Global Anatomies

Keren Hammerschlag
, Australian National University,

Natasha Ruiz-Gómez, University of Essex,

Spanning from Andreas Vesalius’ De humani corporis fabrica in the sixteenth century through to Henry Gray’s Anatomy of the Human Body in the nineteenth, European anatomical illustration has a venerated history that has been documented, studied and made the subject of major exhibitions.  A few names dominate the historical record—Leonardo da Vinci, William Hunter, George Stubbs, Frank Netter—all men, all white. In the case of some of the most lavishly illustrated anatomical atlases, only the names of the doctors who directed the production are remembered; the men and women who produced the images are relegated to the footnotes, while the names of those pictured are entirely lost to history.  The aim of this panel is to re-evaluate and decentre Western anatomical image-making traditions by bringing them into dialogue with different national, cultural and religious understandings of the inside of the human body.  By developing accounts of human anatomy and its depiction that are global in outlook and scope, we hope to be able to address the following questions: what does anatomical imagery, broadly conceived, reveal about the people who produced it and about how they thought of particular bodies and body types?  Is anatomy universal, local or individual?  Is the anatomical body stable or shifting?  Areas of inquiry may include but are not limited to anatomy and typology; mobility; geography; power; ideology; colonialism; slavery; race; gender; and (the body’s) borders.

Speakers & Abstracts

Grasping with the eyes: Tactile vision in early modern Japanese anatomy

Dr Daniel Trambaiolo (The University of Hong Kong)

Anatomy played a crucial role in 18th- and 19th-century Japan, situated at the juncture between the histories of medical practice, visual culture, and the assimilation of European knowledge. New social and epistemic practices for the observation of dissected bodies developed alongside novel techniques for the visual representation of the body’s internal structures. For practitioners of the art of bone setting, these new forms of anatomical knowledge had immediate practical application, since a detailed and accurate understanding of the skeleton promised to enable more effective manipulation of the normally unseen bones of patients, hidden beneath layers of skin and flesh. But the tactile knowledge required for such manipulations was not always conveyed effectively in the types of images that constituted the main traditions of early modern Japanese anatomical illustration, and bone setters thus developed their own distinctive styles of depiction to communicated this tactile knowledge by visual means.

This paper explores the history of bonesetting images from the mid-eighteenth to the early nineteenth century. I compare these images with older types of body image created for guiding tactile practices of healing, such as acupuncture and abdominal diagnosis charts. I argue that the development of novel styles of representation in these bonesetting images grew from practitioners’ efforts to combine older Chinese and Japanese healing practices with the insights of the new European-inspired anatomy. In producing these images, they found new ways to bridge the gap between visual and tactile approaches to understanding the human body.

Signs of Death: Reading the Body in Forensic Manuals of Late Tokugawa and Early Meiji Japan

Dr Hansun Hsiung (Durham University)

Since the early eighteenth century, as prescribed by shogunal mandate, ad hoc postmortem examinations were conducted in Japan in cases of suspicious deaths, particularly those involving “violent altercations,” “fires,” and any other “abnormal incidents.” In 1874, under the new Meiji government, these examinations came to be institutionalized into a nationwide inquest system. My presentation traces visual and verbal descriptions of the body in forensic manuals from ca. 1730-1890, focused in particular on successive Japanese adaptations of the Yuan-era Wu yuan lu (c. 1308), which persisted as the basic model of forensic medicine even after the introduction of techniques of Western medical jurisprudence in the 1870s. Although scholarship on Japanese anatomical visualizations has to date focused on the work of trained physicians — particularly those associated with the “Dutch Learning” movement that began in the 1770s, I argue that forensic medicine, conducted primarily by non-practitioners, offers a yet unexplored source set for understanding the development of Sino-Japanese anatomy in a manner far less influenced by Dutch anatomical texts. How was the body represented in settings less interested in the functional differentiation of organs than in reading the body for signs of death? How did penal and juridical imperatives shave a separate regime of ocular empiricism?

