Against compassion

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In this essay, I take the field of medical humanities itself, and the best practices associated with the field, as an object of analysis. I begin by offering a close reading of a particular narrative of the emergence of the field of medical humanities, in order to consider the ways in which some narratives of field emergence perform certain exclusions, covering over other possible trajectories for the field in the present. In particular I am interested in the ways that these field emergence narratives constitute medical humanities as founded on the exclusion of theory and politics from the field. I then argue against an approach that would simply add illness narratives to medical education in favor of what I call critical medical studies, an undisciplined and transversal approach that ranges across disciplines, concepts, and milieus in an attempt to demonstrate a way to think and do medicine differently, by paying more attention to the <i>longue dur&#233;e</i> of disease and the interdisciplinarity of illness. Finally, I explore very briefly two examples of doing critical medical studies at the end of this paper, first in Annemarie Mol&#8217;s (2002) praxiographic analysis in <i>The Body Multiple</i> of the medical condition atherosclerosis as a multiple though not fragmented object, and finally in my own analysis of<i> </i>David B.&#8217;s (2005) graphic narrative, <i>L&#8217;Ascension du Haut Mal</i>, about his brother&#8217;s experience of epilepsy, which I argue creates a heterotopic space of possibility in and for medicine.


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