Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Images of Research, Take 2

Update: My entry was one of twenty-five semi-finalists in the 2016 Image of Research competition!

Editor's Note: While I was working at the archives and libraries in Germany, I entered a photography contest for images of research. That image didn't win. I have decided to try again.

Inside My Insides

The questions that drive my research are, How is medical and scientific knowledge created? How does it circulate? In my dissertation, I looked specifically at ideas about food and bodies in late-nineteenth and early twentieth-century Saxon Germany. I believe that knowledge about bodies extends along a spectrum from recognized experts like physicians to laypeople and patients, who know their own bodies best. This is an image of the “anatomical flap doll” in Friedrich Eduard Bilz’s extremely popular manual, The New Naturopathy: Text- and Reference Book of Natural Healing and Hygiene (1925). Far from anatomical or physiological knowledge being the sole property of doctors and scientists, it actually circulated widely in traveling hygiene shows and books such as this one. Germans assimilated facts about calories and the digestive system, opinions about what a healthy meal looks like, and statistics about agriculture and public health into a mental model of the German nation comprised of German citizens that I call “the telescopic body.” This body concept stretched from the molecular through the communal to the (inter)national and informed medical practice, social movements, and political decisions. Rather than merely having an inside and an outside, the telescopic body’s insides had insides.

I took this photograph in the library of the GermanHygiene Museum in Dresden.

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