Cognitive and health humanities in the borderlands of academia

:speech_balloon: Speaker: Emily Troscianko

:classical_building: Affiliation: The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities, UK

Title: Cognitive and health humanities in the borderlands of academia

It’s seven years since I last had an academic job or funding, so I was surprised (as well as honoured) to be invited to give this talk. I took advice from several people whilst planning it, and one gave me a helpful off-the-cuff set of keynote formats to choose from: 1) greatest hits, 2) the deep dive, 3) the call to arms, 4) the underappreciated thing, and 5) the next big thing. I decided to cheat by trying to do a bit of all of them, framed by some questions (and provisional answers) about the ethics and pragmatics of having an “alt-ac” career that involves doing research and publishing in academic journals as an unpaid side hustle—an increasingly interesting prospect to many researchers confronting academia’s various deteriorating cost/benefit ratios.
As a case study, I take my latest experiment: a (to my knowledge) unprecedented pre-publication study in which a book I wrote about my anorexia and recovery is tested for potential negative effects on readers, with explicit quantitative cutoffs below which it won’t be published. I report on the methods and findings together with an overview of the many “non-academic” (personal and professional) factors that fed into the experiment’s genesis and design, alongside an important research impulse: refusing to assume that “it’s a book so it must do good”. I link these details with a shallow dive into bibliotherapy; some personal greatest hits connecting the health humanities (HH) with cog lit studies (or CLSci); slightly ironic takes on the under-appreciated and next big things; and not one but two calls to arms. The first asks how to bridge the strange HH/CLSci divide; the other insists on the distinction between investigating interpretation (which can constitute useful research) and doing interpretation (which is much easier, and can’t). Finally, this distinction brings us back round to the alt-ac complexities by posing a stark question about the value of our research: If we weren’t being paid to do it, how much of it would we keep doing, and why?

**:movie_camera:**Emily Troscianko; Cognitive and health humanities in the borderlands of academia - YouTube

I my view it would be really good for academia to have more of us in that “borderland” that you talk about, and maybe it even should be actually be consider as an integral part of what we need to do, giving universities a sustainable future.:slight_smile: Loved your talk Emily.

I also really loved your talk, Emily. One more question that I did not get around to asking yesterday: Can you think of any genres of (literary?) texts that might be suitable to contribute to recovery from eating disorders? Given that recovery memoirs may actually have harmful effetcts.

And I was wondering about the similarity of the response to your memoir and the Koan text. Together with the prompt, it seems to me that they may both have stimulated reflection, and that reflection may have been the decisive factor here. What do you think?

I am also in the borderlands, btw. I had no idea that “alt-ac” was a “thing” :-)!