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Abstract

This project examines the pedagogical experiment that was the Madrasa Tibbiya of Delhi (est. 1889). It excavates the changes to the medical imaginaries and subjectivities of Avicennian practitioners and their patients and patrons in colonial India. These changes emerged as practitioners began incorporating the diagnostic practices, instruments and theories of global scientific medicine into their own humoral medical tradition which, by the late nineteenth century, was already a palimpsest of epistemic and technical forms that were Hellenic, Arabic, Persian, and Sanskritic in provenance. I illustrate these changes through a new archive of print material primarily in the Urdu language that also includes textual elements in Persian and Arabic. This archive reveals the transformations in medical perception, the embodiment of medical labor, and the voices of sick people, and the meaning of professional community that signified the reformation of the Avicennian episteme and the subjectivities produced through it. I argue that these transformations coincided with broader social changes experienced by the demographic group to which practitioners and their patients belonged, the north Indian Muslim service-gentry. Ultimately, my study demonstrates that as the service-gentry lost their ancestral lands and the patronage of royal courts, as they became middle class, they also began to imagine their bodies anew – their social transformation was coincident with the epistemic transformations to healing, disease, and selfhood that my project reveals. As such, this dissertation makes two important contributions to the social and cultural history of Muslim north India: it presents a hitherto unstudied archive of Urdu medical periodicals, institutional reports and pamphlets; it introduces methods from the medical humanities to suggest that medicine as much as law can be studied as a site of subject formation for the north Indian Muslim gentry.

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