From Plants to Planets: Human and Nonhuman Relations in Ancient Medicine. SCS 5-8 January 2017, Toronto, Ontario

You may be interested in this call for papers for a panel to be held at next year’s meeting of the Society for Classical Studies, in Toronto from January 5-8, 2017.

From Plants to Planets: Human and Nonhuman Relations in Ancient Medicine

Sponsored by the Society for Ancient Medicine and Pharmacy (SAM). SAM is an affiliated group of the Society for Classical Studies.

One of the most important tenets in ancient Greco-Roman medicine, from the early Hippocratic texts down into late antiquity, is the situation of the human body within a vast network of non-human bodies and forces.  The use of nonhuman materials for therapeutic purposes obviously predates the earliest records of naturalizing medicine, but with the rise of the inquiry into nature in the classical era, plants, animals, and even non-human objects (e.g., clay vessels) become newly important as bodies analogous to the human while remaining crucial as therapeutic resources; and larger-scale analogies between microcosm and macrocosm recur across the corpus of medical texts.  From the Hellenistic period onwards, the circulation of sympathies and antipathies in the terrestrial and astral worlds, implicit or explicit, creates complex networks of affinity and enmity between humans, plants, animals, stones, and planetary bodies.  The development of systematic anatomical research, after a brief foray into the human body, relies for the most part on animal bodies, most notably in Galen.

The interaction of human and nonhuman worlds is basic knowledge to scholars of ancient medicine.  But how can our understanding of these dense networks of force and meaning be advanced by recent perspectives on the nonhuman, actor-network theory, the environmental and medical humanities, multispecies ethnography, medical anthropology, new materialisms, animal studies, and related fields across the humanities and social sciences?  What light can a renewed focus on human and non-human relations in ancient medicine shed on our conceptualization of the social self and forms of community in the ancient world more generally?  How might they be read together with recent work on other forms of interpersonal sociality and power in ancient medicine?  Or do ancient medical texts more often inscribe a tacit division between subjects and objects within the cosmos?

Accepted papers will be presented at a SAM panel at the SCS at the 2017 meeting, which will be held January 5-8, 2017 in Toronto, Ontario. Panelists must be membwers of the SCS at the time of presentation.

Please send an abstract of 500 words of your proposed paper (20 min.) by e-mail to Brooke Holmes ( The abstract should omit any reference identifying the author to ensure anonymity in the review process.  Deadline for submission of abstracts is March 1, 2016.


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