The Image Series: An Introduction

Post,Series October 23, 2015 4:30 pm

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Lord Rothschild on a Giant Tortoise

When my sister and I were growing up in the urban jungle of LA, Sundays meant waking up to the gentle thump of the thicker, fuller, denser version of the Los Angeles Times landing at our doorstep.  This was exciting. Not because we were worldly citizens at 8 and 10 years old, but because in the gentle thump contained the Sunday comics…in color!  COLOR!  Ok, color can sometimes be distracting (see chapter 8 of Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art), but at least the artists and editors took the time to add another dimension to their work.

Which is why The Image Series, a curated set of posts on the HASTS Blog, is an attempt (or series of attempts) to take the time excavating one image.  It could be any image–something you found in the archive or came across on your web-browsing rampage.  Rather than using images to illustrate, each post begins with an image and explores it in depth.  What does it show?  What is it trying to actually show?  How do you read it?  What should we, eager readers, notice?   This way, text and image can mutually illustrate!

I know that the relevance of representation and visualization is not lost on STS scholars, given that entire books are dedicated to illustration (see Sachiko Kusukawa’s Picturing the Book of Nature) and components of illustrations (like Tim Ingold’s A Brief History of Lines), but these represent the very tip of the iceberg.  Actually, they’re more like invitations.  Cartographers have offered fantastic accounts of graphic representations (love Mark Monmonier’s How to Lie with Maps), and we don’t have to look far for people who are equally consumed with the non-textual artifacts (hello Dave Kaiser and Hanna Schell!).  The list goes on, but I will stop before this paragraph looks like a generals exam response.  You know what I mean, though. So, welcome!


Lan A. Li is a cultural historian of science and medicine in the HASTS program at MIT. Her research centers on representing and visualizing the body in Chinese medicine and biomedicine throughout the 20th century. In particular, her dissertation compares how mapping areas of affected sensation and meridian tracts conflicted and cohered with testimonies of the body among physiologists in China, Britain, and the United States. In her spare time, Lan is also a documentary filmmaker, collaborating with integrative practitioners in India, Brazil, and China. She is supported by the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, NSF Dissertation Improvement Grant, and an alumna of the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans.

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