Appel à contribution – The Sense of Touch in Renaissance Medicine

Call for contributions for a symposium proposal for the 9th International Conference of the European Society for the History of Science (ESHS), which will take place in Bologna (31 August-3 September 2020). The theme of the 2020 meeting is “Visual, Material and Sensory Cultures of Science” (more information on the conference’s website:

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The Sense of Touch in Renaissance Medicine

The panel aims to explore the part played by the sense of touch in daily practices of healing and conceptualizing the human body in the Renaissance. Medical records of the time, from theoretical treatises to records of practice, display a wealth of information regarding tactile encounters with dead and living bodies, that suggests an important epistemological value of touch in early modern medicine, which has only been cursory examined to date. In contrast to frequent narratives that tend to focus exclusively on the part played by visual experience and observation in the development of early modern experimental sciences, this panel will offer an alternative view by examining the languages, practices, and theories of touch displayed in a variety of medical settings in the Renaissance.

Some themes to be discussed, but not limited to, include:

  • Manual skills, medical technè, and the language of haptic expertise
  • The relation between visual and haptic experience
  • The epistemic values/limits of bodily senses
  • Technology and the body
  • Questions of gender and emotion

Proposals focused on a specific group of practitioners—physicians, midwives, barbers, surgeons, empirics…—are particularly welcome, in order to foster a wide discussion regarding ways of touching bodies in the Renaissance.

Please send a title for your paper, a short abstract (max. 300 words), 3 keywords, and a short biographical note (max. 150 words) by 13 January 2020 to

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