapting to manual labour.