Presenting the Inner Body— An Examination of Wang Qingren’s Yilin gaicuo
Yutong Li (Princeton University)

This paper focus on the discussion and illustrations of inner organs within a medical treatise Yilin gaicuo (Correcting the Errors in the Forest of Medicine, 1830) by a Chinese physician Wang Qingren. This treatise is important in two respects: 1. The illustrations of inner organs within the book that Wang claims to have witnessed with his own eyes; 2. Wang’s self-positioning in relation to the previous physicians, whom he refers to as guren (lit. ancient people). After a brief introduction of this treatise and its historiography, I will first read in detail Wang’s method of textually framing and fashioning himself as someone departing from existing tradition. I will then examine the depictions of inner organ in this book, which argubly provide the main source of epistemological authority of this work. By comparing the ideas and images that Wang was attempting to challenge and those developed in Yilin Gaiccuo, I wish to illuminate several ways in which Wang Qingren selects from existing materials, and responds to them. The purpose of this paper is not to establish Wang Qingren as an underestimated medicinal guru, nor to picture him as a revolutionary character in anatomy. Instead, it hopes to present an interesting case where Wang, a figure situated during the early 19th century, saw to many possibilities of relating to the past, and harnassed one of them to produce a work realizing and representing his individual potential.

A Global Phantom: Shibata’s Obstetrical Dolls and Cultures of the Body between Japan, Germany and America

Dr Sonia Favi (University of Turin)
Dr Rebecca Whiteley (University of Manchester)

In the 1890s, Koichi Shibata, a Japanese doctor specialising in obstetrics was working in Munich under Dr Franz Winckel. He was one of many medical students who travelled from Japan to Europe in the wake of the forced opening of Japan’s borders to foreign commerce in the 1850s. While in Munich, he published a slim pamphlet that contained two articulated paper dolls, called ‘phantoms’, which could be used to model the different presentations of the fetus in the pelvis. Between 1891 and 1914, editions of Shibata’s phantoms were published in German in Munich, in English in Philadelphia and Montreal, and in Japanese in Tokyo. In each, the little paper dolls – lithograph printed on both sides of pink paper and articulated with metal pins – provided a ‘pocket’ version of the three-dimensional models used to teach obstetrics in medical and midwifery schools all over the world.

Focussing on the phantoms as visual and material objects, as well as ones that travelled globally, in this paper we will explore how they negotiated theories of racial difference, notions of ideal bodies, eugenic practices, and the training of midwives as agents for medico-political initiatives. We will question how Shibata’s phantoms contributed to the creation of a new and specifically Japanese medicine in the Meiji era (1868-1912), in dialogue with colonialising European epistemologies.

Presenting this project in progress, we will discuss some of the challenges we have faced and reflect on collaborative and interdisciplinary working as a method for writing global histories.

The Anatomy of Whiteness in Fourteenth-Century Italy

Dr Robert Brennan (The University of Sydney)

The Italian Renaissance marks a canonical period of exchange between artists and anatomists in Europe. This paper shifts our attention to an earlier moment, exploring collaborations between fourteenth-century anatomists and painters such as Cimabue and Giotto. The aim is to look beyond questions of mimetic accuracy toward a deeper convergence between medical and artistic understandings of the relation between beauty and biological norms, particularly with respect to skin color. The anatomical science of this period, which overlapped with both theology and art theory, selectively appropriated Greek and Arabic sources in a way that enshrined white skin as a physiological norm, just as whiteness was being established as an aesthetic norm in painting. The implications of this conjunction can be observed not only in the visual and textual record, but also in the wider social and economic opportunities that it opened up for painters and physicians, as becomes evident in their mutual capacity to profit off of cosmetics. The result, I suggest, was a physiological understanding of whiteness that remained entrenched among painters and physicians for centuries – certainly well into Leonardo and Vesalius' time – and calls to mind certain aspects of the modern "beauty industry," despite the many differences that separate the fourteenth century from our time.

