The Cosmopolitan History of a Medical Idea
Part of the 2013–2014 Fellows Presentation Series
Sarah Pinto’s work explores the transnational history of the medical disorder “hysteria,” looking in particular at hysteria’s development and transformations in India, a setting in which it has maintained a long and rich presence. Tracing hysteria from early Ayurvedic texts to contemporary clinics and asking how it has taken shape as a medical diagnosis, scientific fact, gendered form of distress, and cultural idea, she asks what hysteria’s non-Western history tells us about the movability and multiplicity of medicine. She proposes in particular that hysteria’s Indian history destabilizes concepts of “universal” and “particular” that are foundational to scientific knowledge.