“The Singular Halo”: How Peruvian Doctors Proved a Five-Year-Old Was a Mother in 1939

Sunday, January 5, 2020: 9:10 AM
Riverside Ballroom (Sheraton New York)
Bianca Premo, Florida International University
This paper examines how Peruvian physicians, working in conjunction with government officials, attempted to establish the proof of an anomaly of the human body, and hence a kink in the natural order of the passage of time. It demonstrates the importance of medical imaging, especially X-rays and photographs, to how they made sense of the rare case of Lina Medina, a five-year old girl who gave birth to a healthy baby boy in Lima in 1939. Lina¹s pregnancy came at a time when modernity meant standard ³inscriptions² for medical records and the introduction of technological instrumentation, such as X-ray machines and lab tests, which permitted doctors to diagnose sick bodies based on data derived from, but not located in, the body. Physicians and medical handlers released these kinds of scientific images to Peru¹s anxious and fascinated public in the press and in speeches at the Academy of Medicine, trying to prove the truth of Lina¹s pregnancy and delivery of her son. But such scientific displacements of medical truth from the body were a hard sell. Lina¹s case continued to be haunted by claims of being a hoax, or was perceived as a miracle, in part because truth was still imagined as residing in the body and not in scientific representations of its functions.