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Biomedicine in museums

Historicisation — a postgrad course in Bergen next August

Representing one the peripherally participating institutions in the Nordic Network for Medical History, I’m pleased to broadcast the good news about the upcoming summer course on ‘Historicisation’ to be held in Bergen, 24–26 August, 2011.

The aim of the course is to teach postgraduate students how medical historical research can be ‘historicised’. As the organisers write, “just how historians, social scientists and others proceed in order to do this varies”:

For instance, the ‘proper’ context in which an object of study can be placed may look rather different for historians and medical scientists – as may indeed what constitutes the object of study itself. Historicisation may imply a denaturalisation of certain objects of study, such as the body, illness or disease categories – or an evaluation based on our prevalent knowledge of nature of how specific diseases have historically been dealt with. The narratives into which certain objects of study are written may differ for social scientists and historians: for instance, the historical development of medical institutions may be inscribed in historical narratives as examples of broad societal processes such as ‘modernisation’– or be seen as effectuating social changes in a specific place at a specific time. This part of the summer course discusses the various ways of historicising common objects of study within history of health and medicine. What does it mean to historicise diseases, medical practices or technologies, and how do we go about doing it? What differences are there between historical, social sciences and medical approaches towards understanding historical phenomena, and which consequences follow from different approaches to historical understanding?

Best of all, there is no course fee; the organisers will cover accommodation and meals (but you have to pay for your own travel). Write to with information about your name, project title and disciplinary background. Indicate whether or not you read any of the Nordic languages, and whether or not accommodation in a double room is ok with you. If you have any questions concerning the course please do not hesitate to contact Magnus Registration deadline is 1 May 2011.

On top of this they are circulating a useful reading list:

  • Ankersmit, Frank. Historical representation. Cultural Memory in the Present. Stanford, 2001. Ch. 3 (”Gibbon and Ovid: History as Metamorphosis”, pp. 107-122, and ch. 4 (“The Dialectics of Narrativist Historism”, pp. 123-148.
  • Hammerborg, Morten. Spedalskhet, galeanstalter og laboratoriemedisin – endringsprosesser i medisinen på 1800-tallet i Bergen. Ph.d.avhandling, Universitetet i Bergen 2009, pp. 19-41 (kapittel 1: Beretningen om et sammenbrudd).
  • Lie, Anne Kveim. Radesykens tilblivelse. Historien om en sykdom., Universitetet i Oslo 2008, pp. 11-29, 209-226.
  • Davidson, Roger and Lesley A. Hall. Introduction. In Davidson, Roger and Lesley A. Hall. Sex, Sin and Suffering. Venereal Disease and European society since 1870. London and New York 2001. pp. 1-14.
  • Dinges, Martin. Social History of medicine in Germany and France in the Late Twentieth Century: From the History of Medicine toward a History of health. In Huisman, Frank and John Harley Warner (eds). Locating Medical History. The Stories and their meaning. Baltimore and London 2004, pp. 209-236.
  • Duffin, Jacalyn. Lovers and livers: disease concepts in history. Toronto: University of Toronto  Press, 2005.
  • Jordanova, Ludmilla. The Social Construction of Medical Knowledge. In Huisman, Frank and John Harley Warner (eds). Locating Medical History. The Stories and their meaning. Baltimore and London 2004, pp. 338-363.
  • Roelcke, Volker. Changing historiographies and professional identities: nazi medical atrocities in post-World War II German psychiatry. In Andresen, Astri, William Hubbard and Teemu Ryymin (eds). International and Local Approaches to Health and Health Care. Oslo 2010, pp.49-78.
  • Rosenberg, Charles E. Explaining Epidemics. In Rosenberg; Charles E. (ed.). Explaining Epidemics and Other Studies in the History of Medicine. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992, pp. 293-304.
  • Warner, John Harley. The History of Science and the Sciences of Medicine. Osiris 10 (1995), pp. 164-193.
  • Wilson, Adrian. On the History of Disease Concepts: The Case of Pleurisy. History of Science, 38:3, 2000, pp. 271-319.
Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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