The issue of what exactly comprises damage to the physical body appears in a number of contemporary debates within medicine and more widely, and forms the main topic of the Museum’s Friends’ Secretary’s PhD research. For example, what constitutes modern categories such as “self-harm”, addiction and cosmetic body modification, and how have these been constructed medically and socially in relation to body, mind and self? Such topics have been previously explored by the “Damaging the Body” seminar series, co-organised by the Friends’ Secretary. By adopting a historical perspective, this seminar series has encouraged reflection on medical and non-medical concepts of damage, suggesting that the very idea of “damage” is problematic and unstable. Two forthcoming debates will explore these issues in more detail, providing four very different perspectives on a particular topic before opening up discussion to a public audience.
On Monday 21 May, St Bartholomew’s Hospital Pathology Museum & Gallery will host Foreign Bodies? – Self-Injury, Surgery and Performance, a panel discussion considering the variety of ways in which acts and objects are attributed medical, social, political and aesthetic meaning. Drawing on their own research relating to the topic of so-called self-inflicted injury within history, literature and the arts, specialists will open up broader philosophical and historical ideas for debate with the audience. Speakers are: Emma Spary (University of Cambridge); Louise Hide (Birkbeck Pain Project, Birkbeck, University of London); Mary Cappello (University of Rhode Island) and Dominic Johnson (Queen Mary, University of London). For full titles and event details, visit the Damaging the Body website.
On Thursday 28 June, in conjunction with the University of the West of England Gender Studies Research Group, a debate at the Watershed in Bristol will discuss Eating Disorders and Gender in Culture, Psychology, History and Literature. Discussion will focus on cultural, historical and literary depictions of anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders. It will question how eating disorders are (or have been) perceived differently in relation to gender, thereby interrogating in what ways – biologically, culturally, and symbolically – extreme under-eating has been seen to damage male and female bodies differently and how this damage is described and contextualized in gendered terms. Speakers are: Charlotte Boyce (University of Portsmouth); Helen Malson (University of the West of England); Neula Kerr-Boyle (UCL) and Debra Ferreday (Lancaster University).
Both events will start at 6.30pm, with admission from 6pm. There is no need to book and admission is free. Refreshments will be provided. For more information on the “Damaging the Body” project, visit the website.