[P6551] Doctors, Patients, and the Making of Medical Subjectivities

Created by Jennifer Derr
Wednesday, 12/01/21 2:00 pm


This panel explores evolving notions of “doctors” and “patients” – and the relationships among them – in institutionalized medicine in the first half of the twentieth century in Lebanon and Egypt. Beginning in the nineteenth century, medicals schools and faculties of medicine were established in the Middle East and North Africa to train a new class of physicians. Hospitals and clinics multiplied, some established by the state and others to serve specific religious and national communities. With the advent of colonial influence in the region, the numbers and influence of European doctors increased. During the 1930s and 1940s, public health programs were another manifestation of institutional medicine. Throughout this period, notions of health, disease, and therapeutics changed significantly among physicians. As their ideas about the body and its function evolved, so did their roles, their presumed knowledge, and their relationships with patients, many of whom viewed institutional medicine with skepticism, suspicion, and fear. Those who became “patients” often had not done so according to contemporary notions of “consent.” Their relationships with doctors were often troubled by social hierarchies, the absence of a common language, and different prevailing notions of what constituted disease, treatment, and care. The papers that comprise this panel explore changing ideas about doctors, patients, and disease. In colonial Egypt, peasants who suffered dementia linked to the disease pellagra were sometimes treated at the mental hospital at ‘Abbasiyya, where they understood their own condition in terms that differed fundamentally from those of hospital staff. Mental hospitals in 1930s Lebanon (and elsewhere) disciplined the socially rebellious, among them women. While their rebellion was conceptualized in relation to a specific local context, the categories that sought to identify it as disfunction were debated across disparate geographies. What it meant to be a physician was also contested – and changing – ground. At critical periods in Egypt’s history, Egyptian physicians have resurrected an interwar-period tract criticizing the medical system that was penned by a European physician to articulate their discontent with the conditions framing their own historical moment. Finally, during the 1940s and 1950s, as public health interventions became more widespread in Egypt, the realm of medical intervention – and by extension the roles of doctors and patients – shifted as the field of medicine and treatment moved beyond institutions.


Hist; Hist



Jennifer Derr

(UC Santa Cruz)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Elise Burton

(University of Toronto)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair; Discussant;

Soha Bayoumi

(Johns Hopkins University)
Pronouns: She/her/hers. I’m a Senior Lecturer in the Medicine, Science, and the Humanities program. Trained in political theory, political philosophy and intellectual history, I work on the question of justice at the intersection of history, political...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Lamia Moghnieh

(University of Copenhagen)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Sara Pulliam

(George Washington University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;