Thanks to everyone for coming to the conference and especially to our keynotes, Suzannah Biernoff and Effaced’s new friends Rosemarie Garland-Thomson and Caroline Wilkinson. Their three lectures all crossed disciplinary boundaries and made delegates think outside their own areas of specialisms, as well as signalling areas for future research.
I was going to write up a summary of the papers and some thoughts, but a few of the delegates have beaten me to it, so here is prospective PhD student Geraldine Gnych, already the author of a wonderful Swansea University MA dissertation on the eye in medieval surgical texts, who writes:
The ‘Effaced From History’ Conference, although I only managed a day (Friday), was wonderful. I really found the whole day fascinating, meeting new people, discussing their projects and listening to talks on subjects that I would probably otherwise ignore. One thing that I realised through the day was that I have been very narrow-minded in my research, ignoring anything out of my time period, or area of most knowledge. Many of the papers raised issues of how and what we perceive as a facial disfigurement, particularly Jane Draycott‘s paper on hair loss. I would never have considered something so natural and common as male hair loss as disfiguring, but it highlighted the way society outlines and influences what people see as abnormal. Marjorie Gehrhardt‘s paper made me consider how facial disfigurement is used as a way of categorising social groups and group identities, as well as how disfigurement can be used to influence people’s emotions and thereby influence their actions: in this case to give money to the fundraising campaign. The contemporary paper by Patricia Neville and her colleagues concerning cleft lip and palate was most useful to my current research in helping me to better understand the condition as I look at medieval surgical texts and their approaches to corrective operations. The whole day made me consider many facets of researching facial disfigurements. Not only how they are described and dealt with medically, but more importantly how society views them; categorises them and categorises the people with these disfigurements; how society tries to normalise or integrate these people, and finally how the people concerned deal with their own differences and face the problems placed before them by society.
Thanks Geraldine – more delegate feedback to follow!