Anatomy, physiology and the New World body
Chapter 2 outlines the limits of a normative notion of the body in colonial medical discourse during the last third of the sixteenth century. It centres on a close reading of texts by Alonso López de Hinojosos and Juan de Cárdenas, comparing their ideas with discussions then unfolding in Europe about the purported radical difference between the physiology of Spaniards and those belonging to other ‘nations’ [naciones]. The chapter argues that American medical texts (sometimes unwittingly) became satellite testing grounds for emerging European ideas, not just on social cohesion, but also on racial difference. The juxtaposition of Old World ideas about corporeality with New World medical observations were both metaphorical and literal, given the reliance on Nahua bodies as sources of information to develop modes of care designed primarily to meet the needs of non-Indigenous patients. Despite many shared points of view, the comparison of Hinojosos against Cárdenas reveals a colonial paradox, with anatomy finding accumulating evidence of a repeating body template largely unaffected by a subject’s ethnicity, and physiology advancing instead models that understood racialised bodies as performing differently in arenas like nourishment needs or resistance to disease.
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