CANCELLED!! Symposium - Environmental Illness Today

  • Date:
  • Location: Universitetshuset Hall IX.
  • Organiser: Ecological Narratives research group at Uppsala University and Centre for Integrated Research on Culture and Society (CIRCUS), Occupational and Environmental Medicine, and the Department of English
  • Contact person: Ingrid Berg
  • Konferens

Environmental Illness Today – an international symposium on environmental intolerance

The symposium is part of Uppsala University’s focus on Medical Humanities and has been made possible through generous grants by the Centre for Integrated Research on Culture and Society (CIRCUS), Occupational and Environmental Medicine, and the Department of English.

Environmental intolerance can be characterized by variable complex symptoms that patients attribute to one or more environmental factors in the occupational setting or the general environment. While medical examinations seldom result in a specific medical or psychiatric diagnosis, the patients do experience illness. The symptoms are triggered at very low levels of exposure that patients perceive as risks. These low levels are usually tolerated by the majority of the population even after long periods of exposure and are not considered established risk factors for disease. The patients, on the other hand, attribute their symptoms to more or less clearly defined factors in the indoor environment, due to exposure to metals, chemicals, electromagnetic fields, or noise.

To varying degrees, environmental intolerance can impact the daily lives of patients, result in avoidance behavior, and subsequent disability. The prevalence of environmental intolerance varies between cultures and societies, but in the Western world about 3-10% of the population has in environmental health questionnaires reported self-assessed environmental intolerance. All this makes environmental illness an interesting phenomenon deserving of investigation from multiple perspectives.

This interdisciplinary symposium draws on a variety of methodologies – derived from the study of narrative, medical sociology and history, experimental psychology, psychiatry, law, and medical anthropology – to explore various facets of environmental illness. The symposium addresses questions such as the following: How do we define environmental illness and what are its clinical, cultural, and legislative ramifications? How should the medical profession deal with such afflictions? Can we observe commonalities and differences in environmental susceptibility across cultures, genders, races, and historical conjunctures? Finally, to what extent are environmental illnesses adaptive responses to the pressures of globalization and modernity?

Excursion to the Museum of Medical History

We are very pleased to offer our participants the opportunity to visit the Museum of Medical History at Uppsala University. There will be a guided tour after which you have the opportunity to browse the collections at your own leisure.

Time: April 17 at 14.00 – 16.00

Transportation: Buses will transport the participants to and from the museum.
The visit is free of charge, but you need to register for the excursion.

The museum is beautifully located in Ulleråker. It tells the story of health and sickness in body and soul. Exhibits on the ground floor ranges from the remedies and practices of traditional folk medicine, to medical instruments and apparatus still in use today. You will encounter small and large inventions, Noble Prize laureates, Uppsala profiles and professionals like surgeons, midwifes, physicians and nurses. In the museum pharmacy you can experience the manual preparation of ingredients for drugs in pill or balm form. The upstairs’ exhibits focus on psychiatry. Objects and images tell the story of life, care and work at the Ulleråker Hospital & Asylum, one of Sweden’s largest institutions for psychiatric care with a history stretching back to Medieval times.

The symposium will be held in English.

The symposium is free of charge.

Registration is closed.


Further information
Michael Boyden, Associate Professor of American literature, Department of English, Uppsala University (

Martin Tondel, Associate Professor, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Department of Medical Sciences, Uppsala University ( )

Practical information
Ingrid Berg, Project Coordinator, Centre for Integrated Research on Culture and Society, Uppsala University (

Additional information

CANCELLED!! Symposium - Environmental Illness Today