Research Spotlight

Research Spotlight

Global Health and the Humanities 


T3 Grant, Global Health and the Humanities

Project Investigator:
Dr. Jessica Howell, Texas A&M University, Department of English
Project Investigators:
Dr. Violet Showers Johnson, Texas A&M University, Department of History
Dr. Laura Dague, Texas A&M University, Bush School of Government and Public Service


The growing field of Health Humanities seeks to understand cultural practices and products related to health and illness. Subjects of study may be as diverse as patients’ narratives of their own illness, medical portraiture, the history of epidemics, or ethical and philosophical debates about standards of care. While such scholarship examines diseases of urgent concern to the western world, it often overlooks “tropical” diseases. We assert that the Humanities offers necessary insight into the lived experience of global health issues.

The investigators for this project are from the Departments of English, History and Economics. Together we study the narrative and artistic expression of individuals’ experiences with those diseases most often associated with the global south, such as Ebola and malaria. The triad seeks to better understand the creative expression of patients and healthcare providers by examining forms such as autobiography, oral history, photography, poetry and song. Such interdisciplinary scholarship is necessary to better comprehend the historical, political, and economic impact of global diseases.

Between 2018 and 2020, we conducted oral history interviews in Freetown, Sierra Leone and Dallas, Texas. Subjects were invited to participate who have lived during a time when their area suffered either an Ebola epidemic or endemic malaria. Interviews are transcribed analyzed for common themes and forms of expression.

Image by David Goodsell licensed under CC-BY-4.0