JCB Fellow's Talk: Irina Podgorny

January 17, 2018 - 4:00pm

Irina Podgorny (Museo de la Plata, Argentina and Principal Investigator, CONICET)

"The elk, the ass, the tapir, their hooves, and the falling sickness: A story of substitution and animal medical substances"

This is a preliminary survey by which to track, in the longue durée, the path of the nail of the Gran Bestia (great beast), a remedy that appeared in therapeutics on both sides of the Atlantic. The Gran Bestia is mentioned in the natural histories, books of remedies and medical handbooks that proliferated in the Old World and European settlements from the seventeenth century onwards. From the point of view of global history, it is a revealing case from which to investigate, first, how the transfer of a name between continents involved the associated transfer of medical virtues and properties and, second, long before Linnaeus, how the commerce in medicines, skins, and other animal products contributed to associating different animal kinds from different cultural worlds. Far from human universals, the history of the great beast seems to refer to common meanings created by commerce. This talk  argues for a new investigation into the global and trans-disciplinary dimension of objects that is not limited to exclusively local traditions, and may instead reflect the living remains of a long history of exchanges, translations, and transfers that de- and re-functionalized nature in evolving geographies over several centuries.

The Reading Room will close to researchers at 3:30 pm.