Prof. Guy Geltner
dr. Janna Coomans
prof.dr. G. Geltner
Sander Govaerts (PhD candidate)
dr. C.V. Weeda
This research group focuses on the ways in which premodern health discourses played into or shaped the historical development of a private/public divide as a frontier for conflict and an axis of identity formation. How and to what extent did pre-modern people go about creating healthier environments? We seek to address misconceptions about preventative (as opposed to curative) health care in pre-modern cities, and explores how urban dwellers, organizations, and governments, especially in medieval Europe and the Near East, identified and addressed the particular health risks attendant upon their milieus. Moving beyond the current historiographical focus on epidemiology, the group investigates the processes of urban “healthscaping” in premodernity and its material and cultural heritage in the modern age. The key research questions are:
This interdisciplinary project is grounded in the field of memory studies, and will study premodern healthscaping from a dynamic and transregional perspective, with sensitivity towards geopolitical diversity as well as an emphasis on documented practice rather than prescriptive and literary sources. Moreover, the project seeks to embed discourses on health in the concrete spatial and material setting of the premodern city. The subject contributes to various interdisciplinary research themes in heritage and memory studies, such as the relation between individual and society, social norms and technological development, the dynamics of controlling urban space, and the perception of public and private spheres.
This project offers an historical perspective on the construction and function of public health. The line of research also offers substantially new insights into the historical development of a private/public divide as a frontier for conflict and an axis of identity formation. Writing the history of pre-modern urban public health can emerge from a dialogue with a range of current debates in memory studies, urban planning, restoration studies, identity politics, social justice, and gender studies, and should thus be done in a conscious attempt to contribute back to them. Providing modern public health professionals and institutions, which are often woefully, disengaged from historical insight, with a historical perspective can also help us test the common assumption that successful interventions (that is, effecting behavioral change) are contingent upon the existence of central government action, advanced technology, and modern science.