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Health&Illness 2019 : Once Upon a Time There Was a Virus....: Storytelling, health and Illness


When Aug 31, 2019 - Sep 1, 2019
Where Lisbon, Portugal
Submission Deadline Mar 8, 2019
Notification Due Mar 22, 2019
Categories    storytelling   health   illness   interdisciplinary

Call For Papers

Once Upon a Time There Was a Virus....: Storytelling, Health and Illness
Saturday 31st August - Sunday 1st September 2019
Lisbon, Portugal

Throughout history, people have felt a need to tell each other stories about the ordinary as well as the surprising experiences of being alive, particularly in relation to health, well-being, illness, disease and death. Telling stories was – and still is – a way of recording and grappling with the origins, causes and prevention of illnesses and disease that surrounded them in everyday life.

These stories are increasingly being uncovered in historic diaries, journals, records and manuscripts, and now take their place alongside contemporary forms of storytelling such as blogs, vlogs, medical texts and online research. What we are discovering is that health, illness, disease and dying have and continue to be documented in all sorts of fascinating ways and using a plethora of diverse forms.

Literature offers us poetry, prose, plays, autobiographies. Art brings visual power, both moving and still, in the form of paintings, pictures, illustrations, cartoons, street art and even graffiti. From its inception, photography has told the tale of bodies recovering from war, from giving of birth, from the taking of life and all points in between. Moving pictures, film, cinematography, theatre and ballet bring dramatic performances of health and illness to public life. Music, from opera to metal, punk to electronica remembers and retells stories of just how intense the experience of health and illness can be.

Today is a great day to be sick! Huge numbers of resources are available for people to do research, to learn about illnesses affecting others, to aid people who are calling for help or to document one’s own illness or the illnesses of others. Today is also a great time to stay healthy. Stories uncover facts about fad diets, how something as simple as washing one’s hands can cut back on the spread of influenza; that walking, fortunately, can be as healthy as running with less strain on one’s body; the avoidance of foods which cause allergies, the wider availability of nutritional foods and ingredients.

Medical ‘literacy’ is now within easy reach. Yet with it there has also been a rise of online self-diagnosis, hypochondria, the ignore-ance or bypassing of expertise and the spread of dubious or even cynical forms of information. The rise of the health ‘industry’ has spawned both helpful and dangerous influences in relation to our thirst for well being.

This inclusive interdisciplinary conference is about sharing stories and documentation of health and illness with a view to forming a selective innovative publication to engender further collaboration and discussion.

Unlike other gatherings, our event will aim to step outside traditional conference settings and offer opportunities for artists, care-givers, clinicians, photographers, practitioners, theorists, independent scholars, academics, performers, writers, and others to intermingle, providing platforms for interdisciplinary interactions that are fruitful and conducive to broadening horizons and sparking future projects, collaborations and connections. We are also carrying forward plans for the formation of The Interdisciplinary Storytelling Initiative which will create a unique platform for Storytelling as a nexus for academic, professional, business, NGO and voluntary sector activities.

We are excited to accept proposals for presentations, displays, exhibits, round tables, panels, interactive workshops and more.

We want to hear about how the fear of a disease can be misplaced and then soothed by a single photograph or song. Or how treatment and perseverance can be documented on the internet, showing the resolution of a healthy body and mind after a lengthy battle. We hope to learn how research in one country might help researchers in another resolve a sickness that has not been seen before. Or how something as simple as clean water can improve health dramatically.

Let us also hear the tales and superstitions told to warn of unhealthy practices, of potatoes growing in one’s ears and toes falling off if we are unclean. Let’s hear about promoting good health practices and talk about bodies and their function as a means of prevention rather than the pursuit of infection.

Let us also grapple with some key questions. Why are we not willing to discuss with others all the bodily functions when we are all alike and our bodies generally work the same way? If there were more of a willingness to share the biomechanics of one’s body with others would we discover and be able to treat symptoms earlier in life? What is the link between body and mind when pursuing health and wellness?

Above all, let’s share the ways in which storytelling is enabling people to become more aware of their bodies, stay healthy or learn about new treatments for their illnesses, find support groups of all kinds, and raise their awareness of what it means to interact with others who are interested in telling those same tales.

What to Send
The aim of this interdisciplinary conference and collaborative networking event is to bring people together and encourage creative conversations in the context of a variety of formats: papers, seminars, workshops, storytelling, performances, poster presentations, panels, q&a’s, round-tables etc.

300 word proposals, presentations, abstracts and other forms of contribution and participation should be submitted by Friday 8th March 2019. Other forms of participation should be discussed in advance with the Organising Chair.

All submissions will be minimally double reviewed, under anonymous (blind) conditions, by a global panel drawn from members of the Project Development Team and the Advisory Board. In practice our procedures usually entail that by the time a proposal is accepted, it will have been triple and quadruple reviewed.

You will be notified of the panel’s decision by Friday 22nd March 2019.

If your submission is accepted for the conference, a full draft of your contribution should be submitted by Friday 12th July 2019.

Abstracts and proposals may be in Word, PDF, RTF or Notepad formats with the following information and in this order:
a) author(s), b) affiliation as you would like it to appear in the programme, c) email address, d) title of proposal, e) body of proposal, f) up to 10 keywords.

E-mails should be entitled: Storytelling Submission.

Where to Send
Abstracts should be submitted simultaneously to the Organising Chair and the Project Administrator:

Jeremy Vaughan:
Project Administrator:

What’s so Special About Progressive Connexions Events?
A fresh, friendly, dynamic format – at Progressive Connexions we are dedicated to breaking away from the stuffy, old-fashion conference formats, where endless presentations are read aloud off PowerPoints. We work to bring you an interactive format, where exchange of experience and information is alternated with captivating workshops, engaging debates and round tables, time set aside for getting to know each other and for discussing common future projects and initiatives, all in a warm, relaxed, egalitarian atmosphere.

A chance to network with international professionals – the beauty of our interdisciplinary events is that they bring together professionals from all over the world and from various fields of activity, all joined together by a shared passion. Not only will the exchange of experience, knowledge and stories be extremely valuable in itself, but we seek to create lasting, ever-growing communities around our projects, which will become a valuable resource for those belonging to them.

A chance to be part of constructing change – There is only one thing we love as much as promoting knowledge: promoting real, lasting social change by encouraging our participants to take collective action, under whichever form is most suited to their needs and expertise (policy proposals, measuring instruments, research projects, educational materials, etc.) We will support all such actions in the aftermath of the event as well, providing a platform for further discussions, advice from the experts on our Project Advisory Team and various other tools and intellectual resources, as needed.

An opportunity to discuss things that matter to you – Our events are not only about discussing how things work in the respective field, but also about how people work in that field – what are the struggles, problems and solutions professionals have found in their line of work, what are the areas where better communication among specialists is needed and how the interdisciplinary approach can help bridge those gaps and help provide answers to questions from specific areas of activity.

An unforgettable experience – When participating in a Progressive Connexions event, there is a good chance you will make some long-time friends. Our group sizes are intimate, our venues are comfortable and relaxing and our event locations are suited to the history and culture of the event.

Progressive Connexions believes it is a mark of personal courtesy and professional respect to your colleagues that all delegates should attend for the full duration of the meeting. If you are unable to make this commitment, please do not submit an abstract or proposal for presentation.

Please note: Progressive Connexions is a not-for-profit network and we are not in a position to be able to assist with conference travel or subsistence, nor can we offer discounts off published rates and fees.


Web address:

Sponsored by: Progressive Connexions

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