The Centre for the History of European Discourses was incorporated in the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities in August 2015.

The information in this website is therefore out of date but retained for archival and staff purposes.

Themed Seminar Series 2009
Semester One, 2009
Issues in the Intellectual History of Medicine
Centre for the History of European Discourses

The history of medicine is probably best thought of as a wide range of types of inquiry, rather than a single, well-defined field. It can involve, among other things, the history of institutions, of technologies, and of outstanding individuals. Within the Centre for the History of European Discourses, following the work of historians such as Foucault, we have been particularly concerned to explore the intellectual history of medicine, taking almost all our examples from the history of sexual medicine. This has led us to ask where and how particular medical concepts emerged, and what were the consequences of their emergence.
In this series of seminars, to be held in the first semester of 2009, we will be seeking to set up conversations with colleagues whose particular interests may not be the history of sexuality, in order to explore issues of intellectual history as they arise in adjacent research for which medicine serves as a gathering place and a broad disciplinary reference. Particular questions that we hope to explore in the seminar series are:
Can we map the history of particular medical professions or specialisations against the development of particular forms of medical knowledge?
Does it happen with any regularity that medical knowledge is developed outside the bounds of the medical profession? To the extent that this occurs, should we speak of the dissemination of knowledge as something other than “vulgarisation”?
Should we, for the sake of methodological rigour, take care not to speak of a particular illness over long periods of time, or across different cultural and intellectual frameworks?
Is it appropriate to speak of competing or incommensurate concepts of health?
Are the methods and aims of a history of race strictly comparable to those of a history of sexuality?
Many historians of medicine speak of the “invention” or “construction” of pathologies as a way of resisting universalising histories, but the use of those terms has been questioned by thinkers such as Ian Hacking. Ought the terms to be maintained in the face of that critique?
Are there useful alternatives that can be deployed in the writing of intellectual histories?
To be held in the CCCS seminar room, level 4, Forgan-Smith Tower on the following Thursdays, 4-6 p.m. :
12 March
Dr Sally Wilde (HPRC)
Knowledge, Power, and Germs: The Rhetoric of Science and the Realities of Medical Practice
26 March
Prof. Peter Cryle (CHED)
Vaginismus in the Nineteenth Century: A Franco-American Story
9 April
Dr Hans Pols (Sydney)
Tropical Medicine, and Acclimatisation and Race in the Dutch East Indies
7 May
Dr Heather Wolffram (CHED)
‘An Object of Vulgar Curiosity’: Stage Mesmerism, Lay Hypnotism and Medicine in Wilhelmine Germany
21 May
Dr Chiara Beccalossi (CHED)
Female Same-Sex Desires: A Developing Pathology in Nineteenth Century Europe
4 June
Dr Ivan Crozier (Edinburgh)
Koro, Genital Theft, or Whizz-Dick? Psychiatry, Culture-Bound Syndromes, and Penis-Shrinking Anxieties
18 June
Prof. Paul Turnbull (Griffith)
An Out of the Way Intellectual: Edward Charles Stirling and Aboriginal Australian Morphology, c. 1890-1911


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