It is simply unquestioned here in the 21st century that human bodies are ‘different’ and that the concept of ‘race’ captures fundamental biological and cultural differences between individuals and groups. Despite persistent questioning of the use of racial categories in medicine beginning in the 20th century, from the colonial period forward, white physicians assiduously cataloged these differences and the physical body continued to play a contradictory role in making race real. Physician’s practices of comparison served to define what was ‘black’ and what was ‘white.’ This talk will consider how physicians’ practices of racial comparison produced racial categories like the “Negro.” The “Negroes” described in medical texts were not real representations of African Americans but rather a constructed category defined only by their difference from whites.
Evelynn M. Hammonds is the Barbara Gutmann Rosenkrantz Professor of the History of Science and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. She is currently director of the Project on Race & Gender in Science & Medicine at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard.
Prof. Hammonds was the first Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity at Harvard University (2005-2008). From 2008-2103 she served as Dean of Harvard College. She holds honorary degrees from Spelman College and Bates College. Professor Hammonds’ areas of research include the histories of science, medicine and public health in the United States; race and gender in science studies; feminist theory and African American history. Her most recent book with Rebecca Herzig is, The Nature of Difference: Sciences of Race in the United States from Jefferson to Genomics(2008.) Professor Hammonds’ current work focuses on the intersection of scientific, medical and socio-political concepts of race in the United States.
Bodies / Archives / Databases
Our museums and computers store bodies. Some are physical, appearing as material objects or as the “negative space” around them, and others are abstracted.
The 2016-17 Gender and Sexuality Seminar Series interrogates the space between the archive, site of haunted specificity and historical embeddedness, and the database, locus of standardization and generalizable knowledge about human normativity, pathology, and variation.
All events take place from 5-7 pm and are open to the public.
Sponsored by the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard University and the Committee on Degrees in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality.