Doubting sex

Inscriptions, bodies and selves in nineteenth-century hermaphrodite case histories

By Geertje Mak

Doubting sex


  • Paperback
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8690-8
  • Pages: 296
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: February 2012
  • BIC Category: Modern History, History, Gender studies, gender groups, SOCIAL SCIENCE / LGBT Studies / Transgender Studies, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Gender Studies, Society & social sciences / Gender studies: transsexuals & hermaphroditism, Humanities / Social & cultural history


An adolescent girl is mocked when she takes a bath with her peers, because her genitals look like those of a boy. A couple visits a doctor asking to 'create more space' in the woman for intercourse. A doctor finds testicular tissue in a woman with appendicitis, and decides to keep his findings quiet. These are just a few of the three hundred European case histories of people whose sex was doubted during the long nineteenth century that Geertje Mak draws upon in her remarkable new book.

How did people deal with such situations? How did they decide to which sex a person should belong? This groundbreaking analysis of clinical case histories shows how sex changed from an outward appearance inscribed in a social body to something to be found deep inside body and self. A fascinating, easy to follow, yet sophisticated argument addressing major issues of the history of body, sex, and self, this volume will fit advanced undergraduate courses, while challenging specialists.


"Here praxiography moves into history. The result is stunning. Learn how sexed bodies and selves-with-a-sex got crafted in 19th century western Europe. Revel in the productivity of doubt. And enjoy the intellectual pleasure throughout." Annemarie Mol, Prof. Anthropology of the Body, University of Amsterdam


I - Inscription
1. Secrecy and disclosure: Politics of containment
2. Early sex reassignments and the absence of a sex of self
3. Herculine Barbin
II - Body
4. How to get the semen to the neck of the womb
5. Justine Jumas: Conflicting body politics
6. The dislodgement of the person
III - Self
7. Sex assignment around 1900: From a legal to a clinical issue
8. The turn inwards
9. Scripting the self: N. O. Body's autobiography


Geertje Mak is Assistant Professor at the Institute for Gender Studies and the History Department of the Radboud University in Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

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