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Inscriptions, bodies and selves in nineteenth-century hermaphrodite case histories
Author: Geertje Mak

An adolescent girl is mocked when she takes a bath with her peers, because her genitals look like those of a boy. A couple visits a doctor asking to ‘create more space’ in the woman for intercourse. A doctor finds testicular tissue in a woman with appendicitis, and decides to keep his findings quiet. These are just a few of the three hundred European case histories of people whose sex was doubted during the long nineteenth century that this book draws upon. The book offers a refreshingly new perspective on the relation between physical sex and identity over the long nineteenth century. Rather than taking sex, sexuality and gender identity as a starting point for discussing their mutual relations, it historicizes these very categories. Based on a wealth of previously unused source material, the book asks how sex was doubted in practice—whether by lay people, by hermaphrodites themselves, or by physicians; how this doubt was dealt with; what tacit logics directed the practices by which a person was assigned a sex, and how these logics changed over time. The book highlights three different rationales behind practices of doubting and (re)assigning sex: inscription, body and self. Sex as inscription refers to a lifelong inscription of a person in the social body as male or female, marked by the person's appearance. This logic made way for logics in which the truth of inner anatomy and inner self were more significant.

Abstract only
Geertje Mak

related to individuals and more in particular to their sense of self ? I decided to turn to narratives of hermaphrodites: nineteenth-century medical case histories reporting on people whose physical sex had raised doubts during their lifetime.2 There, I supposed, I would find out how the relationship between physical sex and self was conceived of, for in these cases of doubtful bodily sex the seemingly self-evident category of sex was under pressure. What happened if the physical sex of a person was questioned? What was the role of the hermaphrodite her- or himself

in Doubting sex
Geertje Mak

clearly show how concern for social and moral order had given way to caring for the well-being of the individual hermaphrodite. The conflict between legal purpose and a DS_C07.indd 165 11/15/11 4:44 PM 166 doubting sex humanitarian perspective came to a head in discussions concerning plastic surgery on genitals and secondary sex characteristics, as the third section will show. In all these discussions, the ‘sex of self ’ had, all of a sudden, become something seriously to be taken into account. Also this sex of self became an object of observation, discussion, care

in Doubting sex
The politics of containment
Geertje Mak

1 SECRECY AND DISCLOSURE: THE POLITICS OF CONTAINMENT three cases Sex, as the category each of us is entitled to, should correspond to the sex of our body. There is no doubt this rationale for the category of sex is primordial. After all, its logic determines everybody’s sex from birth, when the genitals are immediately checked and the baby is subsequently inscribed as either female or male. If there is doubt concerning someone’s physical sex – at birth or later in life – the question arises to which sex the person in question belongs. In such cases, further

in Doubting sex
Geertje Mak

microscopic and photographic vision on dead female bodies (reduced to the reproductive function represented in the ovaries since the 1840s), started to affect clinical case histories from the 1890s.3 This chapter aims to describe some distinctive examples of these developments in order to show how much the enactments of doubting sex and sexual function under bedside medicine differed from those under this new medical regime. The German sociologist Stefan Hirschauer has made a beautiful ethnographic ‘thick description’ of bodies in surgery. Among other things, he has

in Doubting sex
Abstract only
Geertje Mak

. After a long period of doubt, she decided to confess her story for a third time, to a bishop, who sent her to an academically trained physician, Chesnet. This doctor declared her to be male; referring to her future civil change of sex, he parted from her with the words: ‘ “Give me your hand, mademoiselle; before long, I hope, we shall call you differently” ’.8 Barbin arranged the reassignment of his civil status before a court on 22 July 1860. He moved to Paris and committed suicide eight years later in February 1868, leaving his memoirs and his body. Goujon performed

in Doubting sex
Open Access (free)
Defences advanced in early modern sodomy trials in Geneva
William G. Naphy

Reasonable doubt 7 Reasonable doubt: defences advanced in early modern sodomy trials in Geneva William G. Naphy There are few charges that can be made against individuals more likely to damage their lives, reputations and futures, than sexual deviance.1 In the early modern period, the danger was even greater as the crime carried the death penalty. For those faced with the gravest of punishments, one might be inclined to suppose that there was only one sure defensive strategy: outright denial. However, before testing this hypothesis, some general information on

in Judicial tribunals in England and Europe, 1200–1700
Abstract only
Geertje Mak

CONCLUSION How did people come to be classified as a man or woman in cases in which doubt had been raised with regard to their physical sex? This book has shown how in practice different logics were at work to decide on a person’s sex (re)assignment: sex as inscription, sex as the body, and sex as the self. These logics often functioned simultaneously, sustaining, contradicting or overlapping each other. The balance between the different logics shifted over time, however. While the logic of sex as body remained the basic logic over the course of time, the logic

in Doubting sex
Abstract only
Geertje Mak

, precisely when it was DS_C01.indd 17 11/15/11 4:45 PM 18 doubting sex confronted with the rationale of sex as truthful representation of the body, more of the logics of the rationale of sex as inscription can be unearthed. What was the problem when hermaphrodites finally did visit physicians and possibly got their sex reassigned? The second chapter will discuss what happened with hermaphrodites who reassigned their sex during the first three-quarters of the nineteenth century. For the modern Western reader, it would not be surprising when the rationale of the body in

in Doubting sex
Geertje Mak

impression of being DS_C09.indd 205 11/15/11 4:45 PM 206 doubting sex ready for publication at all. As we have seen, towards the end it gets very fragmented as a narrative and more diary-like, containing outbursts of rage and desperation. In contrast, N. O. Body’s autobiography must have been very carefully constructed, given the fact that he completely and precisely concealed the fact that he was a Jew. Hermann Simon has demonstrated how he carefully changed every detail that could refer to his real person, in particular his Jewishness. Sander Gilman has shown that

in Doubting sex