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Skull-deformations in newborns : Interdisciplinary work

Sometimes, large research projects with a small kit. In 2005, the Berlin-based cultural anthropologist Sigrid Weigel wrote in the daily mirror that "in view of the increasing specialisation in the technical and scientific research," the involved scientists, "the cultural contexts and historical conditions" of their respective innovations often could not overlook. They had the help of the spirit of science learning is needed: "culture relates to the way Knowledge is produced, transmitted, and used." Neurosurgeon Hannes Haberl, who was then working at the Charité practiced, was initially easily annoyed in front of his newspaper.

"But then I had to admit to myself that Sigrid Weigel is right," says Haberl today. For decades he's been a specialist for a complicated surgery in infants whose skull sutures at birth is already closed. This often leads to noticeable deformation of the shape of the head. Usually, the children are operated on at the age of a few months. Your skull bone is sawed, removed, and transformed – literally re-puzzled together. However, according to what design standards?

The racial doctrine of the Nazis discredited the research area

This has been researched. "There is in medicine, great inhibitions, on the subject of skull shapes approach the car," says Haberl. What the reason for this is obvious: The racial doctrine of the Nazis and their excessive preoccupation with head shapes has discredited the territory in a sustainable way. Descriptions of an "ideal" skull since the mid-20th century. Century in Germany is a taboo. For those Affected by this white spot in the research to serious consequences. "Where there is no written operation goal, also no quality control," says Haberl. Instead, the operators acted in part as a sculptor: at their own discretion, and supposedly artistic. This does not want to give the physician no longer satisfied.

Haberl Weigel called and asked if she would be interested in a joint project, he joined with the former Director of the center for literary and cultural research (ZfL) on open ears. "You can't be impartial, if one has not reflected the biases and edited," says Weigel. From the very beginning that the cooperation should make use of at the end of the patients and Doctors. The researchers wanted to include the perspective of children and parents. "At first it was hard to get a third-party funding," recalls Weigel. Only in 2010 a request by the Volkswagen Foundation; 745 000 euros are granted. After a year-long preparatory work in 2011, employees can be engaged.

source texts from Plato to Wilhelm von Humboldt

In historical text material is not lacking. About skull shapes have been omitted since ancient times, countless philosophers and writers. In the 18th century. Century blooms the physiognomical research, the external characteristics of a person with certain character traits. Although scientifically obsolete, "the physiognomic prejudices in our perception and our memory," explains Weigel. In a nearly 400-page source tape, the Team now has the most influential texts of Aristotle, Plato, da Vinci, Dürer, Shakespeare, Lavater, Goethe, Hegel, Wilhelm von Humboldt, to the racial theorists of the 19th century. and early 20th century. Century gathered together ("skull base knowledge II. texts to know the history of a bone", edited by Uta grain Meier).

Weigel and haberl's interest was, as well as the current clinical practice. Band I., "culture and history of the surgical corrections of the skull forms" presents the latest surgical procedures, comprehensive surgery history and an engagement with the aesthetic criteria in the field of medicine. The scientists have analyzed the texts and illustrations, but also the communicative Situation in the medical treatment room, under the magnifying glass taken. Anonymous patient forums on the Internet were also examined: Birgit Gries corner shows how carefully the parents share about their children, and their heads and how the linguistic taboos complicate the dialogue.

Gries corner has followed another approach: Using the award-winning youth novel, "wonder" by Raquel J. Palacio, the main character is a Boy with a striking head, the scientist, a teaching unit for elementary school. With a sixth class in Prenzlauer Berg, you discussed the topic of physical abnormalities. Conclusion: Educational programs based on literary texts, can help to sensitize children and to change the social climate in the long term.

life-long exclusion and shaming

For children with closed cranial sutures, which are insufficiently or not at all surgery, are life-long exclusion, shaming and bullying on the agenda, says Weigel. Often with dramatic effects on the development of personality. "Unfortunately, there are in Germany about this social psychological aspects little empirical research." The should need it, so that parents can meet on a better basis for their decisions. Often the cranial correction is not, because it is from a medical and functional point of view is imperative as an aesthetic correction of the misunderstood – and in the Controversy about cosmetic surgery.

the project not only provides methods of criticism, but also concrete proposals, is not unusual. In the Humanities, it is usual to dissect texts and theories. But the Fears and hardships of the families involved? Research it, if it allows Affected in the future, a happier life? The long-standing ZfL-Director Weigel puts the cross to Share his own Guild. "I see this as a fundamental task of the cultural Sciences," she says. The scientists would have to interfere more, the reference to problems of the present, much more aggressive operate.

A database of head shapes healthy kids

However, the Trend internationally, as in the case of the Disability Studies, in the opposite direction. Medical procedures were often rejected, on the ground that the society must change. "Disabled" – this is just a construct, it was necessary to break up discursively. "Apart from the fact that these children have no disability, help such theoretical debates, neither the families, nor do they give the operating Doctors more security," says Weigel.

it Is managed with the project to the medicine encroach, as it was originally haberl's idea? The neurosurgeon, who is now at the University of Bonn, affirms: "It was a successful cooperation, even if it was different than I had expected." Because the Problem of how a "normal" perceived head-operatively construct, has solved Haberl alone, without the help of cultural studies. He fed to dozens of head shapes of healthy children in a database. Of these Patterns on the basis of individual 3D models can be made.

More about

the physiognomy of the skull according to the standard

Claudia Schmölders

The project's resulting publications – in addition to the two books, numerous essays – is holding Haberl, nevertheless for an important help. "From my point of view, cultural education is missing, doctors increasingly." Experts for Skull malformations should be familiar with the "nuts and bolts, and computer technology". "You also need to understand the historical Background to make this work and what are the diffuse cultural influences they are exposed to." This was now worked up comprehensively.

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