Aims

Box FAU/SYR, A75,Middle East FM. Hadfield Spears Mobile Hospital [undated]. Britain Yearly Meeting. Acknowledgement ‘Images supplied courtesy of Library of the Society of Friends’.

By placing colonial and transnational intimacies centre stage, this project has three central aims. The first is to evaluate the role of cultural ideas about the sexed, gendered, racialised, othered and wounded body in shaping foreign policy and military operations. The second is to uncover how military and medical authorities and voluntary organisations politicized intimate care and drew moral and sexual boundaries between acceptable and unacceptable forms of corporeal intimacy. The third is to reconsider the experiences of patients themselves, insisting on their agency in negotiating the treatment that was provided to them and exploring the affective consequences of medical categorisations on their individual identities.

The medical spaces of the French Resistance provide a paradigmatic case to study the ways in which contests over political authority amongst French and Allied military elites took place at the level of individual bodies. French resisters were considered as ‘pariahs’ on the international stage and were highly dependent on their Allies and colonies for resources and legitimacy. Their medical spaces were thus remarkably heterogeneous, both in terms of the origins of its staff and patients, and in relation to the broad spectrum of medical traditions and practices that co-existed within them. An examination of these diverse spaces therefore offers a fascinating insight into complex social, gender, religious, professional and ethnic identities, belief systems and subjectivities.

Recent spotlights on the #AidToo movement have raised public awareness on the centrality of gender to understanding the current humanitarian system. By offering historical insights onto intimate bodily encounters, this project will contribute to current debates on gender inequalities and lay stronger foundations for future histories and studies of humanitarianism. Drawing on hitherto unexplored archival documents, personal testimonies and photographs, it will alter our understanding of international medical cooperation and provide a crucial reassessment of the relationships between medical practices, bodily interactions, emotional ideals and individual behaviours.