A richly told story of the collision between nature’s smallest organism and history’s mightiest empire
The Emperor Justinian reunified Rome’s fractured empire by defeating the Goths and Vandals who had separated Italy, Spain, and North Africa from imperial rule. In his capital at Constantinople he built the world’s most beautiful building, married its most powerful empress, and wrote its most enduring legal code, seemingly restoring Rome’s fortunes for the next five hundred years. Then, in the summer of 542, he encountered a flea. The ensuing outbreak of bubonic plague killed five thousand people a day in Constantinople and nearly killed Justinian himself.
In Justinian’s Flea, William Rosen tells the story of history’s first pandemic—a plague seven centuries before the Black Death that killed tens of millions, devastated the empires of Persia and Rome, left a path of victims from Ireland to Iraq, and opened the way for the armies of Islam. Weaving together evolutionary microbiology, economics, military strategy, ecology, and ancient and modern medicine, Rosen offers a sweeping narrative of one of the great hinge moments in history, one that will appeal to readers of John Kelly’s The Great Mortality, John Barry’s The Great Influenza, and Jared Diamond’s Collapse.
Cultures of Plague discloses a new chapter in the history of medicine. Neither the plague nor the ideas it stimulated were static, fixed in a timeless Galenic vacuum over five centuries, as historians and scientists commonly assume. As plague evolved in its pathology, modes of transmission, and the social characteristics of its victims, so did medical thinking about it.
With over 600 plague imprints of the sixteenth century this study highlights the century’s most feared and devastating epidemic that threatened Italy top to toe from 1575 to 1578, unleashing an avalanche of plague writing. From erudite definitions, remote causes, cures and recipes, physicians now directed their plague writings to the prince and discovered their most ‘valiant remedies’ in public health: strict segregation of the healthy and ill, cleaning streets, latrines, and addressing the long‐term causes of plague—poverty. Those outside the medical profession joined the chorus. Relying on health board statistics and dramatized with eyewitness descriptions of bizarre happenings, human misery, and suffering, they created the structure for the plague classics of the eighteenth century and by tracking the contagion’s complex and crooked paths anticipated trends of nineteenth‐century epidemiology.
In the heartland of Counter‐Reformation Italy, physicians, along with those outside the profession, questioned the foundations of Galenic and Renaissance medicine, even the role of God. Such developments did not need to await the Protestant‐Paracelsian alliance of seventeenth‐century northern Europe. Instead, creative forces planted by the pandemic of 1575–8 sowed seeds of doubt and unveiled new concerns and ideas within that supposedly most conservative form of medical writing, the plague tract.
Title: Plague and the Athenian Imagination: Drama, History, and the Cult of Asclepius
The great plague of Athens that began in 430 BCE had an enormous effect on the imagination of its literary artists & on the social imagination of the city as a whole. In this 2007 book, Prof. Mitchell-Boyask studies the impact of the plague on Athenian tragedy early in the 420s & argues for a significant relationship between drama & the development of the cult of the healing god Asclepius in the next decade, during a period of war & increasing civic strife. The Athenian decision to locate their temple for Asclepius adjacent to the Theater of Dionysus arose from deeper associations between drama, healing & the polis that were engaged actively by the crisis of the plague. The book also considers the representation of the plague in Thucydides’ History as well as the metaphors generated by that representation which recur later in the same work.
Title: The Great Plague: The Story of London’s Most Deadly Year
In the winter of 1664-65, a bitter cold descended on London in the days before Christmas. Above the city, an unusually bright comet traced an arc in the sky, exciting much comment and portending “horrible windes and tempests.” And in the remote, squalid precinct of St. Giles-in-the-Fields outside the city wall, Goodwoman Phillips was pronounced dead of the plague. Her house was locked up and the phrase “Lord Have Mercy On Us” was painted on the door in red. By the following Christmas, the pathogen that had felled Goodwoman Phillips would go on to kill nearly 100,000 people living in and around London—almost a third of those who did not flee. This epidemic had a devastating effect on the city’s economy and social fabric, as well as on those who lived through it. Yet somehow the city continued to function and the activities of daily life went on.
In The Great Plague, historian A. Lloyd Moote and microbiologist Dorothy C. Moote provide an engrossing and deeply informed account of this cataclysmic plague year. At once sweeping and intimate, their narrative takes readers from the palaces of the city’s wealthiest citizens to the slums that housed the vast majority of London’s inhabitants to the surrounding countryside with those who fled. The Mootes reveal that, even at the height of the plague, the city did not descend into chaos. Doctors, apothecaries, surgeons, and clergy remained in the city to care for the sick; parish and city officials confronted the crisis with all the legal tools at their disposal; and commerce continued even as businesses shut down.
