A Regional History of Medicine in the Middle East

The Physician, the Library and the Archive

Posted on August 22, 2018 by Liat Kozma

In April 9th, 2018, we held our first conference: an interdisciplinary discussion of medical humanities and social sciences, which brought together historians, an anthropologist, and literary scholar and an art historian. Our purpose was examining how these different disciplines study the interface between medicine and society, and how medicine and health are represented and experienced. 

The first panel focused on literary, medical and artistic representation of illness and wellbeing.Tali Buskila examined representations of reproductive health in 17th to 19th century in Jewish medical and Halachic sources. Gal Ventura analyzed Honoré Daumier's 1833's Le mal de tête (The Headache), as both a political artwork and as a representation of what we would now call migrane. Galia Hasharoni then examined how the early twentieth century Jewish community in Palestine dealt with children's illnesses. 

The second panel focused on doctors and their work. From Zohar Weiman-Kelman we learned of a Yiddish sexology in the writings of two doctors. Yoni Furas examined how Palestinian Arab doctors wrote about public health and their responsibility toward their community in the early decades of the twentieth century. Guy Shalev then took us to present day Israeli hospital and the interactions between Jewish and Arab doctors in an internal medicine ward.

Their talks elicited fascinating interdisciplinary discussions, and encouraged us to take some of these questions to our own research.