Medicine and Its Objects presents: Adam Baim!

Medicine and Its Objects presents…





 (MD/PhD Candidate, CHSS/Pritzker School of Medicine)

to discuss



with opening comments by

Colin Halverson
(PhD, Linguistic Anthropology)




Vision is a central matter of concern for ophthalmologists. In addition to evaluating the vision of patients, ophthalmologists also rely on their own trained vision to examine the eye and its hidden contents. The overarching goal of my dissertation is to investigate how ophthalmologists navigate the challenges of working on vision and with vision, and how they constitute a unique sort of ophthalmological visuality through their work. This first chapter explores the ways ophthalmologists conceptualize and assess the vision of their patients, thereby transforming it into an object of clinical expertise. I review three phases of the clinical encounter where vision is assessed: the patient history, the measurement of acuity, and the refraction (when corrective lens prescriptions are determined). Although these techniques reduce vision to standardized benchmarks, and extract clinical data from the lived experience of the patient, I argue that the overall process of assessing vision turns upon the enactment of more affective and experiential modes of understanding. This duality, where a subtle register of curiosity, empathy, and hope regarding the experience of patients resonates quietly beneath the surface of just-so clinical assessment, makes ophthalmology an especially rich venue for studying intersubjectivity. I also discuss instances where discrepancies arise between the ophthalmologist’s assessment of vision and the patient’s own narration of visual experience, including examples of “functional visual loss,” when a patient’s complaints cannot be verified by the ophthalmologist. I conclude by analyzing how ophthalmology’s ethics of care is built around the protection and restoration of patient vision. Even when patient reports are subordinated to an ophthalmologist’s measurements, such that patients lose epistemic primacy regarding their own vision, they often retain a moral primacy as the individuals whose vision is at stake.


Please email Camille ( for a copy of the paper


For any questions and concerns about the workshop, or if you need assistance in order to attend, please contact Camille Roussel (


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