To portray life and death in and around London, the authors focus on the experiences of nine individuals—among them an apothecary serving a poor suburb, the rector of the city’s wealthiest parish, a successful silk merchant who was also a city alderman, a country gentleman, and famous diarist Samuel Pepys. Through letters and diaries, the Mootes offer fresh interpretations of key issues in the history of the Great Plague: how different communities understood and experienced the disease; how medical, religious, and government bodies reacted; how well the social order held together; the economic and moral dilemmas people faced when debating whether to flee the city; and the nature of the material, social, and spiritual resources sustaining those who remained.
Underscoring the human dimensions of the epidemic, Lloyd and Dorothy Moote dramatically recast the history of the Great Plague and offer a masterful portrait of a city and its inhabitants besieged by—and defiantly resisting—unimaginable horror.
Title: Plague and the End of Antiquity : The Pandemic of 541-750
Plague was a key factor in the waning of Antiquity and the beginning of the Middle Ages. Eight centuries before the Black Death, a pandemic of plague engulfed the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea and eventually extended as far east as Persia and as far north as the British Isles. Its persisted sporadically from 541 to 750, the same period that witnessed the distinctive shaping of the Byzantine Empire, a new prominence of the Roman papacy and of monasticism, the beginnings of Islam and the meteoric expansion of the Arabic Empire, the ascent of the Carolingian dynasty in Frankish Gaul and, not coincidentally, the beginnings of a positive work ethic in the Latin West.
In this volume, the first on the subject, twelve scholars from a variety of disciplines history, archaeology, epidemiology, and molecular biology have produced a comprehensive account of the pandemics origins, spread, and mortality, as well as its economic, social, political, and religious effects.
The historians examine written sources in a range of languages, including Arabic, Syriac, Greek, Latin, and Old Irish. Archaeologists analyze burial pits, abandoned villages, and aborted building projects. The epidemiologists use the written sources to track the disease s means and speed of transmission, the mix of vulnerability and resistance it encountered, and the patterns of reappearence over time. Finally, molecular biologists, newcomers to this kind of investigation, have become pioneers of paleopathology, seeking ways to identity pathogens in human remains from the remote past.”
Title: Bring Out Your Dead: The Great Plague of Yellow Fever in Philadelphia in 1793
n 1793 a disastrous plague of yellow fever paralyzed Philadelphia, killing thousands of residents and bringing the nation’s capital city to a standstill. In this psychological portrait of a city in terror, J. H. Powell presents a penetrating study of human nature revealing itself. Bring Out Your Dead is an absorbing account, form the original sources, of an infamous tragedy that left its mark on all it touched.
Title: Bubonic Plague in Early Modern Russia: Public Health and Urban Disaster
John T. Alexander’s study dramatically highlights how the Russian people reacted to the Plague, and shows how the tools of modern epidemiology can illuminate the causes of the plague’s tragic course through Russia. Bubonic Plauge in Early Modern Russia makes contributions to many aspects of Russian and European history: social, economic, medical, urban, demographic, and meterological. It is particularly enlightening in its discussion of eighteenth-century Russia’s emergent medical profession and public health institutions and, overall, should interest scholars in its use of abundant new primary source material from Soviet, German, and British archives.
Title: A Time to Dance, a Time to Die: The Extraordinary Story of the Dancing Plague of 1518
n the searing July heat of 1518, Frau Troffea stepped into the streets of Strasbourg and began to dance. Bathed in sweat, she continued to dance. Overcome with exhaustion, she stopped, and then resumed her solitary jig a few hours later. Over the next two months, roughly four hundred people succumbed to the same agonizing compulsion. At its peak, the epidemic claimed the lives of fifteen men, women, and children a day. Possibly 100 people danced to their deaths in one of the most bizarre and terrifying plagues in history.
John Waller compellingly evokes the sights, sounds, and aromas; the diseases and hardships; the fervent supernaturalism and the desperate hedonism of the late medieval world. Based on new evidence, he explains why the plague occurred and how it came to an end. In doing so, he sheds light on the strangest capabilities of the human mind and on our own susceptibility to mass hysteria.
Farewell to the God of Plague reassesses the celebrated Maoist health care model through the lens of Mao’s famous campaign against snail fever. Using newly available archives, Miriam Gross documents how economic, political, and cultural realities led to grassroots resistance.
