Panel “Touching Visions: Gender and the Potency of Visual Artefacts” by Elena Serrano and …
… Elena Paulino (UAM), Hansun Hsiung (Durham University, UK), Anindita Nag (Jadavpur University, India) y Anna Maerker (University College London, UK)
in the 9th International Conference of the European Society for the History of Science (ESHS) that will take place 31 August to 3 September 2020 in Bologna (Italy).
At the intersection of art, science and gender, this panel explores historical understandings of the agency of visual artefacts across a global longue durée. In particular, we focus on how visual artefacts have shaped and been shaped by gendered physiological and psychological models. From 13th-century Spain to 1940s Calcutta, we ask the following four questions:
- How have visual artefacts been defined as objects that could ‘touch’ animate and inanimate matter, altering the dispositions of souls, minds, and bodies and forging social imaginaries and collective memories?
- And vice-versa, how could these objects change the imaginary and transcendent world? What role did gender play in differentiating such acts of visual agency?
- How did these theories of agency change with new technologies of representation?
- Finally, how did individual receptivity to visual artefacts structure collective memories? Put differently, in an age after the ‘material turn’, when the agency of images is taken for granted, these papers champion the need for a longer global history of the material potency of images wherein gender is determinative.
Elena Paulino begins by examining funerary monuments for noblewomen in late medieval Spain, created to remind the living to pray for the deceased. Probing the interaction between theories of memory and doctrines of female impurity, Paulino demonstrates these monuments crafted mnemonic strategies specific to women’s bodies.
Elena Serrano analyzes the physiology of love in Enlightenment Europe, showing how medical theories of visual stimuli impacted the construction of a wide range of artefacts, from miniature love portraits to erotic paintings. Hansun Hsiung then explores the history of “thoughtography” research at Tokyo Imperial University in early twentieth-century Japan, centered on experiments with two female clairvoyants who could allegedly inscribe shapes in their mind onto photographic film. Finally, Anindita Nag interrogates how changes in photographic technologies, by redefining the ways in which the city of Calcutta was visualized, influenced understandings of collective memory in the tumultuous years leading up to partition.