Call for papers

19-20 March 2018, Weetwood Hall, University of Leeds, UK

In recent decades, global research activity around ageing and the life course has grown exponentially. Work in the clinical sciences, and in the established field of gerontology, has explored the challenges and opportunities of ageing through investigations focusing on biological and biosocial elements. More recently, scholars in the humanities and the social sciences working in the field of ageing studies have been turning their attentions to the topic, offering interdisciplinary cultural and social analyses that are theoretically, politically, and empirically engaged. Within this category, a number of scholars across academic disciplines including history of medicine, philosophy, film studies, literature, law, sociology, psychology, and anthropology – and in the cross-disciplinary field of medical humanities – are united by a shared interest in historical perspectives on youth, ageing, and old age.


Caricature of Serge Samuel Voronoff
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images



This two-day conference will bring together scholars whose work engages with the past, to share new perspectives on the role and value of historical approaches to ageing across disciplines in the humanities and the social sciences. Several key questions will frame the event:

  • What can historical research on ageing and the life-course in the humanities and social sciences offer that is distinctive from modes of enquiry in these areas in the clinical sciences?
  • To consider ageing in historical contexts is to encounter issues of disciplinary boundaries and hierarchies, dominant histories, and canonicity. What is the specific nature of these challenges, and how might they be navigated?
  • Is it enough to reconstruct historical, socio-cultural contexts of ageing? Or should historical projects also develop innovative approaches that will address present-day issues?
  • How might scholars in the humanities and social sciences whose work includes historical approaches work together across disciplinary boundaries?
  • Who are the audiences for historical research in ageing? How might we communicate effectively with the academic sciences, with non-academic audiences, and with policy-makers, and public-health organisations?
  • What are the broader implications of this kind of work for developing further knowledge and understanding of the role of historical approaches to the study of human health, disability, disease, minds and bodies?

Our aims are to facilitate historically-grounded interdisciplinary conversations about ageing across the humanities and the social sciences, and to foster the scholarly potential emerging from this new work.


We invite contributions in the form of 20-minute papers from scholars at any career stage, and from any discipline in the arts, humanities, and social sciences (broadly construed). Proposals from doctoral and early-career researchers are particularly welcomed. To submit a proposal, email an abstract of 250-300 words, together with a brief biographical note of no more than 150 words to Dr Catherine Oakley (, by 30 November 2017.


Papers might engage with the questions outlined above from a particular disciplinary perspective. Further topics could include, but are not restricted to:

  • Senescence and old age
  • Rejuvenation and anti-ageing
  • Childhood, adolescence, and youth
  • Ageing and scientific technologies
  • Families and intergenerational relationships
  • Age and demographic change
  • Ageing in visual and material cultures
  • Ageing, gender, sex and sexuality
  • Work, retirement, and pensions
  • Ethics of ageing
  • Age, ageing, and youthfulness in popular culture
  • Global perspectives on age and ageing

Confirmed keynote speakers include Dr Hyung Wook Park3 (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore) whose recent book Old Age, New Science4 posits a close relationship between the emergence of gerontology and changing social perspectives of ageing in the first half of the twentieth century.

Accommodation at the conference venue and registration costs will be covered for all speakers, and further support for travel may also be available.


Previous Events

Interdisciplinarity in Practice: Medical Humanities Research Workshop for PGRs

7 September, Marks and Spencer Company Archive, University of Leeds

This one-day workshop addressed the scholarly challenges and collaborative opportunities surrounding postgraduate research in the medical humanities.

Increasing numbers of postgraduate students from a wide range of disciplines are undertaking work on human health, wellbeing, disease, and the body that entails interdisciplinary approaches. Conducting PhD research across disciplinary boundaries offers significant opportunities for innovative scholarship, but it can also present practical and intellectual challenges for those at the earlier stages of their academic careers.


The workshop brought together postgraduate students in the medical humanities for interactive sessions and open discussion on research skills and professional career development in the field. Speakers included Dr Emily T. Troscianko (Oxford), Dr Victoria Bates (Bristol), Dr Sam Goodman (Bournemouth), Dr James Stark (Leeds) and Dr Catherine Oakley (Leeds), with a keynote address from Professor Jane Macnaughton (Durham).


Perspectives on Human Regeneration

We ran three previous events held throughout 2016 at the Henry Moore Institute5 (19 January), Thackray Medical Museum6 (4-5 April) and Marks and Spencer Company Archive7 (6-7 July). These combined formal presentations, provocations and semi-structured discussion and debate. Reports and selected presentations are available here8.

Emerging from these events we are currently putting the finishing touches to a special issue of the interdisciplinary journal Palgrave Communications9. This is focused on the theme “Perspectives on Human Regeneration” and will appear in late 2017/early 2018. If you would like to be kept updated on the issue, please contact us10.