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The Intersection of Health and Spirituality

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Last week the Kluge Center issued our annual call for applications for the David B. Larson Fellowship in Health and Spirituality. This unique fellowship supports research on the connection between religion, spirituality and health, whether it be physical, mental or social health. Made possible by a generous endowment from the International Center for the Integration of Health and Spirituality (ICIHS), the fellowship is named in honor of the Center’s late founder, David B. Larson, an epidemiologist and psychiatrist who focused on the understudied factors that can help prevent, cope with, and recover from illness.

What research at the Library of Congress can be done under the Larson Fellowship? Over the years a number of scholars have submitted innovative proposals that examine how religion and spirituality intersect with medicine, using the Library of Congress collections.

Art, Healing and War Trauma

Last year’s Larson Fellow, Tara Tappert, researched arts and crafts making as a healing process for war trauma, drawing upon the Library’s World War I collections held by our Prints and Photographs Division and the veterans’ stories collected by the Veterans History Project. Her lecture at the Kluge Center revealed how arts and crafts were used to help veterans of World War I recover from severe war injuries, both physical injuries and the mental traumas of war.

Mental Illness and Spiritual Healers in Brazil

In 2014, historian Manuella Meyer examined narratives of madness and concepts of mental illness in Rio de Janeiro during the 19th and early 20th centuries. In particular she probed how and why Brazilian psychiatrists categorized African spiritualist healers—called candomblé healers—as insane during this period as part of the nation’s efforts to modernize and westernize. She presented a lecture on her work in March 2014 titled “Psychiatry and Brazilian Republicanism, 1889-1930.” She is currently working on a book based on her research, titled “National Melancholia: Madness, State and Society, 1808-1930.”

Irony and Medicine

Dr. Farr Curlin was the Larson Fellow at the Kluge Center in 2012. An associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago’s School of Medicine, and the university’s co-director of the Program on Medicine and Religion, at the Kluge Center Curlin researched irony and its place in the practice of medicine. His lecture, “Of All the Physicians is There a Physician? Irony in the Practice of Medicine,” explored questions physicians have about their own practice, as well as the resources that can provide aid to those issues, such as religion.

Folk Beliefs and Healing

Larson Fellow Fayth Parks used the Library’s collections to study folk healing, mental health and spirituality in 2009-2010. Her research led to an article in Ashe To Amen: African Americans And Biblical Imagery titled “Frames of Mind: Biblical Imagery, Positive Psychology of African Americans and Gullah Geechee Sea Island People and Their Culture.” Parks returned to the Kluge Center in 2015 for our first-ever #ScholarFest, where she participated in a “lightning conversation” with neurobiologist Philip Gold on the effects of culture and environment on psychological treatments and biology.

Women and Islamic Medicine

Kelly Pemberton, the Kluge Center’s Larson Fellow in 2008-2009, researched a project on women and Islamic medicine while at the Library. Her lecture on Islamic medicine in South Asia and the Middle East discussed the ways that Islamic medicine is articulated in contemporary South Asia and the Middle East. Pemberton authored the book, “Women Mystics and Sufi Shrines in India” based on her research.

Eastern Orthodoxy and Psychoanalytics

Perhaps one of the more intriguing scholars to ever reside at the Kluge Center, the Most Rev. Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna held the Larson Fellowship for a period in 2006. While at the Center, the Rev. Archbishop researched the incorporation of Eastern Orthodox Hesychastic spiritual exercises into traditional psychoanalytical methodologies. His 2007 book, “A Guide to Orthodox Psychotherapy” was based on his research conducted at the Library. The Archbishop has just published his 28th new book, “The Sculptor and His Stone: Selected Readings on Hellenistic and Christian Learning and Thought in the Early Greek Fathers,” and was recently appointed Professor of pastoral psychology and Patristics at the St. Photios Orthodox Theological Seminary.

The Larson Fellowship is open to scholars with doctoral degrees awarded by the deadline date, and recipients are typically in residence for 6-12 months. For more information about how to apply, eligibility and past recipients, visit our website: The application deadline is April 17, 2016.

We look forward to the innovative ways scholars envision using the Library’s collections to explore the intersection of health and spirituality.

Comments (2)

  1. Thanks for sharing useful information about spirituality. Spirituality means myself within myself and for good health- Start your day with meditation and yoga to stay healthy and be positive…focus on good things and take a lesson from your failure or bad time. Keep sharing this type of article…

  2. Yes, Spiritually can heal you from the bottom. Only one thing needs that is faith.

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