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Accepted Paper:

Displaying the once internal: visualizing medical practice and a surgical signature in Late Ottoman Istanbul  
Zeynep Gursel (Macalester College)

Paper short abstract:

This paper looks at an album of medical photographs showing Ottoman female patients after surgery to investigate how we might think of agency and the politics of circulation in photography. What kinds of relationships are materialized in this album?

Paper long abstract:

The photo albums of Ottoman sultan and Islamic leader Abdulhamid II (1876-1909) who dispatched photographers to four corners of his empire contain some 35,000 images. This visual archive documents state projects such as military and government buildings, hospitals, factories, massive engineering projects, schools, mosques and cityscapes, and includes a large collection of police photographs.

This paper addresses a specific album among the sultan's collection which shows female patients of the Haseki Women's Hospital after they have regained their health. These formal portraits show the patient modestly dressed in hospital issued uniforms yet bearing their abdomen to show their surgical scars. In a bell jar on the ornate table each leans on is displayed the tumor removed by the gynecological surgeon. How might we make sense of the surgeon's signature on each plate (and differently on each abdomen in the form of a scar) despite the images having been made by a prominent studio photographer? How does this album requires us to rethink agency in photography? How do we make sense of these images displaying that which was once internal to these women to themselves, the surgeon and the sultan? Does the appearance of these images in an album at the palace collapse traditional differences between medical and political imaging technologies? How is care being visualized and to what political end? What kinds of relationships are materialized in this album?

Panel P092
The impact of images: knowledge, circulation and contested ways of seeing [VANEASA]
  Session 1