Science, Medicine and Culture Seminars, Oxford, Autumn 2015

October 28-November 25, 2015

All seminars take place from 5.30 – 7.00, in Seminar Room 3 at St Anne’s College, Oxford. All are welcome, and drinks will be served after each seminar.

Wednesday 28 October 2015

Dr Madeleine Wood, Queen Mary University of London, ‘A ‘heart hard as a nethermillstone’: The relational dynamics of Victorian ‘addiction’’

This paper explores the way in which substance use and compulsive behaviours are represented in mid-Victorian literature and medicine when read not as an individual experience, but as one that operates between selves. By looking at gambling, as well as alcoholism and opium use, we see how the disruption of intimate relationships comes to be situated within the emergent discourse of ‘addiction’ in the nineteenth century.

Wednesday 11 November 2015

Dr Claire Jones, King’s College London, ‘Septic Subjects: Infection and Occupational Risk in British Hospitals, 1870-1970’

This paper addresses the effects of hospital-acquired infection (and practices surrounding its prevention and control) on hospital staff during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It focuses on four British hospitals associated with the infection control practices of Joseph Lister and Florence Nightingale – King’s College and St Thomas’ in London and the Royal Infirmaries of Edinburgh and of Glasgow in Scotland – and pays particular attention to the experiences of nurses within these hospitals. Hospital nursing registers, alongside other evidence including oral testimonies, reveal that while nurses felt lucky to be part of the nursing profession as a worthy vocation, many also became ill at various points throughout their lives as a direct result of working on wards with infected patients. By framing the discussion in terms of occupational risk, this paper argues that the introduction and enforcement of hospital infection control procedures were not solely for the benefit of the patient but also for the staff who treated them. A healthy workforce also formed an important part of hospital efficiency metrics.

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Professor Karen Sayer, Leeds Trinity University, ‘Radical Requiems: the return of the past in British agriculture, 1850-1950’

Through art and literature, the press and even advertising, we think we know what a farm is, but how it is managed and what it is for? Post-war to the mid-C20th the question of when a farm is not a farm was raised in the British press. ‘Where does one draw the line’, one correspondent to The Guardian asked in 1964, ‘between the traditional farmer and his confrontation with the elements and these new industrialised farmers who create their own hazards (and our consumer hazards) by treating their stock as belt-conveyor units?’ This paper will address this kind of juxtaposition/binary opposition — traditional agriculture vs. industrialised agriculture (at least re the farmed animal) – as an artefact and consider where and when this artefact was produced and what effect it had. Requiem for lost traditions harnessed the public’s conscience, and resulted in legislative change, (improved animal welfare from the point of view of ethologists); but, farmers and producers were not slow to capitalise: the naturalised countryside, rescued for the good of the consumer, was always for sale. In essence, the theme of the paper can be captured by the question ‘what is a farm’?

The Science, Medicine and Culture seminar series is co-hosted by the Diseases of Modern Life and Constructing Scientific Communities projects at the University of Oxford.

Posted: October 08, 2015