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Normalising whiteness: the use of standardised anatomical models in British university teaching, 1860-1910

Martin, Rebecca; (2020) Normalising whiteness: the use of standardised anatomical models in British university teaching, 1860-1910. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

Between 1800 and 1900 both the style and materials used to model normal human anatomy changed drastically. Whilst pre-1800 models in wax have been studied extensively, late-nineteenth century models in plaster and mixed materials have been relatively neglected within the historiography. This thesis investigates these late-nineteenth century models within anatomical education at British universities between 1860 and 1910, with the view to understanding their meaning. I question how meaning is assigned to objects in the past, considering the social construction of meaning and any material or spatial limitations on the production of meaning. I explore the possibility of meaning embedded within the materiality of the models themselves. By demonstrating that these later anatomical models are both aesthetically and materially distinct from their wax predecessors, I argue that they are also epistemologically discrete. Later models, generalised and abstracted, were no longer able to represent the individual body. As a result, they also played a new role within the material context of the anatomical classroom. These models acted as three-dimensional representations of a norm, challenging the perception that anatomical models substituted for cadavers in cases of low body supply. The whiteness of this new generalised norm is highlighted by the research into racial anatomical difference performed by anatomy professors, which suggests but does not confirm that this norm is also an idealisation of whiteness. I propose that a fuller understanding of the relationship between these theories and the meaning of models can be achieved using a new methodology from marketing theory. This approach strengthens traditional historical and material culture studies methodologies, focusing on the creation of meaning through use. Following the marketing theory framework, I demonstrate that these theories of racial difference were present during teaching illustrated with models, thus confirming that these models were used to represent not only whiteness as a norm but also whiteness as an ideal.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Normalising whiteness: the use of standardised anatomical models in British university teaching, 1860-1910
Event: UCL (University College London)
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2020. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Science and Technology Studies
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10109775
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