Medicine and Society


Dr. Manon Parry and dr. Gemma Blok

Members of the research group

dr. Gemma Blok
dr. Gaston Franssen
Moosje Goosen (PhD student ASCA)
Martje a/d Kerk (PhD student ASH)
prof. dr. P.J.J. Margry (Meertens Institute)
Arjan Nuijten (PhD student ASH)
dr. Manon Parry
Laurens de Rooy (curator Vrolik Museum AMC)

Description of the research programme of the research group

An interdisciplinary investigation into the interrelationship between medicine and society at different historical moments and in various cultural contexts. This group focuses on ideas about normal and abnormal bodies and minds, on notions of wellness and sickness, on public health and changing priorities in health care research and policy, and on transformations in medial thinking and practice. Researchers will study the ways in which medical theories have shaped experience. We will analyse their impact on the self-image of individuals, realities of embodiment over the life cycle, and in interactions between patients, healers, and the medical profession. The group is particularly interested in the ways in which publics interact with professionals in the co-constitution of bodily difference and mental or physical disease, and how political impulses, social factors, and cultural trends frame the research and treatment of human bodies. The proposed output of the group as well as in its areas of investigation will be targeted towards critical considerations of the role of society in shaping medicine and vice versa.


  • Network: Queering the Collections, Dutch Network to promote the collection of Queer heritage and its exhibition, ongoing.
  • Symposium: Fear of the Epidemic, co-hosted by Museum Vrolik (AMC), 15 May 2015
  • Symposium/Book Presentation: Gemma Blok, Achter de Voordeur (AUP 2014), co-hosted by GGD Amsterdam, 15 December 2014
  • Expert Meeting: Museums, Medicine & Society, hosted by the Wellcome Institute, London, June 2015.
  • Workshop: Innovating Science Communication at Medical Museums, hosted by Lorentz Center, June 2014
  • Research Trip: PhD research trip, Moosje Goosen, Mütter Museum, Philadelphi
  • Internships: Lisa-Marie Kuiper, Museum Vrolik (MA in Public History); Hugo Schalkwijk (MA in Public History), Museum Boerhaave; Mayra Murkens (RMA History), symposium planning Fear of the Epidemic; misc. students, Heroin Project oral history interviewing.
  • Thesis Supervision: “When AIDS is history,” Hugo Schalkwijk, MA Public History, 2015; “From Epidemic to War: Response of the U.S. Government on the Emergence of the Obesity Epidemic, 1980-2014,” Hannah Tiel, MA American Studies, 2014; “Riding the Wave of Acceptance: An Exploration of Hip-Hop’s Evolving Relationship to Queer Sexualities,” Jurjanne Vos, MA American Studies, 2014; Ellen Schuurman “Between Tolerance and Acceptance: Homosexuality on Television in the Netherlands, 1980-2013,” BA History, 2014.
  • Grant Applications Submitted: VENI, ERC Consolidator, HERA.

Agenda 2016-2017

The group will meet every other month to develop the conference and edited collection, to exchange ideas regarding the sub-projects of participants. 

  • Conference: History of Psychiatry (May 2017)
  • Festival: AIDS Cultures (International AIDS Conference, July 2018)
  • Development of MA Program in History of Science, Technology & Medicine (track in medical humanities) - ongoing 

Societal relevance

Medicine has always been central to the existence of human beings, and plays a powerful social role. The research is of particular relevance outside of academia due to the universal experience of embodiment and the toll of illness, aging, diagnosis, and disability in our lives and the lives of those we care for. Understanding the social factors that shape the production of medical knowledge and the practices of health care, and how these change at different historical moments and in particular cultures and communities, allows us to better appreciate the forces at work not just in the past, but also the present. As such, this project will provide a critical evaluation of medical processes and promote new ways of thinking about specific categories of illness or abnormality. Dissemination of the research will target specific groups whose encounters with medicine and caregiving could be altered by this work, such as medical practitioners, patient communities, and others with caregiving roles (for family members, for example) or personal experiences of illness or medical diagnosis. This will be facilitated by the proposed conference for medical practitioners and scholars, teaching tools for medical students and others such as the edited collection, and public forums and exhibitions.

Published by  Amsterdam School of Historical Studies

19 July 2016