Nonetheless, the campaign triumphed, but not because of its touted mass-prevention campaign. Instead, success came from its unacknowledged treatment arm, carried out jointly by banished urban doctors and rural educated youth. More broadly, the author reconsiders the relationship between science and political control during the ostensibly antiscientific Maoist era, discovering the important role of “grassroots science” in regime legitimation and Party control in rural areas.
Slave ships brought it to America as far back as 1648-and over the centuries, yellow fever epidemics plagued the United States. Carried along the mighty Mississippi River, it ravaged towns from New Orleans to St. Louis. New York City lost 2,000 lives in one year alone. It even forced the nation’s capital to relocate from Philadelphia to Washington, DC. “The American Plague” reveals the true story of yellow fever, recounting Memphis, Tennessee’s near-destruction and resurrection from the epidemic-and the four men who changed medical history with their battle against an invisible foe that remains a threat to this very day.
Title: Ethnographic Plague: Configuring Disease on the Chinese-Russian Frontier
Challenging the concept that since the discovery of the plague bacillus in 1894 the study of the disease was dominated by bacteriology, Ethnographic Plague argues for the role of ethnography as a vital contributor to the configuration of plague at the turn of the nineteenth century. With a focus on research on the Chinese-Russian frontier, where a series of pneumonic plague epidemics shook the Chinese, Russian and Japanese Empires, this book examines how native Mongols and Buryats came to be understood as holding a traditional knowledge of the disease.
Exploring the forging and consequences of this alluring theory, this book seeks to understand medical fascination with culture, so as to underline the limitations of the employment of the latter as an explanatory category in the context of infectious disease epidemics, such as the recent SARS and Ebola outbreaks.
Title: Legacies of Plague in Literature, Theory and Film
This book is an account of the history and continuation of plague as a potent metaphor since the disease ceased to be an epidemic threat in Western Europe, engaging with twentieth-century critiques of fascism, anti-Semitic rhetoric, the Oedipal legacy of psychoanalysis and its reception, and film spectatorship and the zombie genre.
Title: Framing Animals as Epidemic Villains: Histories of Non-Human Disease Vectors
This book takes a historical and anthropological approach to understanding how non-human hosts and vectors of diseases are understood, at a time when emerging infectious diseases are one of the central concerns of global health. The volume critically examines the ways in which animals have come to be framed as ‘epidemic villains’ since the turn of the nineteenth century.
Providing epistemological and social histories of non-human epidemic blame, as well as ethnographic perspectives on its recent manifestations, the essays explore this cornerstone of modern epidemiology and public health alongside its continuing importance in today’s world. Covering diverse regions, the book argues that framing animals as spreaders and reservoirs of infectious diseases – from plague to rabies to Ebola – is an integral aspect not only to scientific breakthroughs but also to the ideological and biopolitical apparatus of modern medicine. As the first book to consider the impact of the image of non-human disease hosts and vectors on medicine and public health, it offers a major contribution to our understanding of human-animal interaction under the shadow of global epidemic threat.
This book develops an examination and critique of human extinction as a result of the ‘next pandemic’ and turns attention towards the role of pandemic catastrophe in the renegotiation of what it means to be human. Nested in debates in anthropology, philosophy, social theory and global health, the book argues that fear of and fascination with the ‘next pandemic’ stem not so much from an anticipation of a biological extinction of the human species, as from an expectation of the loss of mastery over human/non-human relations.
Christos Lynteris employs the notion of the ‘pandemic imaginary’ in order to understand the way in which pandemic-borne human extinction refashions our understanding of humanity and its place in the world. The book challenges us to think how cosmological, aesthetic, ontological and political aspects of pandemic catastrophe are intertwined. The chapters examine the vital entanglement of epidemiological studies, popular culture, modes of scientific visualisation, and pandemic preparedness campaigns. This volume will be relevant for scholars and advanced students of anthropology as well as global health, and for many others interested in catastrophe, the ‘end of the world’ and the (post)apocalyptic.
Title: The Spirit of Selflessness in Maoist China: Socialist Medicine and the New Man
Assuming power in 1949, the Chinese Communist Party was faced with a crucial problem: how to construct the socialist ‘New Man’? On the one hand, led by Liu Shaoqi, the proponents of the technocracy advocated self-cultivation. Led by Mao Zedong, their opponents advocated the exact opposite technique: the abolition of the self and the institution of a mass subjectivity.
