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Three questions for...

Three questions for...

Prof Dr Dr Yvonne Wübben, Professor for Literature and Anthropological Knowledge at RUB, Mercator Research Group "Spaces of Anthropological Knowledge"

You studied German Language and Literature, Philosophy and Medicine and acquired two PhDs. How did you achieve all that?

The question "how did you achieve all that?" is not exactly easy to answer. To me, the question "Why is this interesting?" was much more relevant. I often reached my limits in my studies. In my medicine degree, I researched brain-wave changes in schizophrenia patients for my PhD thesis. They can be measured with the aid of electroencephalography (EEG). However, I soon realised that those studies didn't help me understand any crucial aspects of the disease. With my double doctorate, I work as medical practitioner and literary scholar in the field of history of psychiatry. In many countries, multi-disciplinary careers are quite common. In France, it's nothing out of the ordinary to work as clinical psychiatrist resp. psychologist and to teach philosophy or hold lectures about the history of psychiatry at the same time.

Do you feel like a medical practitioner or a humanities scholar?

I'm often in-between. What sets me apart from other humanities scholars is my medical view of things. This is something I notice particularly in interaction with colleagues who research into the history of sciences, but who naturally lack the relevant specialist knowledge. This is when I always feel very much the medical practitioner and wonder: "Is that plausible?" Conversely, in my interactions with medical practitioners, I feel like a humanities scholar. In fact, I have missed many developments in the recent years and my specialist knowledge is rather spotty. This is why a friend has once referred to it as double hemiplegia. Not a nice image! But the double competence can also be considered an opportunity to think outside the box. It always depends how open-minded and interested an institution is with regard to interdisciplinary approaches. RUB is a stroke of luck in this respect.

Why did you choose to join the Mercator Research Group (MRG)?

By setting up the MRG, RUB has created an interesting place for interdisciplinary collaboration. Often, such promises remain empty. Interdisciplinary projects are frequently considered a hazard, because they threaten the disciplines' autonomies, or they are suspected of being dilettante. My experiences with this approach in the MRG have been extremely positive, and I would wish for it to establish itself as the go-to method at universities.

Three questions for...