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Wednesday 18 March 2020 11.00 - 13.00
J-2 LAT01 Cesarean Operations, Fetal Baptism, and Obstetrics in the Iberian Atlantic World
Johan Huizinga, 025
Network: Latin America Chair: Martha Few
Organizer: Zeb Tortorici Discussant: Martha Few
George Klaeren : Antemortem Obstetric Operations in the Eighteenth-Century Hispanic World: Theological Motivations and Surgical Innovations
At the close of the seventeenth century, the procedure for cesarean operations remained one which was restricted to postmortem applications by necessity. The risks involved in performing the operation were often fatal, and as late as the eighteenth century, many Spanish embryologists and obstetricians warned against its use, describing ... (Show more)
At the close of the seventeenth century, the procedure for cesarean operations remained one which was restricted to postmortem applications by necessity. The risks involved in performing the operation were often fatal, and as late as the eighteenth century, many Spanish embryologists and obstetricians warned against its use, describing it as a “cruel crime of assassination.” This position, however, was almost entirely reversed among the medical community by the mid-nineteenth century, and already at the end of the eighteenth-century in Spain, many medical professionals practiced cesarean sections on living patients. This paper traces the development of antemortem medical operations in the field of obstetrics in the eighteenth-century Iberian world, particularly focusing on the shifting opinions on the permissibility and technical application of performing cesarean operations on living patients. It especially highlights how theological, moral, and bioethical discussions had a direct impact on shaping the scientific knowledge and discourse generated in medical academic societies and surgical colleges. Using examples from throughout the Spanish empire, this essay shows theological motivations drove surgical innovations in the field of antemortem obstetrics in the Hispanic enlightenment. (Show less)

Elizabeth O'Brien : Fetal Life, Maternal Death, and the Caesarean Operation: between Catholic Doctrine and Popular Metaphysics in the Americas
This paper will examine metaphysical debates about the use of the caesarean operation in late eighteenth and early nineteenth century New Spain. It will pay particular attention to two themes: (1) shifts in Catholic thought about the spiritual and corporeal lives of unborn fetuses, and (2) Enlightenment medical claims about ... (Show more)
This paper will examine metaphysical debates about the use of the caesarean operation in late eighteenth and early nineteenth century New Spain. It will pay particular attention to two themes: (1) shifts in Catholic thought about the spiritual and corporeal lives of unborn fetuses, and (2) Enlightenment medical claims about diagnosing maternal death. Using baptismal records from missions in eighteenth century California, the writings of Jesuit priest Juan Nentvig in Sonora, and the medical tome of a Catholic doctor in Mexico City (Antonio Medina), the paper will analyze popular and doctrinaire approaches to the following intertwined debates, which figured prominently in writings about the religious use of the caesarean operation: (1) the relationship of breathing and suffocation to the death of both women and infants, (2) the question of in-womb fetal ensoulment, and (3) medical criteria for diagnosing death and for speculating about the departure of the post-mortem soul. Nentvig’s writings are of particular interest due to how they offer metaphysical claims about life, death, and reproduction from the indigenous Pima group of Northern Sonora, where Jesuit priests began to perform caesarean operations in 1766. Priests did so in the broader context of a large-scale indigenous revolt against Spanish imperial expansion in northern Mexico. In many ways, the caesarean operation represented a battle for the soul of the Americas—as having to do with religious conversion, the development of medical expertise, and the consolidation of geopolitical authority. By offering an integrated (not comparative) analysis of these debates—and by using sources that speak to indigenous and Catholic perspectives—this paper will join the other panelists in bringing together themes of religion, gender, and the history of surgery, as well as metaphysical, medical, and spiritual beliefs in the Americas. (Show less)

