CFP, Special Issue of JMH: ‘Love’s Labor: Representing Caregiving in the Family’

Call for Papers:  Special Issue of the Journal of Medical Humanities
Edited by Carol Schilling (Haverford College) and Mark Osteen (Loyola University Maryland)

For a Special Issue of JMH tentatively titled “Love’s Labors: Representing Caregiving in the Family,” we seek scholarly essays on the topic of non-professional, familial caregiving.  We prefer papers written by academicians who have experiential knowledge of caring for an ill or disabled family member or other intimate.

The recent publication of Carol Levine’s anthology, Living in the Land of Limbo: Fiction and Poetry about Family Caregiving (Vanderbilt 2014) reminds us that the experience of illness, and its representation, extends beyond clinicians and their patients to include the patients’ families, friends, and lovers. As Levine and others have documented, contemporary medicine’s unprecedented ability to extend lives, often with diminished capacities, is making familial caregiving a normative experience in the human lifecycle. Yet health and humanities scholarship has given literature about caregiving less critical attention than works about or by clinicians and patients (Kathryn Montgomery, Rita Charon, Arthur Frank). Criticism of non-fiction writing by caregivers has generally regarded the authors with ethical skepticism. Thomas Couser, for example, worries that caregivers usurp the voices of or colonize the experience of patients.  These “paramedical figures,” as David Morris has called them, challenge constructions of medicine as a physician/patient dyad, foreground human dependency, and bring attention to the ethic of care (Eva Feder Kittay). Even as patient care increasingly transpires in domestic sites, those who provide that care generally occupy a contested place in medical systems, healthcare ethics, and health humanities scholarship.

This Special Issue invites scholarly papers that respond to literary, cinematic, visual, and performative representations of familial caregiving, broadly defined, and the cultural, ethical, and literary questions they raise. We are not seeking personal essays or reflections on caregiving because our quota for them has been filled, but we will consider poems or visual works of art.

Please send inquiries or abstracts by 1st September 2015 to  We anticipate an early fall deadline for finished pieces.

Some possible topics:

  • The caregiver as vulnerable
  • Cultural responses to familial caregiving
  • The phenomenology or epistemology of caregiving: caregiving and the senses; caregiving and slow thinking
  • Caregiving and embodied labor (gender, class, ethnicity; globalization; migrant workers)
  • Caregiving and feminisms
  • Caregiving and technology
  • Caregiving and Disability Studies
  • Caregiving and theories of illness narratives
  • The locations of caregiving
  • Historically situated caregiving.

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