Examining this conflict through the analytical lens of Foucault’s ‘technologies of the self’ and in relation to biopolitics, the book explores how the battle for the self in Maoist China revolved around the interpretation of the ‘spirit of selflessness’ as embodied by the heroic Canadian doctor, Norman Bethune, who lost his life as a volunteer doctor of the Red Army. The book narrates how, called to embody this selfless spirit, medical doctors were trapped in a spiral between cultivation and abolition, leading to the explosion of ideology during the Cultural Revolution.
A sweeping examination of Ottoman plague treatise writers from the Black Death until 1923
Did you know that many of the greatest and most colourful Ottoman statesmen and literary figures from the 15th to the early 20th century considered plague as a grave threat to their empire? And did you know that many Ottomans applauded the establishment of a quarantine against the disease in 1838 as a tool to resist British and French political and commercial penetration? Or that later Ottoman sanitation effort to prevent urban outbreaks would help engender the Arab revolt against the empire in 1916?
Birsen Bulmus explores these facts in an engaging study of Ottoman plague treatise writers throughout their almost 600-year struggle with this epidemic disease. Along the way, she addresses the political, economic and social consequences of the methods they used to combat it.
Studies the premodern ways in which plague was viewed by Ottoman Islamic thinkers
Traces the eventual Ottoman acceptance of quarantines and other modern medical reforms
Analyses international debates over plagues and quarantines as a struggle about colonialism
Since at least 10+ years I have been zealously gathering books on the general topic of Bodies, Contagion, Dirt, Impurity and Hygiene, Cleanliness or Public Health. It would be wrong to try and squeeze this pandemic into previous precedents, also one can see the gap opening up where a lot of of these books might fall trough, feel unrelated, plain wrong or simply not what is most important stringent at the momentum. Old frames feel dated, conceptual work seems largekyto be done and theoretical groundwork needs go maybe take a pause (see MacKenzie Wark’s recent text). We’re currently swimming in contradictory affects, and any complete theory of affects would also invoke and take into account what have been relegated to the drawer of negative affects such as disgust, abhorrence and fear in regard to dirt, the abject, infection, putrefaction processes and the sliminess of biological matter. The purity/impurity interior/exteriori divide has been actively exploited and weaponized against the xeno-, the migrant, the mismeasured foreigner and the unwanted other.
A more subtle direction has followed a sense of fragility and of loss conceptualized within and growing out of a rich feminist studies tradition, offering us ways of grasping & attending to the un-graspable: impeding climate change catastrophe and 6th mass extinction. Hopefully these books will fan out a largely body of work, encouraging creative cross overs from Fecopoetics, STS, History of Medicine, Anthropology into gender studies and even metaphysics. By no means focused on just a social constructivist or strictly cultural or ideological reading of disease or contagion, while sometimes indebted to biopolitical critique, they point us beyond the limits & narrow confines of continental biopolitical thinking. Much of the the biopolitical thinking via Foucault, Agamben or Esposito seems somehow to have a lot it’s relevance or acuity when confronted with what is happening alm over the world. There are other ways of enlarging the scope of our current COVID-19/SARS CoV-2 response corresponds to different histories, more fecund and diverse bio-philosophical lines of thought developed under various disciplinary regimes, approaches and practices. In times of public health sector privatization, divestment from accessible medical research and disregard for the general health of the population, it is easy to ignore the positive role of public health systems or medical traditions played not only in modern but also non European or pre-modern contexts be they Buddhist, Chinese or Islamic.
One such historical and political litmus test of public health is the before/after 1989 disaffection of the public health, migration of doctors and lack of hygiene in hospitals in the ex Soviet Union and former East. Although taking into account the key moment of AIDS and the various theoretical and collective responses to it, especially in regard to how solidarity has marked so much of our thinking about preventable disease and contagion. They also follow virality & infection in other pre- biological or even non-biological directions (human-non-human/computer). Recently departing from microbial metaphors & representational thinking, some authors are asking for a more positive understanding of contagion & virality as demanded by an increasingly networked planet of complex assemblages. The introductory materials are compiled from online sources and goes without saying that it is by no means a complete list. I also added their Goodreads links.
Delving into the controversial relationship between illness and art, philosophy and politics Lisa Diedrich considers illness narratives, demonstrating that these texts not only recount symptoms but also describe illness as an event that reflects wider cultural contexts, including race, gender, class, and sexuality. Looking at narratives including Susan Sontag’s Illness As Metaphor, Audre Lorde’s The Cancer Journals, and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s “White Glasses,” Diedrich demonstrates how language both captures and fails to capture these “scenes of loss.”
