Lost faces, lost identities? Experiments and medical caretaking for brain injured soldiers in WWI
Sabine Kienitz (Universität Hamburg)
Paper short abstract:
In WWI a high percentage of combatants lost their lives by skullshots. But also numerous soldiers in all participating nations survived with severely wounded heads, brains and faces. The paper discusses the consequences for those men in everyday life as well as for sciences concerned with brains and faces.
Paper long abstract:
One of the most damaging outcomes of WWI were the injuries of the brain shot soldiers caused by the enormous and shattering power of the modern weapons used in trench and mobile warfare. The head was the most vulnerable and at the same time most visible part of the body the combatants on all sides were aiming at. In Germany and Austria e.g. about 500.000 men survived those attacks with severely wounded heads, brains and faces. The paper discusses the consequences for those men in everyday life, losing their faces as well as their emotional and mental order as part of their masculine identities. Thus questioning the skull and brain injury as part of the history of the war victims' social situation has to do with the history of gender-power-relations and is related to the discussion on remasculinization in those societies after the war. On top one has to look at those sciences concerned with brains and faces as neurology, psychology and plastic surgery. Thus there is the question of professionalization of the brain specialists at that time and the construction of meaning and impact by taking care for those men concerned: How did reconstructing surgeons, neurologists, psychologists, and special education paedagogues organize the experimental arrangements for those men, they now actually called "brain cripples"?
Skulls, faces and being human