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Ongoing Projects & Programming

Forever Chemicals in North Carolina: A Story Archive

North Carolina’s industrial and military endeavors have led to high levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in our water systems, particularly in the Cape Fear watershed, which extends into 26 counties in North Carolina. While researchers at UNC have studied PFAS contamination and remediation efforts from a scientific perspective, we lack humanistic research that examines how individuals make sense of healthcare experiences that could be linked to PFAS. To address this gap, the HHIVE Lab and the Digital Literacy and Communication (DLC) Lab, both housed in the Department of English and Comparative Literature, have created a collaborative research project to conduct oral history interviews with North Carolinians who believe they have been affected by PFAS.

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Health Humanities Grand Rounds

Launched in 2016 as a Provost-funded Carolina Seminar, Health Humanities Grand Rounds brings together faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students from across UNC divisions and departments to discuss research related to human health.

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Literature, Medicine and Culture Colloquium 

The Literature, Medicine and Culture Colloquium is a graduate student initiative that supports research and fosters community among students interested in health/illness, the body, history of science and medicine, or other topics. The reading and working group conducts writing workshops, book and journal reviews, and syllabus development seminars.

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Understanding Empathy

Professor Jane F. Thrailkill, on fellowship at the National Humanities Center (2021-2022), has convened an interdisciplinary group of UNC faculty, staff, and students to investigate how different disciplines approach empathy. The group meets monthly and will host a community symposium in Fall 2022

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Arts Across the Ages

This Carolina Seminar explores the potentials and pragmatics of connecting UNC students and older adults in arts experiences with the aim of mitigating age discrimination and prejudice through meaningful inter-generation exchanges. Arts Across Ages is designing student experiences to learn from and with older adults while addressing generational segregation, university-community separation, and the unexamined potential of intergenerational arts-based experiences at UNC.

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Stories to Save Lives

HHIVE is partnering with the Southern Oral History Program to analyze interviews in the Stories to Save Lives oral history archive. Stories to Save Lives seeks to bring the powerful research methodology of oral history to bear on one of the critical issues facing our region: healthcare. Using digital tools, this project shares Southerners’ personal insights about their own health and why they think health care challenges exist in their communities. These voices can profoundly reshape how policy makers and healthcare professionals approach these major problems.

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North Carolina Sites of Healing

Students in Professor Jordynn Jack’s ENGL 695: Health Humanities Intensive Research Practice course (Spring 2018) collaborated with Robert Allen and Sarah Almond in American Studies and the Communities Histories Workshop to transcribe a page of the Dorothea Dix Hospital admission ledger from 1861-1871 to contribute to a digital archive. Students then utilized archival sources, like ancestry websites, historical newspaper databases, and the Southern Historical Collection to investigate the lives of the people in the ledger and write glossary entries about the medical conditions listed in the ledger. The students’ archival research was featured in Endeavors and on the College of Arts & Sciences website.

Past Projects

Writing Diabetes: An Interdisciplinary Collaboration Examining the Significance of Illness Essays for Patients, Clinicians, and Researchers

Can crafting stories about the illness experience help patients with chronic conditions? This project sought to answer this question through an eight-week writing workshop for women with diabetes in North Carolina. Participants learned techniques of narrative writing and composed illness essays centered on the experience of living with a long-term health condition. The research team submitted this archive to narrative analysis using concepts drawn from literary and rhetorical theory, narratology, and computational discourse analysis. Using biomedical and social scientific assessments (A1C blood test for average glucose levels, Diabetes Empowerment Scale) we worked across methods and disciplines to explore qualitative and statistical correlations between narrative elements and health outcomes. Our initial funding comes from a $25,000 FIRE grant [Fostering Inter-disciplinary Research Explorations] awarded by UNC’s Vice Chancellor for Research.

Diabetes and Dance

Through an Undergraduate Research Consulting Team (URCT) grant from the Office of Undergraduate Research, Professor Jordynn Jack and five undergraduate students led a pilot study of dance and diabetes in Fall 2017 that was featured on the UNC website. The study engaged community members in a six-week dance workshop, learning multiple styles of dance in a supportive environment. Results suggest that dance can offer psychosocial as well as physical benefits for people with diabetes.

Falls: An Interdisciplinary Feasibility Study of Older Adults’ Experience Telling Fall Narratives

Funded by the Mellon Foundation, this project examined how written and oral narrative might help older adults adjust to the vicissitudes of aging.

Health Humanities Task Force: Developing a Comprehensive Mission and Structure for Cross-Disciplinary Instruction at UNC-Chapel Hill

This Carolina Seminar will bring together influential faculty from across the University with the goal of issuing a Provost-level set of recommendations for supporting innovative cross-disciplinary curricula in health humanities at UNC-CH. After issuing a report to the Provost, the Carolina Seminar transitions to a monthly speaker series: Health Humanities Grand Rounds.

Music Study

Students in the inaugural ENGL 695 course developed an ethnographic study on music in the waiting room.