Anonymous Anatomies: A Critical History of Visual Medical Anonymization in Britain and America, 1870-1955
During this fellowship at the John Rylands, Christine will be collecting examples of visual anonymity in medical and surgical visual culture from 1870 to 1955. She will be doing so by combing through medical journals, physicians' manuscripts and personal papers, and textbooks and other publications.
There has been no critical history written on anonymity in medical imagery, perhaps because it is in part a history of what is not visualized. This project traces the visual and artistic characteristics of anonymity from 1870 to 1955—from the full swing of photography’s use in medicine to the professionalization of medical illustration in Britain and America.
By doing so, ‘Anonymous Anatomies’ tracks how patient identity has been visually safeguarded or exposed, how anonymizing techniques relate to artistic techniques (such as collage) and period aesthetics (such as Modern abstraction), and how histories surrounding the face of the individual, particularly in healthcare, contribute to privacy laws and controversies today.
Working within histories of photography, of medical publication and print culture, and of privacy, censorship, and medical law, this interdisciplinary visual culture project will answer the how and why of patient anonymization.