History Hub Workshop with Jessica Borsellino: "Medicine for Generations"

discussion group sitting around zoom screen

Jessica Borsellino presented a chapter of her dissertation, “Medicine for Generations: Healing Work in Kiowa Communities, 1867-1920,” on January 26. The professors and students in the history department attended her presentation and contributed their comments and suggestions on Borsellino’s work. After talking about the availability and possibility of using more materials of oral history records, the discussion's focus turned to the chapter's writing structure. Borsellino was suggested that she should bring some details and terms which appeared in the late part of her chapter to the introduction portion to increase the clarity. Also, she may strengthen her historiography in the literature review by introducing different angles of the scholars. Besides, several professors paid attention to the chapter's healing practices and relevant religious practices. They proposed to enrich the understanding of such practices in other regions and recommended the relevant books to the presenter. It was also necessary to incorporate those other practices in the book, and one possible solution was to provide an introduction in the footnotes. Besides, the relevant issues of state formation, power dynamics, and missionary activities have also been raised in the professors’ concrete questions about Borsellino’s work, which helped promote her understanding of the healing practices in Kiwo communities.

Professor Barnes joined the talk. Based on her study and interest, she proposed the issue of integrating medical history and religious history into methodology. These two domains are closely interconnected but significantly divergent in some terms. The two could not be separated, especially during the medieval period. Yet, medical history focuses on physical information, while religious history encompasses transcendental ideas. Professor Barnes discussed the word use of “healing” and then pointed out certain research fields that could bring into the two ideas should be examined, such as the topic of death because of its entanglement with religiosity and medical power. In short, during more than one hour of discussion about Borsellino’s chapter, the professors talked about their understanding of her research and raised their recognition and suggestive comments from different perspectives, varying from the methodology, word use, and topics. It is an inspiring and helpful presentation and reflection on medical history in modern times.