Surgery as a distinct and elite discipline of western medical science is a specifically modern development whose foundations lie in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. This paper examines the historical emergence of surgery during this period and shows how developments in both the profession and practice of surgery were dependent upon the promotion of the body and its illnesses as anatomically knowable and therefore surgically manageable. The imbricated developments of surgery and anatomy constituted a change in the ontology of the body and its medical management, where disease, understood as an inaccessible internal disorder, was redefined by surgeons as locatable in specific tissues and body parts. By redefining knowledge of the body through anatomy, surgeons and their surgical practices paved the way for modern conceptions of subjectivity as embodied, inscribed by the real and imaginary actions of the surgical knife.
- surgery, anatomy, history, medicine, disease, subjectivity