Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Foucault on grave robbing and dissection

Constantin Rauer devotes a very long foot note to Michel Foucault's views on the construction of a myth regarding grave robbing in the 18th Century for medical research. Unfortunately, I only own Foucault's book on the birth of the clinic in a Danish translation, so I am unable to quote from an English translation, but in a chapter on 'opening cadavers' to paraphrase the Danish translation he contends the conception of 18th Century physicians having to secretly and illegally dig up corpses to dissect them. Actually, when you consider the report on Arnod Paole, Flückinger's Visum et Repertum, it should be obvious that even Catholic field surgeons were allowed to exhume and examine corpses in the 1730'ies.

In an earlier post I have quoted from Foucault's book on punishment and prison. Like Philippe Aries in his famous essays on death, Foucault is always interesting for new ways of understanding concepts and institutions.

Post Scriptum: I found an interactive web site about The Birth of the Clinic, which also has a section devoted to the chapter Open up a few corpses.

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