November 12th, 2010

Nufer's wife

I'm reading _A People's History of Science_, which I'll be posting about (along with some rambling about Spaceship Earth at Epcot) later on. However, I just want to say one thing here.

I'm really kind of tired of hearing about Jacob Nufer, the pig-gelder who did the first "documented" (does that really count when the documentation occurs well after all the participants involved are dead?) c-section in which both the mother and the child survived. I mention it here in part because I find it doubly obnoxious that Conner tells the story without mentioning that the woman in question was Nufer's wife (who else could the woman possibly have been?). The story is also problematic, as it sets up a questionable circumstance in which the moral of the story is that the woman in question and 13 midwives failed, but the pig-gelder delivered. If there's a feminist issue with specifying the marital relationship, there should be a feminist issue with telling the story at all, given the crappy nature of the documentation.

Finally, Europeans traveling in Uganda and Rwanda in the 19th century (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/cesarean/part2.html) saw a long-standing and successful practice of c-section. We don't know how long that had been going on, but it may well have predated. Given the documentary problems with Nufer, relating Nufer and not mentioning the possibility that African experience was in advance of European practice at a later date smells like Eurocentrism.