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History Talks in 2021

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  • Photograph of a black woman.

    “Savages cry easily and are afraid of the dark”: What It Means to Talk about Race and African American Health

    2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. ET—This talk will be live-streamed globally, and archived, by NIH VideoCasting.

    Naa Oyo A. Kwate, PhD—Associate Professor of Africana Studies and Associate Professor of Human Ecology, Rutgers University, and recipient of a 2018 NLM G13 Award for Scholarly Works in Biomedicine and Health/Publications for Race and the Transformation of the Food Environment: Fast food, African Americans, and the Color Line, 1955-1995.

    Image copyright Christophe Delory

    Read an interview with Naa Oyo Kwate on Circulating Now

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    This talk examines the impact of racism on African American health, looking at pervasive inequities that drive higher rates of morbidity and death in the United States. Where once explicitly racist theories of African American bodies and minds dominated public and scientific discourse, contemporary understandings of racial inequities in health tend to use less incendiary language, but still conceive of poor health as fundamentally a problem of individuals. Such framing centers health behaviors including diet and visits to the doctor and leaves the role of social structures uninterrogated. This talk explores the deeply entrenched effects of racism on African American health through institutional policies and practices that defeat socioeconomic opportunity and cause overexposure to harms; stereotypes; day-to-day encounters with racism; and other aspects of American social life.

    This talk is co-sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, Office of Digital Humanities, as part of the recently reaffirmed partnership between NLM and NEH to collaborate on research, education, and career initiatives

    About James H. Cassedy

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  • A white woman with grey hair and blue glasses.

    Placing Women in Medicine: Maude Abbott and the Archaeology of Friendships

    2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. ET—This program will be live-streamed globally, and archived, by NIH VideoCasting.

    Annmarie Adams, PhD—Professor, Department of Social Studies of Medicine (Chair) and School of Architecture, McGill University, Montreal

    Read an interview with Annmarie Adams on Circulating Now

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    This talk is drawn from a chapter of Professor Adams’s forthcoming biography of Canadian physician Maude Abbott. It explores how a prominent woman negotiated relationships during the early twentieth century. Abbott spent most of her career at McGill University in Montreal, as curator of its medical museum and as a researcher in congenital heart disease. Nonetheless her network of correspondents was vast. Engaging an approach Professor Adams calls “friendship archaeology,” she will excavate Abbott’s relationship with two powerful American physicians, Paul Dudley White and Emanuel Libman. Archival evidence, including the Libman papers held by the NLM History of Medicine Division, turns up links with Nobel prize nominees and winners, revealing how close Abbott lived to that world.

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  • Photograph of a white woman with paintbrushes and anatomical art.

    Dissecting Gender: Reframing Anatomical History Through the Female Body

    2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. ET—This program will be live-streamed globally, and archived, by NIH VideoCasting.

    Allison Hill-Edgar, MD, MFA—2020 NLM Michael E. DeBakey Fellow in the History of Medicine, Artist and Independent Scholar, New York Academy of Art, and the Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, NY

    Read an interview with Allison Hill-Edgar on Circulating Now

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    The female body has been a part of anatomical history from its inception, but usually as the reproductive other to the male body. This presentation re-examines the Western anatomical tradition through the lens of the female body in order to elucidate factors that have framed our understanding of and approach to gender differences in medicine and society. Anatomical studies exist at the intersection of medicine and art, as well as observation and interpretation. Consequently, they reveal much about the practices, beliefs, biases and power dynamics of the cultures in which they were created. Drawing primarily on images and sources held by the NLM History of Medicine Division, this presentation will share an array of often marginalized anatomical works, and highlight many of the related subjects, patients, medical practitioners, anatomists, artists, and activists. This archival analysis reveals the impact of anatomical visual history on current culture and medical practice today.

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  • Photograph of a white woman with white hair.
    Photograph of a white woman with white hair.

    Peril in the Air: Pollution Activism on Film

    2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. ET—This program will be live-streamed globally, and archived, by NIH VideoCasting.

    Sarah Eilers, MA, MLS—Archivist/Manager, Historical Audiovisuals, NLM History of Medicine Division

    Angela Saward, BA, MTA, Research Development Specialist (Moving Image & Sound), Research Development Team, Collections & Research, Wellcome Collection

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    Moving images are a powerful medium for conveying the impact of polluted air on humans and other living things. This often-invisible menace can have catastrophic effects. In 1948, the Donora Smog in Pennsylvania killed 20 and sickened half of the town’s population, while in the UK the Great Smog of 1952 led to 12,000 deaths—and a Clean Air Act just four years later. Add to these events Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring, and the modern environmental movement took root. Legislative and societal changes followed on both sides of the Atlantic. In this presentation of select US and British films on air pollution and the environment, Sarah Eilers and Angela Saward explore the intersection of filmmaking, government, and medicine as they not only respond to, but attempt to drive, this shift of the collective mind. Vivid imagery and dramatic narration make clear the power of film to tell a story that words alone often do not.

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  • Photograph of a young woman.

    A Family Drama: The Sexual Politics of Smallpox Vaccination in the Spanish Empire

    2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. ET—This program will be live-streamed globally, and archived, by NIH VideoCasting.

    Farren Yero, PhD—Postdoctoral Associate, Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies, Duke University

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    In 1804, the Spanish Crown introduced the smallpox vaccine to its empire, along with orders that vaccination be voluntary and that parents had a right to consent. Yet as families weighed the meaning of this decision, doctors turned to the slave trade, securing the vaccine and its future through bondage. Analyzing this polemic and the politicization of preventative health, my talk draws on collections of the NLM History of Medicine Division, including institutional regulations and vaccination rosters from the Spanish Americas, to trace the vaccine through the greater Caribbean and ask how and why colonial authorities selectively protected voluntary vaccination. Foregrounding the methods by which the Spanish sought parental consent, I examine the expectations about parenthood, childrearing, and the family that underscored their efforts, demonstrating how long-standing investments in a patriarchal familial order were reanimated through the conservation and dissemination of the vaccine. In doing so, the talk highlights the racial and sexual politics of vaccination and its contested relationship to slavery, freedom, and motherhood in the Atlantic World.

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Speaker Interviews on Our Blog

About the NLM History Talks

These talks sponsored by the NLM History of Medicine Division promote awareness and use of NLM and related historical collections for research, education, and public service in biomedicine, the social sciences, and the humanities. The series also supports the commitment of the NLM to recognize the diversity of its collections—which span ten centuries, encompass a range of digital and physical formats, and originate from nearly every part of the globe—and to appreciate the diversity of individuals who value these collections and use them to advance their research, teaching, and learning.

All talks are free and during the remainder of 2020 will be held virtually, live-streamed globally and subsequently archived by NIH VideoCasting. Livestreaming and archiving of all NLM History Talks are made possible through a generous gift to the NLM from the Michael E. DeBakey Medical Foundation. The NLM is authorized to accept donations in support of its mission.

Read interviews with our speakers on our blog Circulating Now   for a variety perspectives on the history of medicine and the historical collections at NLM.

Stay informed about NLM History Talks on Twitter at #NLMHistTalk.

Last Reviewed: June 7, 2021