Languages of Disease in the Contemporary Francophone World

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference


The social, cultural and intensely personal consequences of Covid-19 have reminded us that the humanities have an important role to play in making sense of disease. Building on recent studies into the language used to represent disease in modern metropolitan France, this project extends the scope of enquiry into the geographical zones, cultural and political contexts of the broader francosphère, where many of the world’s recent pandemics, including Ebola, HIV/AIDS and cholera, have had devastating effects.

Taking account of current restrictions, this project will be formed of two connecting elements: structured online interviews conducted by the organisers with chosen experts in the field, followed by extended engagement and networking via an online workshop. Key questions to be addressed include:

• How do literature, the visual arts, documentary and other texts incorporate the medical to generate culture-specific languages of disease across the francophone world?
• In what ways do francophone languages of disease draw from the political, the theological, the visual?
• How do the gender politics of francophone countries inflect the language of disease?
• How do patients use language to give expression to their lived corporeal and psychological experience of disease across the francosphère?
• Where does translation stand varyingly as a barrier or bridge in medical practice?
• What are the afterlives of experiencing disease, and how are these articulated in visual, textual forms across the francophone world?
• What is the role of testimony in recording diverse experiences of disease?

We welcome contributions in French or English that engage with a wide variety of texts and accounts, including literature, film, testimonies, documentaries and interviews. We are especially keen to draw on the expertise of health practitioners and third sector participants, to outline where current challenges lie in terms of linguistic and cultural understanding in health interventions.
Period19 Feb 2021
Event typeConference
LocationLondon, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Medical Humanities
  • Francophone literature