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Locating the MedicalExplorations in South Asian History$
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Rohan Deb Roy and Guy N.A. Attewell

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780199486717

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199486717.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 25 October 2021

Confessions of the Unfriendly Spleen

Confessions of the Unfriendly Spleen

Medicine, Violence, and That Mysterious Organ of Colonial India

(p.71) 3 Confessions of the Unfriendly Spleen
Locating the Medical

Sudipta Sen

Oxford University Press

This essay traces the genealogy of humors and diseases of the spleen that originated in England and became a common subject of study in imperial and tropical medicine, reinforcing deep-seated notions about the physical weakness of Indians and the unusual pathology of native bodies and organs. It explores how forensic notions of a weaker and vulnerable Indian body emerged in colonial India through theories of miasma and the practice of dissection, and how such ideas contributed to the notorious 'spleen theory' defense in the law courts of the late nineteenth-century Raj, where Europeans charged with assault and murder of Indian servants were frequently acquitted on the grounds of their distended spleens being ruptured during routine acts of physical correction.

Keywords:   Humors, diseases of the spleen, England, pathology, navtive, forensic notions, miasma, dissection, ‘spleen theory’, assault, murder, Indian servants, distended spleens, physical corrections

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