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Dinner Speech - Alison M. Downham Moore

Prof. Dr. Alison M. Downham Moore
History of medicine
Western Sydney University, Australia

Sex, Gender and Ageing: An Integrative Global History of Modern Medicine
When Mar 04, 2020
from 05:30 PM to 07:00 PM
Where FRIAS, Albertstr. 19, Seminar room
Contact Name
Attendees Universitätsoffen / open to university members
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Sex, Gender and Ageing: An Integrative Global History of Modern Medicine


The history of biomedicine has been characterized by a series of oscillations between views of men and women as equivalent and views of them as radically differentiated. Concepts of aging were pulled precisely along this axis at the turn of the nineteenth century, giving rise simultaneously to a medical literature on the universalist concept of a ‘critical age’ shared by everyone around the age of 50, but also giving rise to a new concept of ‘menopause’ as a set of symptoms specific to women and signaled by the cessation of menstruation. Both these view remain current in our biomedical models still today. Previous studies of medical concepts of the sexes have suffered from a tendency to reduce entire eras to single discursive currents, whereas a close reading of multiple sources reveals important divergences of medical thought occurring simultaneously at every moment. There has also been a tendency for historians in this field either to focus narrowly on just 1 specific culture that was actually part of a larger transnational conversation, or to generalize about ‘the West’ on the basis of American or British sources only. We also cannot afford to think in purely culturally-reductionist terms about this period of early biomedicine. Concepts of aging in the nineteenth century were not only effected by novel discursive currents but by dramatic social changes giving rise to larger urban middle-class consumers of medical advice and products, as well as changes in corporeal lifeways that generated novel physiological pressures on aging bodies. These pressures today have generalized to numerous cultures throughout the world in the rise of global living standards and life expectancies.