The Scalpel: An Introduction to the ‘Anatomising Urge’



In Chapter 1 I argued that the practice of anatomy has both significantly shaped the dominant ‘western’ conceptions of the body and has acted as a pattern for the main mode of knowledge. In this it has become institutionalised and valued as a model of knowledge, particularly in scientific method and philosophical rationality. The practice of anatomy has become a taken-for-granted part of science and medicine, as well as a practice that marks out the professional understanding of the body from the lay one. But it is much more broadly influential as the basis of the intellectual tradition. In this, although much of the material in this chapter is historically-based, the ‘anatomising urge’ is of contemporary significance. While it may be founded on the death of the body, as a mode of knowledge it is alive and well. In this chapter I want to explore this argument in more detail, thus providing the context for applying it to organisation theory in Chapter 5. In the first section I shall explore the social and institutional development of anatomy, then turn to the ways in which practices of anatomy have constructed the human body. Following this I shall look at anatomy as a model for the development of a valued form of knowledge — the ‘anatomising urge’.


Organisation Theory Dead Body Intellectual Tradition Allopathic Medicine Anatomy Theatre 
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© Karen Dale 2001

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