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Narrative Humility: Medical Listening and Oral History


Oct 16, 2014 - 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.


Knox Hall, 606 W 122nd St, New York, NY, Room 509

Healing, teaching, learning, and listening are all fundamentally political acts. While oral historians including Alessandro Portelli have concluded that “an inter/view is …. an experiment in equality” this formulation regarding power in the listening act is no less important to the medical inter/view and the intersubjective space of the health care relationship. Narrative medicine and other health humanities practices train future clinicians to listen to individual clinical stories in ways that deepen practice, increase successful diagnosis and treatment, promote strong health care relationships, and decrease clinician burnout. However, without both a sense of narrative humility (an inward looking to our own prejudices and frames of listening) and structural competency (attention to sociopolitical structures of power) narrative medicine training risks re-creating the self-same hierarchical health care relationships that it seemingly intends to address. Oral history practices and oral history theory can help guide narrative medicine practitioners in not only listening to embodied stories, but paying attention to (and challenging) the sounds of our own power.

Part of the Paul F. Lazarsfeld Lecture Series, this talk is cosponsored by the Columbia Center for Oral History Research (CCOHR) and the Oral History Master of Arts Program (OHMA). It is free and open to the public. No registration is required.


Sayantani DasGupta, MD MPH