My work explores the ways that visuality, sexuality, and biology became inextricably linked through the production and circulation of medical illustrations in the nineteenth century. These images provided embodied evidence of medical theories that acted as scientific explanations for a biological hierarchy that placed white, European, male bodies at the top and pathologized all others.
By employing Enlightenment rhetoric of objective truth and scientific observation, nineteenth-century medical practitioners wove culturally-defined categories of racial and gendered identity into the biological foundations of modern medicine. The entanglement of invented racial and gendered hierarchies with genuine anatomical discovery has created a legacy of marginalization and alienation (from both the Western medical establishment and their own bodies) for non-white, non-male patients whose lived experiences do not reflect the pathological anatomies described in medical texts, practices, and images.
I will focus my time in Turin on completing my book, Embodied Medical Mythologies, which explores the social and visual networks through which individuals navigated their own position in a hierarchical culture dominated by biologized identity categories. This book establishes medicalized strategies of white male bonding, then reveals how non-white and non-male actors could manipulate those pathways of socialization to position themselves as privileged insiders, exempt outsiders, or combinations of both.