This course offers an introduction to a vast field of historical and sociological research at the intersection of gender, medicine, and science in the modern world. We explore the gendered nature of the three interrelated realms of medical and scientific knowledge production, practices, and technologies, together with the personal experience of health and illness.

After an introduction to the core concepts of the historiography of the field and a discussion of central tenets of feminist epistemologies of science, the course covers a wide range of selected topics through fascinating case studies. These focus on themes including: interpretations of women’s nature (sexuality, fertility and reproduction); the construction of sexual difference (in areas of reproductive biology and anatomy in the 18th -20th centuries); the gendered and value-laden medical practices of surgery and gynaecology; the gendered forms of madness (hysteria, puerperal insanity, and shell shock); the invasion of the female body through modern reproductive technologies; the assumed fragile connection between the female body and the mind; bodily and sexual transformation (reconstructive and aesthetic surgery) and bodily enhancement. We will explore the gendered patient’s shifting position in 20th century medical encounters through the study of modern health social movements (breast cancer and the HIV/AIDS movements). Finally, the personal experience of health/illness and medical intervention will be captured through sensitive microhistorical studies (focussing on childbirth, breast cancer and abortion), while the culturally embedded nature of certain gendered pathologies (such as anorexia and bulimia) will be demonstrated by careful sociological analysis and with the means of cultural studies.