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New book review of Different Truths

posted Aug 17, 2011, 9:02 PM by Historia Medicinae Editor   [ updated Feb 14, 2015, 8:43 AM ]

When tourists visit an exciting, fascinating locale, they inevitably take home postcards as memories of the places visited and people seen. One cannot help but notice how much more enamoring the destination appears on a glossy printed card than it did in person, no matter how illustrious the site. Therefore, it is difficult to imagine using postcards as a historical tool to discover the history of medicine in tribal cultures, but this feat is what Peter A.G.M. De Smet sets out to do in his bookDifferent Truths: Ethnomedicine in Early Postcards.

After amassing a collection of postcards from across the globe through everything from historical collections to online auctions, De Smet set out to analyze the content of the postcard and glean the elements of truth regarding what he terms ethnomedicine underlying the stereotyped postcards. He goes beyond mere rote cataloging and organizing of postcards to expound their significance and extricate the truth beyond the manipulation of photographers and postcard companies. The industry and the practice of tourists buying and collecting these postcards is an interesting topic aside from the main thrust of this interpreted collection and is a subject that the author devotes just enough effort to provide the reader with a fascinating understanding of where these postcards originated and who held onto them.