Usher Institute

BLOG: Centre for Biomedicine, Self and Society at the Being Human Festival 2023

Jenny Bos highlights the Centre for Biomedicine, Self and Society's involvement in 2023's Being Human Festival.

By Jenny Bos | Public  Engagement and Knowledge Exchange Manager

The Being Human Festival is the UK’s national festival of the humanities. Each year, in November, the festival presents hundreds of free events right across the country. This year the researchers at the Centre for Biomedicine, Self and Society (CBSS) delivered three workshops as part of this festival at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh: a zine making workshop, a meditation workshop and a writing workshop.

Making Zines in Crip Time (11 November 2023)

Photograph of Being Human Festival event Making Zines in Crip Time

Up in the Scottish Storytelling Centre's library, an intimate group got together to think through disabled futurities through zine-making. Facilitated by Lea from the Edinburgh Zine Library with Chase and Elaina from CBSS, we read quietly from an abundance of disability-themed zines, learned how to fold palm-sized booklets and fortune tellers, and talked about crip time. This workshop featured the generative aspects of disability hacking and knowledge-making and resulting in rich engagement across the group.

Lead CBSS researchers: Chase Ledin and Élaina Gauthier-Mamaril

Gutscapes: A Meditation on Eating and Being with Microbe-s (15 November 2023)

photograph of event

The topic of microbiomes attracts a great deal of interest—across the biomedical, biological and social sciences, and beyond academia into the public realm. Microbiomes are intriguing: invisible non-human entities living inside and on the human body, in form-shaping relations with human biologies and healths. The year's Being Human Festive was a great in-way into the topic. How do microbiomes change conceptualisations of the human, and how can publics participate in this sense making? In this event, a social scientist with a background in the biological sciences, Joana Formoshinho, teamed up with an artist duo: Baumleahy. Together, we created an art-research performance aimed at fostering discussion and reflection about being a healthy human in a microbial world. The specific focus of the event was the gut mucosal wall: a membrane which keeps microbiomes and hosts working together by creating a physical barrier between them. An interesting a paradox! Through storytelling, imagery, immersive meditation and indulging in a probiotic platter, participants were invited to create and share their own meanings. Ensuing discussions were rich and spanned the metaphysical, the methodological, and matters of (more-than-human) care and social justice.

Lead CBSS researcher: Joana Formosinho

Making Sense of Our Selves Through Biological Imagery and Imaginaries (17 November 2023)

Biological ‘facts’ - often represented through images - and biological ‘fictions’ - which can be found within popular, policy, and clinical narratives - are drawn on by people to help make sense of themselves and one other. Martyn Pickersgill and creative practitioner Angie Spoto co-convened a workshop to explore how that happens and to what ends. Martyn spoke about his research on the social and cultural dimensions of epigenetic and neuroscience, demonstrating how ‘facts’ and ‘fictions’ shape each other. Angie supported participants to write their own mini-stories about a bodily process – such as a pulse of blood, a firing of a neurone, or the slow release of calming breath. As everyone shared their stories, the group collectively considered the cultural role of images and imaginaries, and their personal importance.

Lead CBSS researcher: Martyn Pickersgill

Further information

Centre for Biomedicine, Self and Society

Being Human Festival

Edinburgh Zine Library

Scottish Storytelling Centre

Baum & Leahy