The French National Research Agency Projects for science

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ANR funded project

Sciences humaines et sociales : Cultures, arts, civilisations (Blanc SHS 3)
Edition 2010


MedFilm


Instruction, information, communication, education. Medical and sanitary film in France, 1900-1960

Instructing, informing, communicating, educating. Medical and health education film in France 1900-1960
The interdisciplinary project links approaches from history, history of science and media and communication studies in order to produce and archeology of medical and sanitary films between 1900 and 1960 in France and to describe their history and working mechanisms. The project takes the shape of an observatory of audiovisual communication in the health sector from the origins of film to the arrival of television at the end of the 1950s.

MEDFILM – A historical observatory of audiovisual communication in the health sector
A systematic and massive appeal to communication campaigns for the preservation of the population’s health has been reinvested in a number of health policies following sanitary health crises at the end of the 20th century (New Public Health). Since the beginning of the 20th Century “knowing how to prevent” implies to engage with “modern” audiovisual techniques of communication. In order to put this development into perspective, the research programme examines, historically and from an audiovisual point of view, the forms and variations of communication in the health sector.
The program is organized according to two major lines (axes). The first axis of the program involves constituting a corpus of films that are little known or inaccessible. An exhaustive inventory of health films does not exist at present. The films themselves are often preserved in 16 or 35 mm format, which is difficult to project and therefore rarely used. The central wager of the first research axis is to compile an inventory and gather a homogenous, circumscribed, and manageable body of films in order to pursue systematic analysis. Intimate knowledge of this body will invite interrogation of about 1) how images produced in a situated and specific scientific context depict and represent sanitary knowledge; 2) how images produced for and distributed in the public sphere orient and determine our perception of what science, technology and medicine are; 3) .dispositifs of communication that carry these images, the impact of audiovisual media, the meaning of cinematographic art serving transmission of a message but as well the constraints that film making imposes and the questions raised by directing, producing and distributing films that participate in public discourses about health information and prevention.

MEDFILM – A systematic and comparative analysis of a corpus of medical and health education films between 1900 and 1960
The study builds on systematic analysis of ways of producing early health education films dating from 1900 to 1960 in France. The central hypothesis of the project consists in thinking that an analysis of production modalities of these first films, which depict information and prevention in health, as well as the competences required for their production, their diffusion, and the complex of their use, can contribute to better understanding practices and stakes of communicating biomedical knowledge and representations in a sector that constitutes a public sphere in the 21st century: health. Researching films of facts leads us to questioning the mise en scène of scientific knowledge and power and our capacity to distinguish clearly in their discourse between what could be concerned as misconceiving propaganda in contrast to faithful information.
The methodology of the project is foremost comparative. Following studies shaped by the concepts of comparative history and entangled history, these will be adapted for analysing the films. The aim of this method is to transcend the singularity of each film document in order to focus analysis on (1) the socio-political context of these films in France, (2) their cinematographic and audiovisual context of the era, (3) the international health film context comparing French, German and Russian film productions. The second axis of the programme will use the corpus analysis results to orient investigations and comparisons of the different productions. Proceeding in this way has the advantage of an analysis that is systematic in approach and feasible for constituting and analysing the film corpus, while maintaining a weft of structured analysis in the comparison of synchronic/diachronic, of different film categories (laboratory films, documentary films, fiction films), and national/international.

