Disrupted breath, songlines of breathlessness: an interdisciplinary response

Alice Malpass*, James Dodd, Gene Feder, Jane MacNaughton, Arthur Rose, Oriana Walker, Tina Williams, Havi Carel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
230 Downloads (Pure)


Health research is often bounded by disciplinary expertise. While cross-disciplinary collaborations are often forged, the analysis of data which draws on more than one discipline at the same time is underexplored. Life of Breath, a 5-year project funded by the Wellcome Trust to understand the clinical, historical and cultural phenomenology of the breath and breathlessness, brings together an interdisciplinary team, including medical humanities scholars, respiratory clinicians, medical anthropologists, medical historians, cultural theorists, artists and philosophers. While individual members of the Life of Breath team come together to share ongoing work, collaborate and learn from each other's approach, we also had the ambition to explore the feasibility of integrating our approaches in a shared response to the same piece of textual data. In this article, we present our pluralistic, interdisciplinary analysis of an excerpt from a single cognitive interview transcript with a patient with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. We discuss the variation in the responses and interpretations of the data, why research into breathlessness may particularly benefit from an interdisciplinary approach, and the wider implications of the findings for interdisciplinary research within health and medicine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)294-303
Number of pages10
JournalMedical Humanities
Issue number3
Early online date1 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 22 Aug 2019


  • breathlessness
  • inter-disciplinary
  • sciencehumanities


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