Call for Papers and Posters: Living in Emergency: humanitarianism and medicine

9th European Spring School on History of Science and Popularization
Living in Emergency: humanitarianism and medicine
Mahon (Menorca), 18-20 May 2017

Coordinated by Jon Arrizabalaga (IMF-CSIC, Barcelona), J. Carlos García-Reyes
(ICIII, Madrid), Dolores Martín-Moruno (IEH2, Université de Genève) and
Àlvar Martínez-Vidal (IHMCLópez Piñero, Universitat de València)


Present-day humanitarian crises, such as the Syrian Civil War and the subsequent refugee exodus, highlight the challenges of providing emergency medical relief to populations in distress, resulting from armed conflict or catastrophe, whether provoked by natural or artificial causes. Recent publications have also echoed the increasing concern with humanitarian medicine in the contemporary world, particularly, since the creation of Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) following the Biafra War. The growing importance of humanitarian medicine is also reflected in the creation of university chairs in the field, as it has become an integrated part of the curricula of numerous North American and European medical schools.
Despite its widespread use, the term “humanitarian medicine” is a relatively new term and remains vague because it refers to a collection of heterogeneous practices that have historically evolved from very different disciplines such as war medicine, nursing, epidemiology and, even, food sciences. The European Spring School [ESS] “Living in Emergency: humanitarianism and medicine”, aims to delve into this history by reconstructing emergency humanitarian interventions (mostly based on medical technologies) in wars and other disasters, from the mid-nineteenth century, (when the Red Cross movement was created) to nowadays. More specifically, the school aims at providing a historical perspective on humanitarian medicine by paying particular attention to three major issues, namely bodies, gender, and emotions through three different types of sources that are intimately linked to the development of modern humanitarianism: written narratives, photography and cinema. This multidisciplinary approach is intended to give new insights into past humanitarian action as well as to stimulate reflection on current humanitarian crises.

As in previous sessions, this ESS is structured in key-note lectures and research workshops. Lectures will be delivered by the following outstanding scholars:

- Rony Brauman (CRASH) and Bertrand Taithe (University of Manchester): Humanitarianism: Past and Present
- Sébastien Farré (Maison de l’histoire, Université de Genève): Cinema and Humanitarianism (1914-1945): mobilization and propaganda
- Dolores Martín-Moruno (iEH2, Université de Genève): Gendering humanitarian war narratives: Nursing within the history of compassion
- Francesca Piana (SUNY Binghamton, USA): Of suffering and healing: gendered bodies and emotions in the history of humanitarian photography

The ESS “Living in Emergency: humanitarianism and medicine” is open to graduate students, young scholars, professionals, and activists concerned about the past and the present of humanitarian medicine and, more generally, of emergency humanitarian action. Participants are invited to submit proposals of papers and posters which will pre-circulate and be briefly presented and discussed in the workshops. They would be expected to address such issues as:

- Humanitarian narratives, and their sources (official records, medical reports, personal writings, etc.) 
- Witnessing suffering in wars and other disasters through technologies like photography and cinema 
- Agencies and agendas (colonialism, national patriotism, internationalism, religious or political proselytism, war propaganda, etc.) in humanitarian medicine 
- The creation of emotional responses towards vulnerable bodies in humanitarian crises 
- Gender, emotions, and humanitarian action 
- Caring practices and medical technologies in humanitarian action 
- Categories of victims in wars and other disasters (wounded soldiers, prisoners, refugees, children, women, the disabled, etc.) 
- Situated knowledges versus pure science in emergency medicine 
- Relationships between humanitarian action and other spheres (national policies, international politics, international law, etc.) 
- Risk in humanitarian action and emotions (compassion fatigue, victim resentment, etc.).   

Proposals of approximately 500-600 words summarising the contents of the paper or poster, historical actors, main focus and general approach, accompanied by a brief CV (one page) of the author(s) are due by 1st October 2016. A limited number of grants (covering conference fees, accommodation and/or travel) may be available for those presenting papers and posters. Please direct proposals or queries to the ESS coordinators via the following e-mail address:

Further details on the current and previous sessions of this ESS are provided at the website:

Organising institutions of the 9th ESS:
- Institut Menorquí d’Estudis (IME), Maó
- Societat Catalana d’Història de la Ciència i la Tècnica (SCHCT)
- Institución Milà i Fontanals (IMF), CSIC, Barcelona
- Institut Ethique Histoire Humanités (Programme d’histoire de la médecine), Université de Genève
- Institut d’Història de la Medicina i de la Ciència López Piñero (IHMC), Universitat de València