Results

The program is organized along two major themes. The first part of the program achieves the description and analysis of a limited corpus of medical and health education films. The physical localization of the films in film archives and film libraries has allowed us to engage the question of film ownership rights and digitalization and reproduction for a significant number of films. Following this advancement we have conceived and developed in collaboration with DUN (Direction of digital applications, University of Strasbourg) a digital platform using the collaborative software program Wiki. The database is online at medfilm.unistra.fr. presenting films and their description for research and teaching.
The scientific program of film analysis started with the opening conference « Communicating good health. Movies, medicine, and the cultures of risk in the 20th Century » held at the Brocher Foundation in Geneva (Switzerland) on May 26 and 27 2011. Publication is under preparation with an American Academic Press.
Three workshops have been organized. Workshop number 1”At the crossroads of professional orientation and health education in school. Films of the Centre National de Documentation Pedagogique (Scérén-CNDP) held on January 20th 2012 at the University Paris-Diderot has been presented in the digital newsletter of the CNDP (http://www.cndp.fr/media-sceren/lettreinfo/index04.php.). Workshop N° 2 engaged with audiovisual techniques of persuasion and visual transmissions of medical and sanitary messages. The workshop addressed more specifically the film production by the film director Eric Duvivier. Workshop N° 3 takes place at the Institut Européen de Cinéma et d’Audiovisuel (UL) on June 3rd 2013 analyzing Eric Duvivier’s films from an esthetic and documentary-experimental film perspective. Publication of the two events is programmed in the book series Ciné-politique with the publisher Le Bord de l’Eau Éditions, Paris.

Outlook

The development of the digital database MEDFILM is presented publically at the Colloque national du collège des enseignants de SHS en médecine on June 21-23rd 2013 in Amiens. The presentations opens a series of events fostering the use of the database in teaching and research and to mobilize collaborative contributions. Usefullness of the database in teaching medical humanities and social studies of science has been assessed through experimental use in medical school and a Master thesis in University of Strasbourg Science,Technology and Society studies program. Teaching and research applications of the database will be further developed through grant applications in the framework of the Initiative d’excellence at the Strasbourg University, UNF3S and European Framework programs. The database further develops innovative teaching aids in its section “teaching kits”.
Based on the view on films produced in the past, we suggest ways for the renewed utilization of the film material in teaching medical humanities, for book and DVD edition and for their valorization as part of scientific culture giving them a status as cultural and scientific patrimony of immense yet neglected value.
The third research theme announced in the initial program “Health education film: advances and interrogations from half a century of audio-visual prevention” is addressed in form of a French-German workshop in Strasbourg on May 13 and 14th 2013 in collaboration with the Max Planck Institut für Bildungsforschung (Berlin) and INA-France. A second workshop on the question of « Publics, circulation, reception and detours » is scheduled on June 3 2013 at the Institut Européen de Cinéma et d’Audiovisuel (University of Lorraine). The two workshops participate in the preparation of the final conference to be held in May/June 2014 in Strasbourg.
The program pursues the construction of a network of international cooperation in the field of medical and health education audiovisuals.

Scientific outputs and patents

Development in collaboration with DUN (Direction of digital applications, University of Strasbourg) of a digital platform on medical and health education film using the collaborative software program Wiki. The database is online at medfilm.unistra.fr.

Publications :
Bonah,Christian [2011], « “Health crusades” : Environmental approaches as public health strategies against infections in sanitary propaganda films, 1930 – 1960”, in Berridge, Virginia; Gorsky, Martin, Environment, Health and History, London, Palgrave Macmillan, p. 152-175
Bonah C., Visier L. [2011], « De l’éducation sanitaire à la promotion de la santé », in Bonah C., Haxaire C., Mouillie J.-M., Penchaud A.-L., Visier L. (dir.), Sciences humaines, médecine et santé. Manuel du Collège des enseignants de SHS en médecine et santé, Paris, Les Belles Lettres, p. 268-275.
Bonah, C. Lowy, Vincent, [2013], « Lorsque le regard l’emporte sur le message : les courts-métrages de lutte contre la tuberculose d’Edgar G. Ulmer », Alliage, 71, 46-56.
Bonah,Christian [2011], “Une introduction à l’étude de la médecine expérimentale à l’ère de la reproduction mécanique : un legs de Claude Bernard et / ou d’Etienne Jules Marey ? » in Barbara, Jean-Gaël ; Corvol, Pierre, Les élèves de Claude Bernard. Les nouvelles disciplines physiologiques en France au tournant du XXe siècle, Paris, Hermann, 2012, p. 151-172.
The program has sipported the publication a special issue of the journal Alliage « Cinéma et science » N° 71 hiver 2012-2013 under the editorship of Jacqueline Nacache.
It has been associated with the organization of the international conference Définir/devenir une image d’archives, qui s’est déroulé à Bruxelles les 15 et 16 novembre 2012, coorganized with Université Libre de Belgique, the FNRS at Sciences-Po Paris and CREM (UL).
The opening conference : « Communicating good health : movies, medecine, and the cultures of risk in the 20th Century. is under publication with Rochester University Press.


