Elizabeth O'Brien F'18

Elizabeth  O'Brien
Assistant Professor
Department of the History of Medicine
Johns Hopkins University

Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships 2018
Doctoral Candidate
University of Texas at Austin
Intimate Interventions: The Cultural Politics of Reproductive Surgery in Mexico, 1790-1940

“Intimate Interventions” offers a longue durée analysis of reproductive surgery in Mexico, from the late eighteenth to mid-twentieth centuries. Using archival as well as published theological and scientific sources, the study examines how philosophical changes concerning fetal ensoulment, racial heredity, and medical ethics played out under religious, republican, and revolutionary governments, thereby contributing to the formation of the Mexican state. The project also draws on hundreds of patient records in order to illuminate the experiential aspects of reproductive surgery, as well as to explore how religious and political efforts to influence reproduction impacted women’s lives. Contributing to three historiographies—those of the Catholic enlightenment, science and medicine, and women and gender—the research uncovers the surgical origins of religious, political, and cultural claims on unborn fetuses, and historicizes the contemporary crisis of obstetrical violence in Latin America.