Beyond Nescience: the intersectional insights of health humanities

Susan Merrill. Squier
2007 Perspectives in biology and medicine  
Through a comparison of two graphic novels concerned with the experience of cancer diagnosis and treatment, Brian Fies's Mom 's Cancer (2006) and Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner's Our Cancer Year (1994), this essay suggests some of the strengths and limitations of the medical humanities in responding to the experience of illness. It demonstrates how the graphic medium enables us to generate a new set of reading strategies and thus to articulate a more complex and powerful analysis of illness,
more » ... ysis of illness, disability, medicine, and health. Finally, the essay considers the question raised by the comparison of the graphic novels: whether the term "health humanities" might not be preferable to its predecessor, "medical humanities." T HE DAY I BEGAN pulling my thoughts together for this essay, I turned on my computer to be greeted by the "Word of the Day"-nescience: lack of knowledge or awareness; ignorance.That "Word of the Day" was right on target: I was sitting down to write about a lack of awareness or ignorance in medicine that can be remedied by the medical humanities. An epistemological narrowing characterizes biomedical thinking, I would argue, that impedes our ability to heal. In what follows, I want to explore how the medical humanities combat that narrowing, replacing medical nescience with healing knowledge. Though the word nescience was new to me, the background to the nescience
doi:10.1353/pbm.2007.0039 pmid:17660629 fatcat:4mwghmmdgvh4tbd2ahnoecq2ji