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DicoPolHiS

Political Dictionary of the History of Health

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    • "Gueules cassées"

      The Gueules cassées, in other words facially disfigured soldiers, are recognized as war wounded people with difficulty, but they represent a turning point in surgery.

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    • Aerobics

      The Gym Tonic aerobics programme heralded the advent of a new politics of the female body

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    • Anorexia

      The medical supervision of anorexia responded to political and scientific stakes in order to normalize puberty. 

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    • Asperger

      The naming of this syndrome in 1981 is loaded with potent political and historical implications.

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    • Bafia, 1928



      The events that took place in the district of Bafia in 1928, illustrate the political stakes of vaccine resistance in the colonial world.Roughly translated : « Sleepers of the fat kind in Cameroon taken...

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    • Barcelona 1821

      The 1821 yellow fever outbreak in Barcelona made clear the political dimensions of public health legislation.

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    • Breast feeding

      The naturalness of breast feeding has been subordinated to a political idea of the Nation asserted in an explicit hierarchisation of class and race.

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    • Caesarian section

      In 19th century Belgium, post-mortem caesarean section turned into a politicized debate.

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    • Caster Semenya

      The case of Caster Semenya politicises through sport the intersex condition.

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    • Christine Jorgensen

      “Ex-GI becomes blonde beauty” : in 1953, Christine Jorgensen became the first transsexual in the media.

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    • Clitoris

      Almost entirely overlooked throughout the 20th century, neglected by contemporary medical manuals, the clitoris has gradually returned centre stage thanks to Western feminism.

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    • Criminal abortion

      In 1852 the criminalisation of abortion is reaffirmed after the Academy of Medicine arrived at a resolution regarding therapeutic abortion.

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    • D’Arsonval chronometer

      Time-measurement devices in clinical and experimental settings have historically tended to pathologize mental “slowness” and normalize “speed” as a signifier of mental health.

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    • Drapetomania

      Drapotemania exemplifies the existence of psychiatric diagnoses rooted in the political stigmatisation of a social group.

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    • Emergency medicine

      The 20th century oversaw the development of emergency medicine as a new public health norm.

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    • Excess mortality in psychiatric hospitals

      Did excess mortality among the Great War insane result from a political choice?

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    • Hollywood smile

      The Hollywood smile, characterized by white, straight teeth, is a complex phenomenon involving social, cultural, scientific and technological changes in the early 20th century. It emerged with the development of film, advertising, orthodontics and cosmetic dentistry.

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    • Hymen

      By asserting the hymen, a ubiquitous trait of female anatomy, 19th physicians reinforced the taboos affecting women's sexuality.

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    • Intelligence test

      From the outset, the measurement of intelligence was as much a scientific as an eminently political endeavour.

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    • Lesbianism

      Lesbianism is considered in the 17th and nineteenth19th centuries, both as a physical and behavioural pathology. 

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    • LSD

      LSD was, for a while in the 50s, a promising medication before becoming controversial.

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    • Lyme

      Patients and physicians hold conflicting political and scientific views on the existence of an emerging disease caused by tick bites.

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    • Lypemania

      The re-naming of an illness is as much a political act as a scientific one, as shown by the case of lypemania

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    • Mecca

      In 1865 cholera spread from Mecca to the rest of the world, redirecting just-born international health policy’s priorities on Muslim pilgrimage flows.

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    • Montreal 1989

      In July 1989, a handful of activists turned HIV-AIDS into a political issue.

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    • Naturism

      Naturism strives for a natural public health.

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    • Near Death Experience

      In the mid-1970s, the near-death experience emerged as a new spiritual manifestation within medicine, at the heart of a policy of survivors and their trauma.

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    • Neurodiversity

      The notion of neurodiversity appeared at the end of the 90s in an effort to de-pathologize mental illness and combat discrimination.

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    • Nostalgia

      In the 19th century, nostalgia became a mortal illness that endangered French military and colonial might.

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    • Obesity

      Over the course of the 20th century, obesity came to be seen as a public health issue.

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    • Officiers de santé

      Should the new career of assistant medical be understood as a return to the Officiers de Santé status ?

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    • Patient associations

      As early as the years 1930-50, tuberculosis patient associations became significant political actors.

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    • Psychedelic

      The term psychedelic was coined to refer to psychotic substances explored for use in psychiatry, but which remain under strict control

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    • Puerperal insanity

      The topicality of cases of infanticide invites us to question the historical origin of the madness of motherhood.

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    • Radicalisation and psychiatry

      The lumping together of mental illness and radicalisation leads to negating the latter’s implication in individual and collective history

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    • Rare diseases

      The category of “rare diseases” was born of the interactions between authorities, patients and the pharmaceutical industry following a consolidation of US pharmaceutical legislation.

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    • Social paediatrics



      Social paediatrics aim to think of child health holistically, within its environment and to act socially. Social paediatrics aim to think of child health holistically, within its environment and to act...

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    • Sugar

      The relationship to sugar in our society is sustainably anchored on a difference between genders.

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    • Tattoos

      A body enhancing aesthetic practice, tattooing pertained, in the 19th century, to the world of crime and social deviance.

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    • Telemedicine

      The Covid-19 pandemic finds us revisiting an ancient practice: telemedicine.

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    • Telemedicine and Covid-19

      Does the Covid-19 health crisis mark the advent of telemedicine in our societies?

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    • The Blind

      The Great War marked a second turning point in the history of social policies towards the blind.

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    • The Corset

      Devised to control the female body, the corset has had, between the 18th and the 20th century, many detractors.

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    • The Stomach

      Knowledge of the interconnection of the gut and psyche has a longer history than scientists often admit.

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    • The suitcases of Willard State Hospital (New-York)

      Suitcases as symbols of the struggle for dignity and civil rights of people with mental illnesses

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    • Tobacco control

      Tobacco control, for all that it serves unquestionable health purposes, remains steeped in political issues

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    • Truth serum



      The truth serum is not just a fantasy, the stuff of science-fiction, it is also a political and medical instrument.Screenshot from Franju, La Tête contre les murs. The truth serum is not just a fantasy...

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    • Vegetarianism

      Around 1900, a vegetarian movement was organized in France to resolve the social question.

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    • Yoga

      Can an Eastern spiritual practice become a Western health practice without betraying itself?

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    • Zombies

      In Haïti, some individuals come back to life whereas they had been declared dead then inhumed.

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