Shigehisa Kuriyama

Shigehisa Kuriyama is Reischauer Institute Professor of Cultural History at Harvard University. His recent publications include, No Pain No Gain and the History of Presence, Representations 146, no. 1 (2019): 91–111.

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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