Unruly Bodies?: Portraying Science and Citizenry in Post-Civil War America


LAC Burkhardt


History of Art


For residence at the Charles Warren Center for American History at Harvard University during academic year 2019-2020


This study explores images of the damaged or "compromised" body, literal and more metaphorical from the American Civil War through the 1920s. In a period gripped by the physical trauma of war and the absorption of seemingly foreign peoples, questions about the health and integrity of the body politic became ever more pressing. The project examines the visual response to those dilemmas. It reconstitutes a narrative arc starting with the founding of the Army Medical Museum and the portrayal of amputated Civil War soldiers, moving to the representation of immigrant and Native American bodies, and culminating with notions of the perfectible and imperfectible body inflected by the advance of athletics and eugenics. In considering racial theories, definitions of gender, and the relationship between art and science, “Unruly Bodies?” offers a new lens on corporeality and social constitution.