Bodily Disciplines and Disciplined Bodies: Instruments, Skills and Victorian Therapeutics

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Abstract

Electricity and the kinds of instruments, practices and skills that defined it were important resources for managing the body throughout the Victorian period. Late Victorian medical electricians differed vociferously over the vexed question of the relationship between the bodies they treated and the kinds of skills and practices needed for such treatment. This paper suggests that arguments about how to treat the body through electricity were also arguments about what the body was. Marginal medical men trying to carve out careers for themselves by turning to medical electricity redefined the body so that it became subject to their discipline and their technologies. To some degree at least, our own contemporary perception of how Victorians viewed their own bodies as a source of sexual danger in need of careful and rigorous discipline is the outcome of nineteenth-century medical electricians' efforts to define the body in such a way that it could become subject to electrical intervention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-259
Number of pages19
JournalSocial History of Medicine
Volume19
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Keywords

  • medical electricity
  • measurement
  • medical instruments
  • sexuality
  • specialisation

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