September 15, 2017


ColLAB: Bridging East Africa’s Digital Health Divides is a humanities-based lab funded by a three year-long “Research Collaboratives” grant from the Hall Center for the Humanities. The first of its kind at the University of Kansas, this lab offers a new model for research, mentorship, and experiential language learning in the humanities and social sciences. The LAB brings together faculty members, graduate students, and undergraduate students at the University of Kansas and the University of Dar es Salaam whose expertise spans over ten academic disciplines.

African & African American Studies Kiswahili Studies
Anthropology Political Science
Geography Psychology
Haitian Studies Sociology
History Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies

Our LAB intends to create a research and training structure similar to that in the basic sciences — lab meetings, colloquia, journal clubs, and other activities that provide valuable scholarly dialogue — for research and training in the humanities. Although collaboration is nothing new in the humanities and social sciences, this is the first humanities-based lab at KU to explicitly model itself in this way.

About the University of Dar es Salaam

Th University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) is the oldest and largest public university in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. ColLAB will partner with faculty and students in the College of Humanities. The College of Humanities offers specialized study in fields as diverse as foreign languages, literature, studies of cultures from all over the world, applied linguistics, African languages, public and digital humanities, translation and interpretation, ethics, intercultural competency, creative and performance arts, film studies and religious studies.

About the Global Medical Humanities

Humanities scholars have long viewed health, illness, and care as culturally, historically, and politically embedded experiences. While biomedicine focuses primarily on the causes, diagnoses, and treatments of disease, the medical humanities focus on the social meanings and relations of power that shape experiences of social and embodied forms of suffering.  The cultural meanings that surround illness, violence, and suffering may be studied not only through conversations and individual testimonies, but also through their representations in poetry, literature, visual arts, film, music, archival records, and even architecture. Humanities scholars are able to show how ordinary people, as well as clinicians, public health and development practitioners, and political leaders, all operate with particular sets of explanatory narratives and modes of reasoning that are situated within uneven power relations. A global medical humanities lens highlights the concerns of people often excluded or marginalized from the production of knowledge surrounding medicine, health, and the body.

About Digital Health Divides

To better understand how these power relations impact health and development, scholars have advocated for analyzing embodied and social suffering from multiple perspectives, including the political, economic, and historical conditions that shape how people are born, grow, live, work and age across diverse societies. These analyses have shown that structural inequalities create and perpetuate health disparities, institutionalizing differences in health status among populations. Despite the growing demand for online resources like the Community Tool Box to provide much needed information, these new digital tools do not sufficiently attend to the barriers that limit people’s access, exacerbating what has been called the digital health divide.

These virtual domains, in other words, illuminate the same kinds of issues facing people on the ground; namely, the need for materials in the local language and greater attention to cultural differences and social inequalities. This LAB’s overlapping humanistic and social science approach will allow our work to connect the structural forces that shape communities with the stories of individuals seeking meaning and effecting change through these new digital horizons.