Partners

CREM UNIVERSITE DE METZ

UDS -MISHA UNIVERSITE DE STRASBOURG

ANR grant: 190 000 euros
Beginning and duration: - 48 mois

Submission abstract

A systematic and massive appeal to communication campaigns for the preservation of the population’s health was reinvested in a number of health policies following sanitary health crises at the end of the 20th century (New Public Health). Since the beginning of the 20th Century “knowing how to prevent” implies to engage with “modern” audiovisual techniques of communication. In order to put this development into perspective, the research programme will examine, historically and from an audiovisual point of view, the forms and variations of communication in the health sector.
The study builds on systematic analysis of ways of producing early health education films dating from 1900 to 1960 in France. The central hypothesis of the project consists in thinking that an analysis of production modalities of these first films, which depict information and prevention in health, as well as the competences required for their production, their diffusion, and the complexity of their use, can contribute to better understanding practices and stakes of communicating biomedical knowledge and representations in a sector that constitutes a public sphere in the 21st century: health. Researching films of facts leads us to questioning the mise en scène of scientific knowledge and power and our capacity to distinguish clearly in their discourse between what could be concerned as misconceiving propaganda in contrast to faithful information.

The program is organized according to two major lines (axes). The first axis of the program involves constituting a corpus of films that are little known or inaccessible. An exhaustive inventory of health films does not exist at present. The films themselves are often preserved in 16 or 35 mm format, which is difficult to project and therefore rarely used. The central wager of the first research axis is to compile an inventory and gather a homogenous, circumscribed, and manageable body of films in order to pursue systematic analysis. Intimate knowledge of this body will invite interrogation of about 1) how images produced in a situated and specific scientific context depict and represent sanitary knowledge; 2) how images produced for and distributed in the public sphere orient and determine our perception of what science, technology and medicine are; 3) how dispositifs of communication carry these images, the impact of audiovisual media, the meaning of cinematographic art serving transmission of a message but as well the constraints that film making imposes and the questions raised by directing, producing and distributing films that participate in public discourses about health information and prevention.

The programme takes the shape of an observatory of audiovisual communication in the health sector from the origins of film to the arrival of television at the end of the 1950s. The methodology of the project is foremostly comparative. Following studies shaped by the concepts of comparative history and entangled history, these will be adapted for analysing the films. The aim of this method is to transcend the singularity of each film document in order to focus analysis on (1) the socio-political context of these films in France, (2) their cinematographic and audiovisual context of the era, (3) the international health film context comparing French, German and Russian film productions. The second axis of the programme will use the corpus analysis results to orient investigations and comparisons of the different productions. Proceeding in this way has the advantage of an analysis that is systematic in approach and feasible for constituting and analysing the film corpus, while maintaining a weft of structured analysis in the comparison of synchronic/diachronic, of different film categories (laboratory films, documentary films, fiction films), and national/international.

 

ANR Programme: Sciences humaines et sociales : Cultures, arts, civilisations (Blanc SHS 3) 2010

Project ID: ANR-10-BLAN-2004

Project coordinator:
Monsieur Christian BONAH (UNIVERSITE DE STRASBOURG)
bonah@nullunistra.fr

Project web site: http://medfilm.unistra.fr/

 

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The project coordinator is the author of this abstract and is therefore responsible for the content of the summary. The ANR disclaims all responsibility in connection with its content.