Conference Announcement and Call-for-papers:

The Politics of Health in the U.S. South

March 17-18, Vanderbilt University, Nashville TN

Sponsored by the Vanderbilt Trans-Institutional Programs (TIPs) initiative and the Vanderbilt Center for Medicine, Health, and Society

We invite 250-word abstracts for individual or group presentations, posters, works-in-progress, or artistic and literary expressions for an interactive interdisciplinary conference that explores the politics of health in the US South.  Our call is open, but we particularly seek work by faculty and students at Vanderbilt, Meharry, Fisk, MTSU, and other local universities, as well as by Nashville-area groups, that examine our project’s central themes:

  • Healthcare reform and its discontents;
  • Race, faith, health and the US South;
  • Southern food politics;
  • US South-Global South
  • Southern LGBTI health;
  • Militaries and masculinities in the south;
  • Psyche and society in the south;
  • Legacies of violence, aggression, and self-protection
  • Structural problems, structural solutions.

Financial support is available for student and postdoc poster presentations.

Deadline: October 20, 2015, via email, to and justin.w.hubbard@Vanderbilt.Edu

The health dichotomies in the U.S. South often reflect, amplify, and shape the political and economic tensions surrounding the politics of health in the U.S. writ large. Clinicians and scientists at many southern universities offer cutting-edge treatments and develop important new cures, yet many citizens lack access to the medical systems in which these scientists work. Southern states like Tennessee are home to major American health-insurance corporations, yet many hospitals face financial challenges linked to falling reimbursements, and many low-income areas effectively function as health-care deserts. The U.S. South also enjoys a relatively temperate climate, yet many states rank near the bottom on most major U.S. indicators of health-related behaviors linked to activity. Meanwhile, southern politicians debate whether a national healthcare system is a moral necessity or an egregious governmental overreach, with more inclined to the latter than the former position. And members of the populace often resist public-health messages about matters such as diet, smoking, gun control, or women’s health because of deeply-held beliefs about government interference in personal health decisions.  As such, the U.S. South represents the epicenter of the larger conundrum of U.S. health and healthcare: that a country rich in resources and expertise on aggregate levels falls short, and all-too- often talks past itself, on individual ones.

Central to the conversations we aim to foster in this conference is the belief that many larger questions facing the region (e.g., how can we find agreement in an age of acrimony? why do political values sometimes trump biological self- interest?) belie answers that rest solely in biomedicine, public health, or political science.  Southern attitudes about public health and its discontents also need to be understood, and empathically addressed, through awareness of such factors as historical beliefs about the scope of government intervention and autonomy, stigmatizations of race, socioeconomic class, sexuality, and gender, religion, epigenetics, urban/rural divides, structural inequities, and even differing regional modes of narration and expression—each of which influences the tone and tenor of southern health debates in ways that have profound political, social, economic, and biological implications.

For more information about the Vanderbilt Trans Institutional Programs Initiative:

For more information about the Vanderbilt Center for Medicine, Health, and Society: