Portrait of an Organ: A Cultural Analysis of Medical Images and Treatments of the Uterus

Humboldt Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Institut für Geschichte der Medizin und Ethik in der Medizin, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany

Professor Emeritus, Department of English, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

University Distinguished Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada


Abstract

Medical imaging of the uterus has a long, rich, and important history; yet, how the cultural past bears on current-day medical thinking and procedures is rarely considered. This paper examines the influential early modern idea of the autonomous womb, its resonance within modern medicine, and its traces in medical imaging and procedures. We argue that descriptions of the autonomous womb, as an isolatable, independent, and active body part, were ingrained into modern reproductive science during its formative period in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and have continued to resonate in modern medical imaging and practices. To demonstrate this phenomenon, we combined methodologies from cultural studies and visual studies to determine how the uterus is viewed and treated in medical science. Ultimately, this historical analysis contextualizes present-day uterine imaging and its associated medical practices such as hysterectomies, surrogacy, uterine transplantations, and extracorporeal gestation.

Keywords


  • Cultural history
  • Medical imaging
  • Modern medicine
  • Pregnancy
  • Reproductive medicine

Full Text


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.22122/ijbmc.v6i2.170