Military Scale and Medical Bodies: The Development of the Role of the Japanese Medic

Saturday, January 7, 2017: 2:10 PM
Centennial Ballroom G (Hyatt Regency Denver)
Reut Harari, Princeton University
While paradoxical in nature, war and medicine have been intertwined throughout history. Yet, largely from the eighteenth century, militaries began enlisting medicine into their lines. This change both accompanied and resulted from changes in the scale of warfare – numerically and spatially. As militaries grew, so grew the number of bodies sent out to war, and as a result - also of the sick and wounded. Concomitantly, particularly from the 19th century, the geographical distance militaries traversed grew as well, expanding the distance between soldiers and available medical care. These changes of scale corresponded and contributed to an equally significant change in the way the soldier’s body was perceived by the military and by the state, which mobilized him to fight in its name. Focusing on the transnational case of the Japanese military medic, this paper argues that this new medical role developed from a combination of the abovementioned factors. As militaries embedded medicine into their lines, they developed a finer definition of the structure of military medical care and its personnel. At the forefront of this process stood the medic - a soldier who had no medical experience prior to his enlistment. Nonetheless, the military entrusted him with crucial medical responsibilities. Focusing on the context of the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-95), this paper would demonstrate how the development of the Japanese medic role coincided with that in Europe and was fashioned by global changes in the nature of war and medicine, and by the unique context of the turbulent Meiji era (1868-1912). Moreover, it would argue that as warfare expanded, medicine moved closer to the site of battle - a movement which the medic was to lead.