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The currency of the clinical photograph : science, photography and the dream of the legible body

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The currency of the clinical photograph : science, photography and the dream of the legible body

Browne, Meredith (2005) The currency of the clinical photograph : science, photography and the dream of the legible body. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

Clinical photographs, images of the body made under the auspices of science, have a powerful rhetorical effect. These seemingly objective representations have had the effect of constituting and legitimating definitions of normalcy, class, criminality, race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality advanced by a range of scientific projects in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The development of a theoretical and methodological framework for the study of clinical photography occupies the first half of this project. Drawing on multiple disciplines, it addresses such central issues as: the rhetoric and culture of science, its relationship to the larger culture, the representation of difference, the currency of the photograph, and the role of the visual in the exercise of hegemonic power. Three case studies using this framework follow. The first traces the range of meanings imputed to a single image between its 1878 creation and its current status as part of the Burns Archive. The second addresses the influence of modernist visual culture on the aesthetic reforms advocated in didactic manuals as part of the professionalization of clinical photography which followed World War Two. The third considers American psychologist William H. Sheldon's reliance on photography for his somatotype studies in which the definition of normal masculinity is the main, though unacknowledged, theme. Finally, visual art practice, including my own, is considered as a complement to the scholarly approaches described above, in that both are avenues for the disruption of naturalized, common sense assumptions about human difference and the role of clinical photography in its definition.

Divisions:Concordia University > School of Graduate Studies
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Browne, Meredith
Pagination:xi, 331 leaves : ill. ; 29 cm.
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:School of Graduate Studies
Date:2005
Thesis Supervisor(s):Howes, David
ID Code:8228
Deposited By:Concordia University Libraries
Deposited On:18 Aug 2011 14:19
Last Modified:18 Aug 2011 14:19
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