Zeb Tortorici : Native Body and Soul as Laboratory: Translating Desire and Baptizing Fetuses in New Spain
The Diccionario de autoridades—the first dictionary of the Castilian language published by the Real Academia Española between 1726 and 1739—first defined the word laboratorio as “the office in which Chemists [Chímicos] work, and produce their extractions and other things.” I propose that the missionary and priest in colonial New Spain ... (Show more)
The Diccionario de autoridades—the first dictionary of the Castilian language published by the Real Academia Española between 1726 and 1739—first defined the word laboratorio as “the office in which Chemists [Chímicos] work, and produce their extractions and other things.” I propose that the missionary and priest in colonial New Spain served as a type of spiritual “chemist” who was intimately invested in testing and pushing the bounds of religious and scientific knowledge, in alchemically transforming one form of being radically into another, and in strategically “extracting” native bodies and souls so as to fold them into the ever-expanding realm of global Catholicism. Franciscan and Jesuit missions as well as many secular priests throughout New Spain used indigenous bodies and souls, both metaphorically and literally, as laboratories where experimented linguistically, spiritually, and corporeally to fundamentally alter their core constitutions, their corporeal desires, and the fates of their infants' souls. Not unlike the Enlightenment-era chímicos—scientists invested in Enlightenment-era rationality and alchemical fantasies of purifying base metals—Catholic missionaries in the frontier regions of colonial New Spain and secular priests in more urban centers sought to mold indigenous peoples into purer versions of their previous selves. I focus in particular on: (1) on the translation of sexual sin between Spanish and native-language concepts as found in colonial bilingual confessional manuals, and (2) on the eighteenth-century campaigns spearheaded by priests and secular authorities throughout Iberian Atlantic world (and beyond) to baptize the fetuses of indigenous women who died pregnant by “extracting” the fetuses in order to baptize them. (Show less)

Adam Warren : Interrogating the Presence and Absence of Postmortem Cesarean Operations Across Spain's Empire
This paper will interrogate the practices of recording cases and circulating news of the postmortem cesarean operation in different parts of Spain's Empire, focusing in particular on the contrast between the abundance of both published and archival cases in New Spain and Guatemala and their relative absence in Peru and ... (Show more)
This paper will interrogate the practices of recording cases and circulating news of the postmortem cesarean operation in different parts of Spain's Empire, focusing in particular on the contrast between the abundance of both published and archival cases in New Spain and Guatemala and their relative absence in Peru and other parts of Spanish South America. Indeed, for Peru and La Plata I have found only one published case, and its absence from corresponding archival records raises questions about how the operation was perceived and valued in that region. In early 1795, El Mercurio Peruano, Lima's enlightenment newspaper, included an account of a cesarean operation carried out in December of the previous year on a woman killed by a lightning strike in Tucumán, La Plata. Her death was dutifully registered in a mundane fashion in Tucumán in a parish libro de difuntos and her name, Antonia, was included in the entry alongside information about her background and marital status. However, unlike similar entries elsewhere in Spain's empire, in the parish record no mention was made of the operation performed after her death to extract and baptize the fetus inside her. Similarly, there is no record of the fetus' baptism in Tucuman's libros de bautismos, despite the presence of a priest at the operation, who presumably administered the holy water.

Building off of this disjuncture between archival and published sources, my analysis will seek to explain priestly reluctance to record such cases, or perhaps even have the operation performed at all, in Spanish South America while considering the reasons why they recorded and actively publicized such cases elsewhere. In particular, I ask how such differences might correspond to forms of priestly self-fashioning as Enlightened thinkers engaged in the production of new knowledge, and how it reflected ideas of their duty toward their flocks. It is notable that priests often authored accounts of the operation's performance in New Spain and Guatemala, while in Peru and La Plata they penned just one medical-theological text about the operation and otherwise tended to focus on other topics of research, knowledge production, and debate. While the Mercurio Peruano article, published as a lurid tale to inform and tantalize a reading public in Lima that sought news from other parts of Spain's empire, reflected the intrusion of priestly and male authority into a setting that was traditionally the domain of women, it did not reflect a larger, ongoing practice of surgical experimentation or the circulation of ideas concerning how the operation might be employed and modified. Likewise, it left reason to doubt the claim that priests in Peru and La Plata had accepted the operation as one of their fundamental duties toward the unborn. (Show less)



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