Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

Breathing in context: historical and cross-cultural perspectives on breath

Tue 8 March 2016 @ 11:00 am - Wed 9 March 2016 @ 4:00 pm GMT


Breath, a physiological universal, is uniquely both an automatic and controllable process at different times; it is also a subjective experience, an elaborated technique, and a fundamental part of knowledge systems and world views. Breathing is interactive and offers a mode of relating to the world, engaging with others, objects, environments, and technologies. Crucially, the significance and meaning of breath varies according to the context in which it is understood and enacted. Yet breath is a theme seldom considered in anthropological or cross-cultural research, despite the implications this could have in comprehending just what breath is, and what it means to live and breathe. This interdisciplinary two day symposium, organised by the Centre for Medical Humanities and Anthropology Department at Durham University as part of the Life of Breath project, offers an exciting platform to explore, discuss and gain insight into the perception and experience of breath and breathing practices both historically and cross-culturally.


Tuesday 8 March, 11am-4pm

  • Introduction and overview (Dr Andrew Russell & Dr Rebecca Oxley, Life of Breath/Anthropology, Durham University)
  • Hongi: Through breath we live, we share, we know (Dr Marewa Glover, Public Health, Massey University, New Zealand)
  • Breath in Philo, the Stoics and the New Testament (Dr Phil Horky, Classics, Durham University)
  • Tibetan ‘wind’ and ‘wind’ illnesses: towards a multicultural approach to health and illness (Dr Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim, Life of Breath/History of Medicine, Goldsmiths, University of London)

Followed by ‘Chemical Youth’ public lecture and drinks reception at 5pm


Wednesday 9 March, 10am-4pm

  • Breathing song and smoke: ritual intentionality and the making of an inter-subjective real (Dr Elizabeth Rahman, Social Anthropology, University of Oxford)
  • A post-phenomenological exploration of the experience of living-with and breathing through oxygen machines in Uruguay (Dr Megan Wainwright, Medical Anthropology, University of Cape Town)
  • The rising of the lights (Dr Oriana Walker, Life of Breath/History of Medicine, University of Bristol)
  • The compressed-air bath and breathing technologies in the nineteenth century (Dr Jennifer Wallis, History of Medicine, University of Oxford)
  • Breathing in speculative fiction (Dr Arthur Rose, Life of Breath/English Studies, Durham University)

Followed by ‘A tobacco-free New Zealand by 2025?’ public lecture & drinks reception at 5pm


Places are free but limited so you must REGISTER TO ATTEND. Lunch and refreshments provided.

NB. You are welcome to join us for one or both days. To attend on both days you must reserve a place on each day.



Tue 8 March 2016 @ 11:00 am UTC+0
Wed 9 March 2016 @ 4:00 pm UTC+0
Event Categories:


Durham University


Joachim Room, Durham University
College of St Hild & St Bede, Leazes Road
Durham, DH1 1SZ United Kingdom