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Israelite Tribes in Exile
##The surnames are all familiar Afrikaner ones, deriving from our Dutch, French Huguenot, German and Scottish forebears. Further examination of the fresh young faces and healthy bodies shows that at least half if not more of the children are blond.
An extraordinarily high number have sparkling blue eyes. In fact, standing next to the English-medium class in the same age group, they seem almost like a caricature of the Aryan ideal.##
Source: Afrikaner Survival Under Black Rule (Part I) by Dan Roodt
Between 1860 and 1950 male circumcision in Britain rose sharply, and then
saw a swift decline. Robert Darby explains this phenomenon in the context of perceptions of male sexuality during the Victorian and Edwardian periods. He argues that physicians regarded the foreskin as a "source of moral and physical decay" (p. 4) and that their conviction persuaded parents to accept routine male infant and child circumcision: at its peak in 1930 the rate of circumcision was 30-40 percent of all males. Based on medical treatises, journals, and case studies Darby's book documents the emergence in Victorian Britain of male circumcision as a kind of therapy, based on its relationship to cultural attitudes toward masculinity, male sexuality, and the male body. He argues that beyond a cliched preoccupation with female sexuality, Victorians in fact pathologized the male sex drive and masturbation in particular. Medical theories of nerve force promoted by physicians in what Darby terms an "antisensual age" blamed nervous illness, prostitution, venereal disease, and other health problems on male sexuality (p. 14) and attributed to it an uncontrollability that many physicians, religious leaders, and parents believed only circumcision could restrain.
Darby argues that the movement promoting widespread circumcision was "generated by elements of both old and new medical theory and practice" (p. 18), but he considers the movement more as a part of the "old style of 'traditional' medicine" rather than a development of "the rising new style of 'scientific' medicine" (p. 317). His heuristic contrast [showing the sources and inviting the reader to draw their own conclusions] of traditional and scientific provides a flawed frame for the book by reinforcing the sense that the two types of medicine diverged sharply and by asserting that modernity is a phenomenon that bears little resemblance to what came before it. Physicians would certainly have us believe that the two types of medicine are vastly different, but as many medical historians point out, this distinction was a deliberate strategy of the professionalizing project that Darby describes in his book.
Although Darby's project would fit well within the historiographical discussions of Britain and empire to which he refers in his introduction, he does not pursue these connections in the book. Instead he is concerned to contribute to the history of moral attitudes, the rise of modern medicine, and the history of the body, specifically male sexual function. With detailed descriptions of masturbatory practices and the variety of therapies such as cauterization, castration, and circumcision documented in physicians' case studies, Darby makes good on his promise to avoid a "disembodied account of mere representations" (p. 9), to "shine a searchlight onto the indignities forced on men and boys by misguided doctors in the name of health or decency," and to reconstruct the experiences of those men victimized by this "medical fad" (p. 21).
Darby discusses the panic about masturbation in public schools in the late nineteenth century and the not unrelated emergence of medicine's preoccupation with the diagnoses of spermatorrhea and phimosis. (Spermatorrhea was an affliction characterized by "mystifyingly involuntary" seminal loss while phimosis defines "the naturally nonretractable and adherent condition of the juvenile foreskin" as a "malformation" [p. 216]). Nineteenth-century physicians associated a range of diseases and secondary illnesses with both of these conditions. While more traditional treatments were available, circumcision emerged as the favored cure by the beginning of the twentieth century.
The lengthy and detailed descriptions of what physicians thought about these issues and how they arrived at the consensus in favor of circumcision contrasts sharply with Darby's lack of attention to the reversal of attitudes toward circumcision that led to the abandonment of the procedure among Britain's non-Jewish and non-Muslim populations.
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