The second in a two-part interview with historian Heather Ann Thompson, whose seminal article on mass incarceration, “Why Mass Incarceration Matters: Rethinking Crisis, Decline, and Transformation in Postwar American History” appeared in the December issue of the Journal of American History. In this interview, Thompson talks with Austin McCoy about her scholarly trajectory, the impact… Read more →
Category: Clio Talks
2010 was an important year for scholarship documenting the history of the carceral state. In January, legal scholar Michelle Alexander published The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Historian Khalil Gibran Muhammad’s The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America arrived the next month. Heather Ann… Read more →
Elizabeth Reis is a professor of women’s and gender studies at the University of Oregon and is the author of Bodies in Doubt: An American History of Intersex (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009). This year (2012-2103) she is a visiting scholar in the History of Science Department at Harvard University. This interview originally appeared in Feminists for Choice and is reprinted with permission.
1. What was the motivation behind writing Bodies in Doubt?
So much of the “history” of intersex begins in the mid-1950s with a critique of John Money and his colleagues at Johns Hopkins University. This was an important period, of course, because Money’s protocols became widely adopted, but it was hardly the beginning of the story of the medical management of intersex. As an early American historian, I wondered what happened to those born with unusual bodies in earlier eras. I wanted to find out how the gradual process of medicalization affected our understanding of how male and female bodies were supposed to look.