Evening lecture

Zeynep D. Gürsel: A Picture of Health: Undressing Patients, Redressing Photographs

Nicolas Andriomenos, Hatice Kadın and Adviye Hatun, ca. 1890–1894. Image 5, Haseki Women’s Hospital album formerly part of Abdülhamīd II’s Yıldız Palace collection. İstanbul Üniversitesi Nadir Eserler Kütüphanesi (Istanbul University Library of Rare Books).

This paper explores a specific photographic album from the early 1890s found in Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamit's palace archive which shows female surgery patients of the Haseki Women's Hospital after they have regained their health. These formal portraits show each patient modestly dressed in a hospital-issued uniform yet baring her abdomen to show a surgical scar. Each woman leans on an ornate table; upon the table is a bell jar; in the bell jar is the tumor removed by the gynecological surgeon. Each image takes that which was once internal to these women, and displays it to themselves, to the surgeon, and to the sultan. How do we make sense of such an image? Through a reading of one particular image, I show the layers by which medical expertise, care and health are visualized for the sovereign.


Zeynep Devrim Gürsel is a media anthropologist and Associate Professor in the department of Anthropology at Rutgers University and a 2018 NOMIS Fellow at eikones Center for the Theory and History of the Image in Basel, Switzerland. She is the author of Image Brokers: Visualizing World News in the Age of Digital Circulation (University of California Press, 2016), an ethnography of the international photojournalism industry during its digitalization at the beginning of the 21st century, based on fieldwork conducted in the United States, France and Turkey. Currently she is researching photography as a tool of governmentality in the late Ottoman period. Specifically, she is investigating photography during the reign of Sultan Abdülhamit (1876-1909) from medical imagery to prison portraiture to understand emerging forms of the state and the changing contours of Ottoman subjecthood.

27 May 2019, 6:00pm

Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut

Palazzo Grifoni Budini Gattai
Via dei Servi 51
50122 Firenze


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