The negotiation, shaping, and practice of medical knowledge in eighteenth century Norway (Ane Ohrvik)

The project investigates the dialectics of the negotiation, shaping and practice between different medical knowledge systems in eighteenth century Western Europe with a special focus on Norway.

The eighteenth century saw the ongoing development and strengthening of scientific medicine while traditional and empirical-based medical knowledge systems were defended, reinterpreted, challenged and suppressed. This process of “medicalization” and the position Western medicine eventually received, however, was a result of a long process of knowledge interpretation and negotiation.

A central source to the interpretations and negotiations of diverging medical knowledge regimes are the handwritten domestic medical books which were produced by lay people in Norway during the eighteenth century and which now are part of national and regional manuscript collections. These writings represent compilations of medical advices and recipes where knowledge from different medical traditions and systems were interpreted, negotiated, and were subject to experimentations. In these texts religious and magical beliefs connected to illness and healing appear side by side with natural cures and innovative medical ideas and practices. As such, these writings represent an important contact zone for the study of plural medical knowledge systems and their exchange, acquisition, evaluation and validation, and serves as an example of a material and communicative network where medical knowledge is constructed, circulated and transformed. The study of the handwritten medical books gives insight to medical knowledge discourses; to contestations, formations and canonizations which has never been studied in a Norwegian context before.

In this project, the lay writers of the manuscripts are seen as a specific group of “cultivators and communicators” of medical information whereas the medical texts are viewed as places of mediation where meaning is produced. This meaning is produced in the interface between magic and science, religion and reason and thus invites the study of “the structures of beliefs” from which the medical knowledge is constructed. Consequently, the study of the dialectics of negotiation, shaping and practice of medical knowledge will also invite the probing of how constructions of medical knowledge are tied to belief systems and structures.

Published June 5, 2014 9:43 AM - Last modified Apr. 6, 2017 10:05 AM