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Imagining IllnessPublic Health and Visual Culture$
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David Serlin

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780816648221

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816648221.001.0001

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Contagion, Public Health, and the Visual Culture of Nineteenth-Century Skin

Contagion, Public Health, and the Visual Culture of Nineteenth-Century Skin

Chapter:
(p.85) 5. Contagion, Public Health, and the Visual Culture of Nineteenth-Century Skin
Source:
Imagining Illness
Author(s):

Katherine Ott

Publisher:
University of Minnesota Press
DOI:10.5749/minnesota/9780816648221.003.0005

This chapter examines the nineteenth-century visual culture of two public health problems that affected skin, scabies and favus, as both public health and dermatology came to terms with the professional issues of classification, language, concept formation, and descriptive thought. Using a variety of visual materials, it suggests that modern dermatology has been perhaps the most visual of all medical subspecialties, and few texts present as dramatic and unsettling a display of color and form as the nineteenth-century dermatological atlas. Where the post-Enlightenment compulsion to classify fell short with words, as was often the case with skin disorders, the copper plate, chromo-lithograph, and photograph filled the gap. The chapter argues that looking at the skin and the wonders to be found there was crucial to understanding how and why some conditions became a contagion that spread through communities and others did not.

Keywords:   visual culture, public health, skin, scabies, favus, dermatology, visual materials, dermatological atlas, skin disorders, contagion

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