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Niclas Hagen

Researchers have much to gain by bridging the gap between the humanities, social science and medicine. This is emphasised by Niclas Hagen, coordinator for the new network for medical humanities that is being created at the University of Gothenburg.
– Medical humanities is a heterogeneous concept which usually refers to a humanities perspective on medical matters. But fundamentally it is a question of a multidisciplinary field where various research perspectives on medicine and health can meet and cross-fertilise each other. By engaging in dialogue with each other, researchers from various subject areas can broaden their knowledge and gain new perspectives.

– In Sweden, medical humanities is a relatively new area, but it is well established in the United Kingdom for example. My task is to interconnect the existing research within the field at the University of Gothenburg and initiate new projects. Since today it is mainly researchers in subjects within the humanities and social science that are working in medical humanities, there lies a challenge in engaging researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy.

You have a cross-disciplinary background?
– I began my university studies within natural science and studied genetics, among other subjects. At the same time, I was interested in societal issues and studied political science and sociology. There has for many years been a major societal debate about the consequence of the increased knowledge of human genetics, and at the University of Lund much of the research on this issue was carried out within the subject of ethnology. Thus, I came to complete a Ph.D. within the humanities.

Your own research deals with the relation between medicine and society?
– I wrote the doctoral thesis Modern Genes: Body, Rationality, and Ambivalence (2013) about peolpe who are afflicted with Huntington's disease. It is a terrible, incurable neurological disease. Everyone who carries the gene that causes the disease will sooner or later be taken ill. Since the early 1990s, those who are in the risk zone can take a test and those who learn that they have this predisposition find themselves in the obscure marches between being healthy and ill. Thereby patients and health care providers find themselves in a situation where the individual's perspective tends to grind against the health care system's view of things, or for that matter bureaucracy in the form of the National Agency for Social Insurance. On a theoretical level, one might describe the problem as a collision between the human life world and the system.
– While there are conflicts between the perspective of the individual and the societal apparatus, certain things happen when they meet. For example, health care providers can avail themselves of people's perspectives and change their working methods. One of the projects with which I am working today is ”Treatments of the Future” which is developing a model for increased patient participation in the research on Huntington's disease. By strengthening the dialogue between research processes and researchers one can enrich not only the human dimension of the research process, but also the medical knowledge production.

Personal Facts

Position: Researcher and coordinator at the Faculty of Arts.
Age: 45 years old.
Family: Common-law spouse.
Research interests: I am interested in the interplay between research and the surrounding world.
Driving force: Creativity.
Leisure interests: Sports, both participating and watching. Spending time with my family.

[Interview by Daniel Brodén and published 2015-06-10]

Contact Information

Centre for Culture and Health

Box 200, 405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden

Page Manager: Lovisa Aijmer|Last update: 6/15/2015

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