Bodily Disciplines: Writing at the Interface of History and Public Health

AHA Session 100
Saturday, January 3, 2015: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Gibson Suite (New York Hilton, Second Floor)
Alexandra Stern, University of Michigan
Christopher Hamlin, University of Notre Dame
Sarah Hodges, University of Warwick
Julie Livingston, New York University and Rutgers University–New Brunswick
Samuel Roberts, Columbia University

Session Abstract

What makes the body 'knowable' for historians? This roundtable brings together scholars writing public health histories in order to examine the critical opportunities and challenges posed by the optics of public health.  Epidemiological data sets, corporeal symptoms, or therapeutic institutions offer up particularly rich points of entry for historiographical 'access' to individual bodies--and crucially-- to collective populations. In many places across the globe, public health--and its regimes of intimate surveillance--has come to constitute the invention and reinvention of modern statecraft. However, when historians traffic in public health, we are often expected to be 'useful.' In particular, we are expected to deliver concrete policy recommendations. How is it possible to reconcile the tensions between the imperative for preventative interventions with the fact that critical history is not a predictive science?

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