Seminar: Dr Vanessa Heggie (Birmingham) Awkward Adaptations, Awkward Data: effacing (and recovering) race and gender in the science of modern exploration
Extreme physiology – the study of the human body’s encounters with very high, very cold, or very hot environments – has been the preserve of a small and demographically homogenous group of explorer-scientists in the long twentieth century. In this paper I will argue that it is by studying the unglamorous, quotidian technologies of exploration – diaries, boots, gas masks – that we can begin to uncover a richer history of participation in this form of modern biomedicine. The design of survival technologies tells explicit stories about which bodies, and what sorts of people, are considered ‘normal’ in biomedical study, and which ‘belong’ in spaces such as the Antarctic, or on the slopes of Everest. At the same time, reclaiming the overlooked technologies of exploration proves to be an effective approach to rediscovering the non-white, and female participants, explorers, technicians and scientists who have made American and European expeditionary science possible.