Accepted paper:

Transforming human bodies: Latvian medical students and "their" skulls


Aivita Putnina (University of Latvia)

Paper short abstract:

The paper looks at the significance of a human skull both in in the process of subjective making of a physician and his or her attitude towards human body and health care ethics.

Paper long abstract:

The paper explores the use of human bones in the context of healing practices in Latvia. It focusses at the first encounter of medical students with the human body. The study was conducted as a case study in a larger project on biotechnologies in Latvia pointing, on the one hand, at the significance of human body in symbolic and cognitive transformation of medical students into medical professionals and, on the other, the role of tactile and visual practices which allow transforming human bodies into instruments,knowledge and attributes of the profession contributing to undwrstanding of medical ethics. The study is based on 29 interviews with medical professionals of different generations concentrating on their stories on human skulls used for their anatomy lessons. I argue that the ambivalence generated in the practice of learning human body sets the context for further ethical attitudes.

panel P15
Skulls, faces and being human