English Literature

Literature, Medicine and Malawian Writing: A reflection on medical humanities and the literary response the AIDS epidemic

Dr Chisomo Kalinga, University of Edinburgh

A major challenge in defining the ‘medical humanities’, as it strives to constitute itself as a discipline, is how to situate it within a multicultural context.

The  underrepresentation of African writing in contemporary medical humanities scholarship is not due to a lack of dialectical interrogations or creative articulations of disease, health and wellbeing, but rather a lack of critical engagement with indigenous experiences. This paper introduces the illness narrative in Malawian literature—in poetry and the short story— to engage the discourses of the AIDS crisis as a method of intervention and interrogations into the oversight of indigenous experience in global literature. It examines role literature played retrospectively as an organic response to convey the experiences and representations of personal experiences, patient care, chronic conditions, social disarray and loss of life caused by this epidemic. It explores literary theories such postmodernism, post structuralism, and reader response. It also explores themes that include but are not limited to communitarianism, traditional medicine and controversial, yet popular themes in Malawian indigenous health narratives, including witchcraft and risky rites and customs.

Biography

Dr Chisomo Kalinga

Dr Chisomo Kalinga is a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre of African Studies at the University of Edinburgh. She is the recipient of a Wellcome Seed Award, which supports field research on oral literary traditions and community health narratives in Malawi and its border countries. As part of the project, she collaborated with Chancellor College at the University of Malawi to launch the first medical humanities conference and network for Malawiana studies. She was most recently a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH) at the University of Edinburgh. Her PhD was completed at King’s College London (2014) and offered a comparative study of Malawian and American AIDS fiction. Her research interests are sexuality, health, wellbeing, traditional healing and witchcraft and their narrative representation in African print and oral literatures.

Curved bookshelf
Nov 17 2017 -

Literature, Medicine and Malawian Writing: A reflection on medical humanities and the literary response the AIDS epidemic

In this paper Dr Chisomo Kalinga introduces the illness narrative in Malawian literature—in poetry and the short story— to engage the discourses of the AIDS crisis as a method of intervention and interrogations into the oversight of indigenous experience in global literature.

Project room (1.06)
50 George Square
Edinburgh
EH8 9LH