Accepted Paper:

Settlement Efforts, Bodily Limitations, and the Discovery of Urine  

Author:

Tamar Novick (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines mid 20th century settlement efforts in Palestine/Israel, and focuses on infertility - a problem that threatened the growth of both human and animal settler populations. It explores the extent to which the creation of a new social order was connected to a transforming biological one.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines what happens to science in the context of colonial settlement. It focuses on a group of German physicians, veterinarians, and chemists who settled in Palestine in the early 1930s, in the midst of the golden age of hormone research. These experts devoted their careers to solving infertility, a problem that threatened the growth of both human and animal settler populations. Through their work, urine emerged as a savior substance as it was the most abundant source for sex hormones. As a result, urine connected the farm to the lab and the clinic, and flowed between the bodies of different settler-creatures. By mid century, urine also crossed the Mediterranean sea - connecting the Israeli prime minister's office to the Vatican, elderly homes in Israel to the pharmaceutical industry in Europe, and Italian nuns to primiparous cows - gradually blurring the limitations of the corporeal. Following the paths of production and dysfunction, this paper uses the tools of science and technology studies and environmental history to demonstrate that the creation of a new social order was connected to a transforming biological one.

Panel T126
Science and Technology in the Middle East: Life Sciences and Environments