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Medicine and Society


Dr. M.S. (Manon) Parry

Faculty of Humanities

Capaciteitsgroep Geschiedenis

Members of the research group

Dr. Gemma Blok
Dr. Gaston Franssen
Moosje Goosen (PhD student ASCA)
Dr. Martje a/d Kerk
Arjan Nuijten (PhD student ASH)
Dr. Manon Parry
Laurens de Rooy (curator Vrolik Museum AMC)

Description of the research group programme

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, and on transformations in public health, health care research, and policy, as well as connections between arts, culture, health and wellbeing. 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.

Recent activities/Results


Blok, G., (2016), ‘Heroïne en de stad: Een onderzoek naar de relatie tussen stedelijke omgeving en drugsgebruik. Stadsgeschiedenis, 11(2), 45-56.

Blok, G., (2017), ‘We the Avant-Garde’. A History from Below of Dutch Heroin Use in the 1970s’, BMGN-Low Countries Historical Review 132 (1) 104–125.

Parry, M. S. (2017). Sex Education and Social Media: Contraception in the Digital Age. In Reproductive Rights Issues in Popular Media: International Perspectives Jefferson, NC: McFarland

Parry, M. S. (2016). abNormal: Bodies in Medicine and Culture. In S. R. Butler, & E. T. Lehrer (Eds.), Curatorial dreams: critics imagine exhibitions (pp. 246-264, 331-334). Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press. 


2016 NWO KIEM Award, Manon S. Parry/Digital Disability Archive,€18,000 (with Paul van Trigt – Utrecht University and Paul Bijl – University of Leiden);


Blok, G., ‘Memories of survival. The moral economy of life as a heroin user in the 1970s and 1980s’, Alcohol and Drugs History Society Conference 2017 22 – 25 June Utrecht University.

Blok, G., (invited) ‘Just for Today. The rise of the 12 step program in the treatment of drug addiction in the Netherlands. Annual Conference of the Society for the Study of Addiction (SSA), York (UK) 10 november 2016.

Blok, G., (invited), ‘The drug users’ view. An oral history of the heroin ‘epidemic’, workshop Aids, Drugs, and the Histories of European Public Health Policies since the 1970s, Basel 7 october 2016.

Blok, G. (invited), ‘Heroin use as subcultural capital’, workshopIntoxication, Discourse and Social Practice in Cultural and Historical Perspective Sheffield 30 september 2016.

Aan de Kerk, Martje, ‘Voices of madness in the Early Modern Dutch Republic’. Madness in civilization’. One-day symposium on the history of psychiatry, UvA, June 2nd 2017.

Nuijten, A., ‘The Rise of the Coffeeshop. Regulation and control of cannabis explained through a local lens. Alcohol and Drugs History Society Conference 2017 22 – 25 June Utrecht University.

Parry, M.S., “On Health, Wealth, and Women”, US Elections Event, Boekhandel Schreurs en de Groot and panelist, US Elections Debate, Spui 25, Amsterdam, November 2016

Parry, M.S., “Recreating Heritage to Enrich Histories: The AIDS History Digital Scrapbook Project,” European Association for Museums of the History of Medical Sciences, Groningen, September 2016

Parry, M.S.,  (Invited) “Private Matters in Public History: Representing Abortion and Contraception in American Museums,”Utrecht Seminar for Cultural History, June 2016

Parry, M.S., (Invited) “Women’s History and Public History” at the University of Maryland, March 2016

Parry, M.S.,  “Recreating Heritage to Enrich Histories: The AIDS History Digital Scrapbook Project,” with Hugo Schalkwijk, at Without Borders, the LGBTQ+ heritage conference of Archives, Libraries, Museums, and Special Collections in London, June 2016


Parry – Steering Committee, Arts, Culture and Health group of ARIAS network for art/science collaborations

Parry – Chair, Queering the Collections, a network for the promotion of queer heritage and history in Dutch archives and museums

Parry – Member, Advisory Group, BIB Network for disability history

Blok – Member, Executive Committee Alcohol and Drugs History Society

Blok – Member, Board, Stichting Historiae Medicinae

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.

Recent valorization activities/results

Blok, G. and Martje a/d Kerk, organizers, ‘Madness in civilization’. One-day symposium on the history of psychiatry, UvA, June 2nd2017.

Blok, G. (invited), ‘Drug policies in Germany and the Netherlands: a transnational comparative perspective’, workshop Intoxication and Policy, Westminister Palace, London 10 october 2016.

Nuijten, A., co-organizer Alcohol and Drugs History Society Conference 2017 22 – 25 June Utrecht University.

Parry, co-organizer, Queering the Collections first annual symposium, July 2017, Reinwardt Academy: The Art of Queering

The AIDS Digital Scrapbook, Manon S. Parry with Hugo Schalkwijk

Parry, jury member, Bioart and Design Awards, 2017