This powerful and illuminating study examines the myriad stories of illness that increasingly shape modern understandings of disease and suffering. In the compelling vision of Treatments, illness is no longer what patients have; it is also what they do.— Paula Treichler, author of How to Have Theory in an Epidemic: Cultural Chronicles of AIDS
Title: The Hygiene Hypothesis and Darwinian Medicine
Man has moved rapidly from the hunter-gatherer environment to the living conditions of the rich industrialised countries. The hygiene hypothesis suggests that the resulting changed and reduced pattern of exposure to micro-organisms has led to disordered regulation of the immune system, and hence to increases in certain chronic inflammatory disorders. The concept began with the allergic disorders, but there are now good reasons for extending it to autoimmunity, inflammatory bowel disease, atherosclerosis, depression associated with raised inflammatory cytokines, some cancers and perhaps neuroinflammatory disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
This book discusses the evidence for and against in the context of Darwinian medicine, which uses knowledge of evolution to cast light on human diseases. It is the first book to consider the broader implications of the hygiene hypothesis in areas of medicine where it has not previously been applied. The approach is interdisciplinary, looking at man’s microbiological history, at the biology of the effects of microorganisms on the immune system, and at the implications for chronic inflammatory disorders in multiple organ systems. Finally, the authors describe progress in the exploitation of microorganisms or their components as novel prophylactics and treatments in several branches of medicine.
William Miller embarks on an alluring journey into the world of disgust, showing how it brings order and meaning to our lives even as it horrifies and revolts us. Our notion of the self, intimately dependent as it is on our response to the excretions and secretions of our bodies, depends on it. Cultural identities have frequent recourse to its boundary-policing powers. Love depends on overcoming it, while the pleasure of sex comes in large measure from the titillating violation of disgust prohibitions. Imagine aesthetics without disgust for tastelessness and vulgarity; imagine morality without disgust for evil, hypocrisy, stupidity, and cruelty.
Miller details our anxious relation to basic life processes: eating, excreting, fornicating, decaying, and dying. But disgust pushes beyond the flesh to vivify the larger social order with the idiom it commandeers from the sights, smells, tastes, feels, and sounds of fleshly physicality. Disgust and contempt, Miller argues, play crucial political roles in creating and maintaining social hierarchy. Democracy depends less on respect for persons than on an equal distribution of contempt. Disgust, however, signals dangerous division. The high’s belief that the low actually smell bad, or are sources of pollution, seriously threatens democracy.
Miller argues that disgust is deeply grounded in our ambivalence to life: it distresses us that the fair is so fragile, so easily reduced to foulness, and that the foul may seem more than passing fair in certain slants of light. When we are disgusted, we are attempting to set bounds, to keep chaos at bay. Of course we fail. But, as Miller points out, our failure is hardly an occasion for despair, for disgust also helps to animate the world, and to make it a dangerous, magical, and exciting place.
Title: The Hazards of Urban Life in Late Stalinist Russia: Health, Hygiene, and Living Standards 1944-1953
This is the first detailed study of the standard of living of ordinary Russians following World War II. It examines urban living conditions under the Stalinist regime with a focus on the key issues of sanitation, access to safe water supplies, personal hygiene and anti-epidemic controls, diet and nutrition, and infant mortality. Comparing five key industrial regions, it shows that living conditions still lagged some fifty years behind Western European norms. The book reveals that, despite this, the years preceding Stalin’s death saw dramatic improvements in mortality rates thanks to the application of rigorous public health controls and Western medical innovations. While tracing these changes, the book also analyzes the impact that the absence of an adequate urban infrastructure had on people’s daily lives and on the relationship between the Stalinist regime and the Russian people, and, finally, how the Soviet experience compared to that of earlier industrializing societies.
Title: Excrement in the Late Middle Ages: Sacred Filth and Chaucer’s Fecopoetics
This interdisciplinary book intergrates the historical practices regarding material excrement and its symbolic representation, concluding that excrement is a moral and ethical category deserving scrutiny.
Title: The Influence of Student Health Services in American Society and Medicine
Student Bodies is the first book to link developments in college health with larger trends in American cultural and medical history. This comprehensive and engrossing study describes the origins and development of health services at institutions of higher education in the United States from the early 1800s—when administrators sought to restrict habits “unfavorable to study and morality” such as drunkenness, gambling, and solicitation of prostitutes—to the present day as health professionals are called on to combat issues ranging from sexually transmitted diseases to depression to eating disorders. Drawing on a variety of primary sources, Professor Heather Munro Prescott examines the relationship between administrative regulation of “student bodies” and broader social-cultural views about young adults and their status in nineteenth- and twenty-first-century America.
