On ‘the use and abuse’ of medical history ‘for life’
A disrupted digression on productive disorder, disorderly pleasure, allegorical properties and scatter
in Communicating the history of medicine
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This ‘chapter’ mixes up genres, registers and media – through essayistic reflection, polemic, hyperdiscourse, historical narrative, autobiography and cut-up. The foray into experimentation is justified, because the formulaic article and historical exhibition are imprisoned in a habitus that conditions us to feel discomfort with deviations. And that raises issues of practice and audience: what conditions produce the habitus; what current audiences are conditioned to expect; what new practices might raise new and different audiences and a new and different scholarship. Notwithstanding its intellectual achievements, current scholarship is often stale and undermining. This piece models an alternative by calling conventional forms into question. It implies that (a) historical consciousness is a necessary condition for the well functioning of a democratic society, and therefore (b) we need a culture of historical consciousness based on a pleasurable history-for-history’s sake, a practice that exceeds, or is unyoked from, any instrumental purpose. And therefore opposes the utilitarian economism that currently governs medical history and everything else.

Communicating the history of medicine

Perspectives on audiences and impact

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