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The Black body and the Jewish body: a comparison of medical images

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Hödl attempts to show how deeply the medical views of Blacks and Jews were embedded in racial theories in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Concepts of racial distinctiveness formed the framework that purportedly explained a specific liability of African Americans and Jews to various ailments. In particular, he compares the prevailing perception of the susceptibility of Jews and Blacks to tuberculosis in the United States from the 1840s to the early twentieth century, and shows that physicians advanced widely differing explanations for the proclivity to this disease, explanations that fall into three distinct periods. Within the same time span, however, there is continuity in the concepts of the 'sick Negro' and the 'healthy Jew'. The aetiologies were largely dependent on stereotypes of the bodily constructs of Jews and Blacks. Hödl thereby demonstrates the interdependence of racism and medicine.

Keywords: Blacks; Jews; eugenics; history of medicine; monogenesis; polygenesis; racism; stereotype; tuberculosis

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/003132202128811349

Affiliations: Institute of Contemporary History, University of Graz

Publication date: January 1, 2002

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