Kim Adams | Prescriptive Power: Electricity and Medicine from Mesmerism to Shock Therapy

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Americans have long imagined that electricity would make them modern by shaping their bodies into dominant, desired forms. Electricity could make you whiter, stronger, and more sexually potent, but it could also give you visions, drive you insane, and teach you your place. The duplicitous dream of the electrically enhanced human body was not just a fringe effect of popular culture but a major force in American literature and medicine, one that remains tied to powerful social divisions today.

About the Speaker

Kim Adams is a Humanities in the World postdoctoral fellow at the Pennsylvania State University Humanities Institute. Her book project, Building the Body Electric, shows how narratives of technology have shaped U.S. healthcare from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Era. She co-hosts the podcast “High Theory” and is a founding member of the Humanities Podcast Network. As a scholar and educator, Adams is invested in work that combines material history with theoretical stakes to evoke practical consequences.

About the Series

Linda Randall Meier Research Workshop

Sponsored by the Stanford Humanities Center and made possible by support from Linda Randall Meier, the Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities



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