Different Forms. Touching Details of Measured Humans’ Files around 1900 in the Netherlands

October 16 |
15:30 to 17:30
Colloquium Series Max-Planck Research Group Lipphardt
Max Planck Research Group Lipphardt
Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Villa, Harnackstraße 5, 14195 Berlin
Geertje Mak (History Department/Institute for Gender Studies, Radboud University, The Netherlands)
This presentation starts with three different forms used to note measurements taken from human bodies. One stems from a Dutch exploratory expedition in Dutch New Guinea in 1909, one from the instructions for prison guards for measuring their inmates (from 1896), and one from the archives of a girls state reformatory where the girls underwent extensive medical examination and measurement during the initial observation period (between 1906 and 1950). By doing so, it aims to shift the attention in the history of anthropometry from a critical discussion of its ideas, theories, categorizations and discourses to its practices ´on the ground´. Three theoretical routes through the material will be sketched out: on objectivity in the human sciences, on categorization and individuation and on infrastructure. These will be connected to historiographies of physical anthropology, criminology, reformative paedagogy and the adminstration of individual identities. Yet, beyond these theories and historiographies the material seems to speak to something else. They offer an almost indexical relation to a body in history – like a footprint. To touch upon that tactility of the forms I will go into detail.