Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History and Science Studies Program, University of California, San Diego
2019 to 2020
Political Medicine: Science Sovereignty and the Government of Imperial Bodies in the Portuguese Atlantic (1715-1818)
Political Medicine offers a history of bodily autonomy. I historicize the emergence of the individual, physical body throughout the eighteenth century and explore how shifts in regimes of government – from absolute to constitutional monarchy and Republic – were bound with the medicalization of subjecthood. I follow the ripening of this new bodily ideal throughout the Portuguese Atlantic. From Lisbon, to Angola and Brazil, I place physicians in dialogue with Crown officials, surgeons with plantation masters, and natural philosophers with Amerindians to explore how natural knowledge helped reduce the plurality of imperial peoples, places, and languages into a homogeneous, universal ideal of the desirable subject. I argue that whilst the enslaved body was the first endowed with individual physicality, imperial reliance on enslaved labor and corporal commodification thwarted their access to subjecthood. Medical knowledge legitimated human bondage by deeming slaves as objects of knowledge rather than as subjects capable of exercising self-government.