Bridging Divides: Inscribing Racialized Bodies into the Narratives of Science, Medicine, and Beyond

Lunchtime Lectures
Wednesday, November 25, 2020
1:00 p.m.–2:00 p.m.

The body—with definite article—presents a peculiar scientific and medical object of inquiry. On the one hand, via its naturalized status, the body was rendered into the exclusive domain of biological, medical inquiry; a domain which, as per its assumed transhistorical nature was deemed as devoid of history and knowable only through laboratory work. On the other hand, however, the modern worldview of body-as-biology presupposes a telos of stasis and stability: the idea that modern ideas of humanity, liberal individuality, and the Western somatization of being, represent not only an ontological fact but a permanent, immutable reality.

This talk will tackle the disciplinary boundaries delineated by the historiography of medicine and the sciences in order to consider what can be gained when historians engage with non-canonical fields like Black studies. By engaging with the genealogies of fields like history and philosophy of science (HPS) and science and technology studies (STS), Marcos’s talk will center the elisions performed both by archival expectations about (single) authorship, and tacit assumptions about who can embody reason vs. who can only be conceived to signify its object of study. To understand how the 1800s became the century of the body—as a predictive, empirical, and epistemic object of knowledge-making in, inter alia, medicine, surgery, anthropology, sexology, and criminology—and  how notions of modern, prototypical humanity were construed, this talk will consider eighteenth-century scientific formations and categories of knowledge about the not-yet-modern-human while also paying close attention to constructions of humanity elaborated in colonial contexts.

About the Speaker


Patrícia Martins Marcos under a flowering tree

Courtesy of Patrícia Martins Marcos

Patrícia Martins Marcos is a PhD candidate in the Department of History and the Science Studies Program at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). She is a scholar of Portuguese colonialism and postcolonialism whose work is situated at the intersections between STS, history of medicine, material culture, and visuality, as well as queer and Black studies. Her work excavates assumptions about bodily normativity and examines how the production of a prototypical, speciated vision of humanity was negotiated throughout the 18th century in the Afro-Luso-Brazilian Atlantic. Marcos is also an associate editor at the History of Anthropology Review and editor at H-Net Atlantic and H-West Africa. Her work has been supported by the Consortium for the History of Science Technology and Medicine, UCSD’s Black Studies Project, the American Philosophical Society, the Huntington Library, and the John Carter Brown, among others. She is currently the graduate student representative for the Forum for the History of Health, Medicine, and the Life Sciences–History of Science Society.

About the Series

Now combined with our Saturday Speaker Series, Lunchtime Lectures take a rigorous and entertaining approach to exploring topics for scholars and anyone interested in stories about the history of science. The talks help expand perceptions of the nature of science and how it’s done. This season, our speakers are exploring issues of gender, race, and colonialism in the history of the physical and biological sciences from the early modern period to the 21st century.