Anthropology and Photography 2014 (1)

British Museum, Clore Centre, 29-31 May 2014

(P22)

Photography, Medicine and Anthropology

Location Sackler B
Date and Start Time 30 May, 2014 at 16:00

Convenor

Christos Lynteris (University of St andrews)  email
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Short Abstract

The panel invites papers on the relation between photography, medicine and anthropology focusing on anthropological perspectives of medical photography and on photographic practices employed in the field by medical anthropologists.

Long Abstract

The panel invites papers discussing the relation between anthropology, photography and medicine, focused on the anthropological analysis of medical photography and the employment of photography as an ethnographic method by medical anthropologists. The panel will explore anthropological approaches of medical photography, from its colonial-medical roots to its relation to new techniques of imaging in the lab and the clinic today. Questions raised include the following: to what extent were colonial medical photography and anthropological photography part of the same visual paradigm? In which ways has the photographic lens been employed in conjunction with the microscope lens in constituting infectious diseases and epidemics as social facts? How does anthropology approach the production, circulation and consumption of medical photography in cyberspace in the age of social media? At the same time, the panel will examine how medical anthropologists who use photography in their fieldwork relate to ethical and aesthetic challenges pertinent to this ethnographic practice. Are there ethnomethodological questions particular to medical anthropological photography? Do subjects examined by medical anthropologists, from clinical practice to non-biomedical healing to social responses to epidemics, pose identical ethical and aesthetic challenges when it comes to photographic representation? How can medical anthropological photography overcome biomedical imaging conventions and engage with its subject in an ethnographically meaningful way? Finally, what is the relation between the anthropological critique of medical photography and medical anthropological photography? The panel seeks to bring the two fields in a fertile and inter-reflexive dialogue that will foster analytical and methodological tools for medical anthropology.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Picturing Chinese Wet-Markets as Pandemic Ground Zero

Author: Christos Lynteris (University of St andrews) email

Short Abstract

The paper will examine the photography of Chinese wet markets which epidemiologists hold to be the breeding grounds of new animal-to-human pathogens (e.g. influenza) and whether the resulting visual regime orientalises influenza, contributing to a Sinophobic imagination of the “next pandemic”.

Long Abstract

Dominant trends in epidemiological research and medical journalism today share a belief in the "next pandemic", a microbiological catastrophe of biblical proportions that threatens to annihilate humanity. Expected to arise out of a zoonotic spillover, in most cases a newly emergent or mutant form of animal-to-human influenza, the ground zero of the "next pandemic" is located in so-called wet markets, live animal markets in East Asia and China in particular. Focusing on photographic representations of wet markets since the 1997 bird flu outbreak in Hong Kong, this paper will critically examine the visual regime constructed around and supporting this outbreak narrative. The paper will inquire whether this photography of the imagined as dangerous proximity and contact between animals and humans in fact orientalises influenza and contributes to a Sinophobic imagination of the "next pandemic".

The diseased body and the global subject: the circulation and consumption of an iconic "AIDS" photograph in East Africa

Author: Ruth Prince (University of Oslo) email

Short Abstract

This paper focuses on a photograph of a young man “before” and “after” treatment for AIDS, which has been made into a health education poster in Kenya. I explore the production, circulation and reception of this image, as it draws globalized discourses into new forms of self-fashioning.

Long Abstract

This paper focuses on one photographic image, which has become iconic of the journey of AIDS patients in Kenya: the representation of a young man's diseased and decimated body "before" treatment with ART, and of the same man "after" treatment and the restoration of his body to health and life. With its strong "conversion" narrative, this image has been used as a key tool in AIDS education, to persuade people to get an HIV test and enroll into free treatment programs, which are funded by the US. Taken in Haiti, by medical anthropologist-activist Paul Farmer, of one of his patients, the photograph is considered by Kenyans to portray one of their own countrymen. Unlike earlier forms of health education in Kenya, the poster seeks to convert people to a scientific way of seeing disease not through a dissemination of scientific knowledge (of the HI virus, for example), but through a shocking image, visceral recognition and a direct appeal to the viewer's experience. I explore the production, circulation and reception of this image, its social history and its agency, as it enters into local conventions of display and draws globalized connections, discourses and practices as well as more intimate relations into new forms of self-fashioning. In being stretched across different scales, from the global to the national, and in being displayed in public as well as intimate, domestic spaces, this photographic object creates new relationships between these spaces and the actors that inhabit them.

Imaging War: Medical photography as political photography

Author: Zeynep Gursel (Macalester College) email

Short Abstract

This paper investigates albums sent to Sultan Abdulhamit II containing x-rays of wounds sustained by Ottoman soldiers in the Turkish-Greek war of 1897. By proposing that we see xrays as images of the battlefield, it challenges the separation between medical imagery and political photography.

Long Abstract

Among the 911 albums that comprise photo enthusiast Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamit II's vast collection is one introducing xray technology to the sovereign. X-ray technology was discovered by German W C Roentgen in 1895. Three other albums contain x-rays of wounds sustained by Ottoman soldiers in the Turkish-Greek war of 1897. In fact at least according to one historian of radiology the earliest use of Xrays in military surgery was in the Ottoman empire in a makeshift hospital on the palace ground for wounded soldiers.

This paper rethinks depictions of political events through the example of these x-ray photographs. I argue that direct depictions are not the only ways in which political events and military battles enter the visual archives. Imaging in the sense of medical imaging is the representation of an object for the purpose of medical diagnosis or data collection, the transformation of data into a replica of a different form. Just as the x-ray image showing the shrapnel in a soldier's wrist also tells a story of war without being a representation of the battlefield, the larger collection of Abdülhamid II's photographs taken together can be read as a form of imaging the empire at a critical historical moment. This paper challenges common sense separations between medical photography and political photography by turning to an example where the sovereign who orders his army into battle is the same person who allows for the use of a new technology that renders soldiers' bodies visible in new ways.

Clinical Photographs of People with AIDS

Author: Lukas Engelmann (University of Edinburgh) email

Short Abstract

The paper will demonstrate that the comparison of a clinical framing of photographs with the objections to popular and artistic photography of People with Aids reveals the conflation of disease morphology and patient identity as a characteristic feature of photography both in and outside of the medical realm.

Long Abstract

The photography of persons with AIDS (PWA) has been the subject to numerous critiques in relation to the public representation of PWA. Instead of following this line of thought, this paper will follow the clinical value of photography and will raise the question, of how photography contributes to the medical making of AIDS. This paper will therefore adress the photography of PWA, but will focus on clinical photography to contribute both to a broader understanding of visualizations in the production of disease entities and to a positioning of photography in the medical history of AIDS. To differenciate these perspectives, I will engage with the Fleckian term "ways of seeing" to engage with those procedures that make photographs readable and thus disease visible. I will show, that the comparison of a clinical framing of photographs with the objections to popular and artistic photography of PWA reveals the conflation of disease morphology and patient identity as a characteristic feature of photography both in and outside of the medical realm.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.