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Understanding Women and Medicine through Material Culture

In this first session we will introduce ourselves to theme of women and medicine through a visit to the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford. With guest historian Ido Israelowich (Tel Aviv University) we will look at different medical instruments used by or on women and see how material culture can help us understand the place of medicine in women’s lives from the ancient world to the present day.

Seminar/essay questions:

• How can the study of material culture add to our understanding of women and medicine?
• Have women been the main target of new medical technologies? If so, why?
• Pick one medical instrument and discuss the role it has played in the medical care of women.

Required reading:
• Kathryn Yeniyurt, ‘When it Hurts to Look: Interpreting the Interior of the Victorian Woman’, Social History of Medicine (2014) 27;1: 22-40.

Additional reading:

• A. Appadurai, The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective (Cambridge: CUP, 1986).
• Ian W. Archer, ‘Purgation as the allure of mastery: early modern medicine and the technology of the self’, in Lena Cowen Orlin (ed) Material London, ca. 1600 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000).
• Patricia Anne Baker and Gillian Carr, Practitioners, Practices and Patients: New Approaches to Medical Archaeology and Anthropology (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2002).
• L. Chazaro, ‘Mexican women's pelves and obstetrical procedures: interventions with forceps in late 19th-century medicine’, Feminist Review (2005) 79: 100-115.
• Moira Donald and Linda Hurcombe (eds), Gender and Material Culture in Historical Perspective (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2000).
• Ralph Jackson, ‘Medicine and hygiene’, in Lindsay Allason-Jones (ed), Artefacts in Roman Britain: Their Purpose and Use (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).
• Ryan Johnson, ‘European Cloth and “Tropical” Skin: Clothing Material and British Ideas of Health and Hygiene in Tropical Climates’, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, (2009) 83;3: 530-560.
• W. David Kingery (ed), Learning from Things: Method and Theory of Material Culture Studies (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996).
• Alan R. Koslow,“Tools of the Trade: Late-Nineteenth-Century Medical Instruments in Ruth J. Abram, Send Us a Lady Physician”: Women Doctors In America, 1835-1920 (New York: Norton, 1985), 35-36.
• Anne L. McClanan and Karen Rosoff Encarnación (eds), The Material Culture of Sex, Procreation, and Marriage in Premodern Europe (Basingstoke: Palgtave, 2001).
• Daniel Miller (ed.), Material Cultures: Why Some Things Matter (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998).
• Erin O’Connor, Raw Material: Producing Pathology in Victorian Culture (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2000).
• Bryan Pfaffenberger, ‘Social Anthropology of Technology’, Annual Review of Anthropology (1992) 21: 491-516.
• Alisha Rankin, ‘Exotic materials and treasured knowledge: the valuable legacy of noblewomen's remedies in early modern Germany’, Renaissance Studies (2014) 28;4: 533-555.
• C. Berco, ‘Textiles as social texts: syphilis, material culture and gender in Golden Age Spain’, Journal of Social History (2011), 44;3: 785-810.