Spring 2022 Colloquium - Chris Hamlin

Department of History, University of Notre Dame

Chris Hamlin colloq photos

Title: States of bodies and the state's bodies: A citizenship narrative for a comparative history of forensic medicine (and forensic science). 

Abstract: Behind the current fascination with forensic science lies a long, large, varied and underexplored history of forensic medicine, often called legal medicine or medical jurisprudence. Mostly it has been overlooked by medical historians focused on health care and by legal historians focused on constitutional issues. Historians have encountered it mostly in terms of single techniques or issues in local settings; the absence of a long-term, comparative big picture of medico-legal institutions, professions, and practices of governance has hampered interpretation. As in Locating Forensic Cultures (co-edited with Ian Burney, 2019), I use “citizenship to problematize. A medical jurisprudence will always exist, the states of bodies being matters of state concern. I focus on two axes. One, diachronic, is the change from a rule-bound medical jurisprudence of 18th century German cameralism, in which categories of persons (by age, sex, race, place, property, station, and nation) were central, to the program of evidence-based individuation outlined by Paul Kirk in the 1960s. The second is the tension between retrospective and prospective actions -- “forensics” and “public health” may now seem separate, but a comparative medical-legal history helps to highlight the complex contingencies that underlie their relationship.


Lectures begin at 3:35pm in 125 Nicholson Hall on the East Bank of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus. As a reminder, masks are required indoors by University of Minnesota policy. 

The Program in History of Science, Technology and Medicine and the Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science will host a joint lecture series during Spring 2022. At this time, all events will be in-person unless otherwise stated. Please contact hstm@umn.edu for more information. 



Start date
Friday, April 8, 2022, 3:35 p.m.
End date
Friday, April 8, 2022, 4:30 p.m.

125 Nicholson Hall.