Call for Papers

MECHANICAL MEDICINE

Exploring the History of Healing by Exercise, Manipulation and Massage.

23 May 2019, Science Museum, London.

A symposium at the Science Museum, London, organised by Dr Kay Nias (Medicine Galleries Research Fellow).

‘Physical medicine’ or ‘physical therapy’ has ancient origins. For thousands of years, people with illnesses and disabilities have been treated with physio-therapeutic techniques including exercise, manipulation and massage, as well as air, water, heat and cold, electricity and light. These various healing methods have rich and diverse histories that span time, cultures and medical traditions.

While documentary evidence representing the multi-faceted worlds of these healing practices can often be difficult to find, museum medical collections contain a wealth of material culture that offers unique insight into these underrepresented histories. This interdisciplinary symposium aims to illuminate the history of therapeutic exercise, manipulation and massage – with or without apparatus – also collectively known as mechanotherapy. Used within a variety of therapeutic practices such as bone-setting and orthopaedics, chiropractic and osteopathy, obstetrics and gynaecology, holism and spiritual healing, manual techniques have traversed conventional boundaries of orthodox and alternative medicine, as well as hospital, private and domestic settings. 

Academic papers are invited from a range of disciplines, including medical history, anthropology, museum studies and design history amongst others, to discuss cross-cultural perspectives on mechanotherapy and manual healing. 

Proposals for 20-minute papers are invited on topics which may include:

  • Any aspect of mechanotherapy: exercise, manipulation, mobilisation and massage.
  • Manual healing techniques, and the use of technologies and apparatus.
  • Cross-cultural healing traditions, including Asian medicine.
  • Sensory and physical experiences.
  • Alternative or fringe medical practices.

Please send abstracts of 250 words and a biography of 100 words to Kay Nias, kay.nias@sciencemuseum.ac.uk by 5pm on 4th March, 2019.

Posted by Dave Nicholls

Dr. Nicholls is an Associate Professor in the School of Public Health and Psychosocial Studies, AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand. He is a physiotherapist, lecturer, researcher and writer, with a passion for critical thinking in and around the physical therapies. David is the founder of the Critical Physiotherapy Network, an organisation that promotes the use of cultural studies, education, history, philosophy, sociology, and a range of other disciplines in the study of the profession’s past, present and future. David’s own research work focuses on the critical history of physiotherapy and considers how physiotherapy might need to adapt to the changing economy of health care in the 21st century. He has published 35 peer-reviewed articles and 17 book chapters, many as first author. He is also very active on social media, writing more than 500 blogposts for criticalphysio.net in the last three years. David has taught in physiotherapy programmes in the UK and New Zealand for over 25 years and has presented his work all around the world. The End of Physiotherapy – the first book-length critical history of physiotherapy, and written by David – was published by Routledge in mid-2017.

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