Natalie Köhle

Natalie Köhle is a historian of medicine, culture and the body, with a special interest in the comparative history of bodily fluids. She is working on a book about the history of humours in China and their ties to Āyurvedic and Greco-Islamic medical traditions, and on a project on the history of donkey hide gelatine. She is currently a research assistant professor in the Department of History at Hong Kong Baptist University.

Fluid Matter(s) »

Flow and Transformation in the History of the Body

Publication date: 2020
Once upon a time, doctors across Eurasia imagined human beings in ways that strike us today as profoundly strange and alien. For over 2,000 years, they worried anxiously about fluids to which our modern doctors spare hardly a thought (such as sweat, phlegm and qi) and they obsessed over details (such as whether a person’s pores were open or closed) whose meaning and vital importance has now largely faded from memory. Through a series of case studies from Europe, India, China, Mongolia and Japan, Fluid Matter(s) suggests ways to make sense of this strange and dimly remembered past, and urges us to reflect anew on the significance of fluids and flows in the history of medicine. The book also urges us, more generally, to reimagine the way in which we narrate history. The articles here are essays, in the original French sense. They are exploratory trials, experiments to illustrate some of the ways in which digital texts can go beyond the affordances of print. They test visual effects that are inconceivable on a paper page, but that are easily conjured on an electronic screen. Fluid Matter(s) is the first work of its kind: a study that narrates the body’s past in a form that embodies new futures for narrative.

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