CfP: Laughter and Medicine, University of Birmingham, Autumn 2024. Deadline 30th January 2023.


125-word abstracts for 20-minute conference papers are invited to be considered for inclusion in an international conference on LAUGHTER AND MEDICINE tentatively scheduled to take place at the University of Birmingham in Autumn 2024. Papers should investigate the functions of laughter in healthcare provision and in cultural representations of medicine from antiquity to the present day

This conference aims to put the professional experience of practicing doctors and nurses in unusually direct dialogue with the expertise of researchers in the humanities, especially scholars of literature, cinema and cultural history, in order to understand the cultural, social, diagnostic, therapeutic, and physiological implications of the laughter that characterises—and is elicited by—real and fictional interactions among physicians, patients and the general public, inside and outside the clinic. Laughter is not always the “best medicine”, nor is laughter linked only to comedy and enjoyment. “Healing laughter” differs markedly in character and effects from pathological laughter, hysterical laughter, forced or bitter laughter, laughter aimed at mitigating awkwardness in, or failures of, communication, laughter intended to deceive, or laughter signifying fear, discomfort or aggression. The irony as well as other double-coded signifiers that abound in comic and parodic representations of medical practitioners and their patients often reveal medicine’s paradoxical place in various cultural imaginaries and in individual and collective experience. The scope of the conference will enable synchronic study of the diverse forms of laughter occurring around medicine in particular eras and cultural environments alongside diachronic, comparative analysis of patterns and problematics over the long history of Western medicine and its representations.

A volume of refereed articles on the subject will be published following the conference. The conference is organised by Professor Peter I. Barta (Surrey, UK and Texas Tech), Dr Sabena Jameel-Choudhury (Birmingham, UK) and Dr Lucas Wood (Texas Tech).  

Submissions should be sent to by 30th January 2023.


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