Anatomising skin colour: Nudes of All Nations

Dr Tania Cleaves (University of Warwick)

This is a talk about the nude: as colour, as state, as art form. It centres on a little-known book, Nudes of All Nations, published in 1936 as part of George Routledge and Sons’ ‘Seen by the Camera’ series. The book takes the armchair traveller on a journey from Britain to New Zealand through 48 photographic studies of nude, retouched bodies representing the ‘national types of female beauty’. Its celebration of global diversity is quickly undermined by anthropometric and primitivising descriptions of these types. It is an odd kind of anatomical atlas, a book about colour that teases us in greys (Batchelor 2014).

My talk will situate these photographs within a broader visual culture of the nude in photography, one that encompassed exotic postcards, erotica, pin-ups, nudist imagery, and the anthropologically-driven documentary photographs of National Geographic. I will also position Nudes of All Nations next to the photographic project Humanae (2012>) by Brazilian-born photographer Angélica Dass. Humanae presents sophisticated composites of c.4,000 portraits across 20 countries, which disrupt racial categorisation and even exceed the limits of representing colour by pushing past Pantone’s nude offerings. Set alongside Nudes of All Nations, Humanae presents another kind of skin ‘atlas’ and an equally unstable rendering of the nudes’ corporeal, racial and conceptual borders.

By focusing on the border and at the (photographic) surface, I will argue these works unsettle our understanding of anatomy’s own fixed definitions/borders and its visual tradition of representing the nude.

The Anatomy of Fascist Europe: Anthropomorphic Cartography as Resistance

Barbora Bartunkova, Yale University

This paper centres around a series of anthropomorphic maps of Europe by the Czech avant-garde artist Adolf Hoffmeister (1902–1973), which draw on sixteenth- and nineteenth-century precedents of Western anthropomorphic cartography and its allegorical language of the body. By exploring how Hoffmeister represented the female body as a terrain onto which contemporary socio-political crises are mapped, I reveal how the artist challenged the rise of fascism and Nazism, while foregrounding Czechoslovakia’s uncertain status amidst the shifting power relations in interwar Europe. My paper analyses Hoffmeister’s explorations of corporeal and geographical limits and the expressive power of anatomical and illness metaphors, while problematising the gendered discourse of the body politic in which they are embedded. I further address the staging of these maps in Jiří Voskovec and Jan Werich’s 1930s antifascist plays at the Liberated Theatre. I argue that the interplay between Hoffmeister’s works and Voskovec and Werich’s performances sought to mobilize the public through a synthesis of two distinct representational regimes—anthropomorphic cartography and popular performance—into a new form of political theatre. Finally, I consider how the documentary film Crisis: A Film of the Nazi Way (1939) visualizes the rhetorical power and didactic potential of Hoffmeister’s maps as part of broader cultures of resistance against Nazi oppression. My paper thus reveals that by reinterpreting the Europe-as-body metaphor across the visual arts, theatre, dance, and film, Hoffmeister and his avant-garde peers articulate radically new, interdisciplinary forms of artistic opposition to fascist ideology and violence in the 1930s and 1940s.

‘Filling the gap’: Challenging traditional narratives of the modern anatomical model

Dr Rebecca Martin, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Anatomical models have broadly been categorised by historians as items used to ‘fill the gap’ in the supply of corpses for medical study. This narrative has grown out of an overemphasis on the work of early modern European anatomists and anatomical model makers, whose anatomical imagery is arguably more visually striking than that of modern western standardised anatomy. However, this narrative does not fit with the generalised and normalised style of anatomical model developed and adopted in nineteenth century western biomedicine. It is this new style of model which has carried forwards into modern medical teaching, both within western biomedical teaching and through colonial exportation.

Research into the supply of corpses in this period shows that the biggest perceived gaps in supply were categorically not addressed by these models. Anatomists of the late nineteenth century lamented their lack of female, infant, and non-white corpses; the latter of which would have been particularly important for their widespread research into anatomical racial difference. However, anatomical models increasingly were white, adult, and male.

As such, there is room for a different epistemic interpretation of the role of these models. My work demonstrates that these models, rather than filling a gap, were designed to represent both an anatomical norm and a hierarchical bodily ideal. I argue that there were cultural and theoretical influences on the change in model style during this period that resulted in a white, male, and adult universal body we are presented with today. In doing so, this paper will connect these models with ideas of racial hierarchy and processes of medical imperialism.



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