Appel à communication : Panel « Understanding state and society through pathology : Ottoman and post-Ottoman notions of disease (18th-21st century) « , WOCMES, Ankara (Turquie), 18-22/08/2014 — LIMITE : 31/01/2014

Title : Understanding state and society through pathology : Ottoman and post-Ottoman notions of disease (18th-21st century)

Panel organizers : Gülhan Balsoy-Erkaya, Philippe Bourmaud & Ceren İlikan.

This panel invites social historians and anthropologists of medicine, specialists of the Ottoman and post-Ottoman world, to question notions and dynamics of disease. We suggest that disease enables us to question the State and its social construction, because it undermines and reconstructs foundational concepts of the Modern State : territory, temporal continuity, modernity, administration and population.

As Allison Bashford reminds us regarding the construction of borders, disease may be the undoing of border arrangements and territorial sovereignty, but it is also a consideration which produces mechanisms of sovereignty, on the border and within borders. In like manner, Sylvia Chiffoleau has shown, in her recent study of epidemics and international organizations, that disease was not only a disruption of individual and social time, possibly bringing public action to a halt, but also a consideration upon which collective actors produced new temporalities.

Disruptive as it can be, disease works both as a perpetual reminder of the limits of technology and social engineering as a basis for progress, and an object of scientific enquiry and technological invention. As such, it elicits ambiguous reactions on the part of the practitioners and of the patients, alternatively « modern » and « traditionalist ». In particular, psychological notions of disease and ethnopsychiatry have suggested that universal notions of disease should be taken with a grain of salt, and that the mechanisms on which professional knowledge of disease is based should often be reinterpreted culturally. Disease appears to have been a contested site where patients and professionals, as well as civil society and the State, have been competing to define modernity in a regional context. Moreover, disease is variable and impredictible ; as such, it is both an object where the State learns ways of « seeing like a state » (James C. Scott), statistically and probabilities, and of knowing and controlling populations through quantitative tools ; and a serious headache for State administrations, in their drive to conduct linear, continuous, progressive, even developmentalist policies. Epicemic panics have shown the limits of the populationist model of administration. How have successive and contiguous States been dealing with them ? When States have failed, what other kinds of agencies have been mobilized in the face of spreading disease ?

Disease is understood here both as a general profane category or sensation (feeling and being sick) and as a variety, based on scientific procedures of research, classifications and incertainty. In epistemological terms, disease has been the basis of a traditionalist approach, first in the debates between clinicians and hygienists, then in the face of newer approaches such as social medicine and environmental health. And yet, the concern for disease is still central in the build-up of national and international policy priorities. This resilience of disease-based approaches of medicine provides the rationale for the ample time scope of this panel. Moreover, studying disease and diseases over three centuries will help us give an overview of the influence of the social history of medicine in Middle Eastern studies.

We would in particular welcome proposals on the following themes :

* nosographies in the era of Pastorian, biomedical and biostatistical approaches of disease

* emic vs. etic understandings of disease

* social diseases : diseases understood as social problems ; addictions ; social problems considered as diseases

* ethnopsychiatric conceptions of disease

* disease as a support for the construction of expertise

* the social and State dynamics of contagion and infectious diseases.

Contact addresses :

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