Student Bodies explores many little-known but significant aspects of college health—including the importance of women’s colleges in the development of student care, the use of physical entrance examinations to deny admission to those with “undesirable” bodies, the sometimes controversial handling of health concerns specific to minority and LGBT students, and the rise and fall of in loco parentis. Prescott’s engaging and accessible style makes this guide a perfect choice for medical scholars and college administrators as well as anyone wishing to gain a better understanding of medical history, women’s health, and the history of college life in America.
“The Body Soviet is the first sustained investigation of the Bolshevik government’s early policies on hygiene and health care in general.” —Louise McReynolds, author of Russia at Play: Leisure Activities at the End of the Tsarist Era
In 1918 the People’s Commissariat of Public Health began a quest to protect the health of all Soviet citizens, but health became more than a political platform or a tactical decision. The Soviets defined and categorized the world by interpreting political orthodoxy and citizenship in terms of hygiene. The assumed political, social, and cultural benefits of a regulated, healthy lifestyle informed the construction of Soviet institutions and identity. Cleanliness developed into a political statement that extended from domestic maintenance to leisure choices and revealed gender, ethnic, and class prejudices. Dirt denoted the past and poor politics; health and cleanliness signified mental acuity, political orthodoxy, and modernity.
Health, though essential to the revolutionary vision and crucial to Soviet plans for utopia, has been neglected by traditional histories caught up in Cold War debates. The Body Soviet recovers this significant aspect of Soviet thought by providing a cross-disciplinary, comparative history of Soviet health programs that draws upon rich sources of health care propaganda, including posters, plays, museum displays, films, and mock trials. The analysis of propaganda makes The Body Soviet more than an institutional history; it is also an insightful critique of the ideologies of the body fabricated by health organizations.
Title: Purity and Danger: An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo
The line of inquiry in Purity and Danger traces the words and meaning of dirt in different contexts. What is regarded as dirt in a given society is any matter considered out of place. (Douglas took this lead from William James.) She attempted to clarify the differences between the sacred, the clean and the unclean in different societies and times. But this does not entail judging religions as pessimistic or optimistic in their understanding of purity or dirt—e.g., as dirt-affirming or otherwise. Through a complex and sophisticated reading of ritual, religion, and lifestyle, Douglas challenged Western ideas of pollution, making clear how the context and social history is essential.
As an example of this approach, Douglas first proposed that the kosher laws were not, as many believed, either primitive health regulations or randomly chosen as tests of the Israelites‘ commitment to God. Instead, Douglas argued that the laws were about symbolic boundary-maintenance. Prohibited foods were those that did not seem to fall neatly into any category. For example, pigs‘ place in the natural order was ambiguous because they shared the cloven hoof of the ungulates, but did not chew cud.
Later in a 2002 preface to Purity and Danger, Douglas went on to retract this explanation of the kosher rules, saying that it had been “a major mistake.” Instead, she proposed that “the dietary laws intricately model the body and the altar upon one another.” For instance, among land animals, Israelites were only allowed to eat animals that were also allowed to be sacrificed: animals that depend on herdsmen. Douglas concluded from this that animals that are abominable to eat are not in fact impure, but rather that “it is abominable to harm them.” She claimed that later interpreters (even later Biblical authors) had misunderstood this.
The apparently routine task of taking up soap and water (or not) is Katherine Ashenburg’s starting point for a unique history of private life. Every age and culture was convinced that their version of cleanliness was the correct one, from the Roman who spent a few hours a day soaking in public baths of various temperatures to the 17th-century Frenchman who never touched water and believed he cleaned himself by changing into a fresh linen shirt. Our own over-deodorized world — where germophobes shake hands with their elbows and where sales of hand sanitizers, wipes and sprays are skyrocketing — is as extreme, and potentially unhealthy, as the 17th century. And, as with every other age, our definition of “clean” says much about us. Filled with amusing anecdotes and unexpected insights into our notions of privacy, health, individuality, religion and sexuality, The Dirt on Clean takes us on a journey that is by turns intriguing, startling, humorous — and not always for the squeamish.
The apparently routine task of taking up soap and water (or not) is Katherine Ashenburg’s starting point for a unique exploration of Western culture, which yields surprising insights into our notions of privacy, health, individuality, religion and sexuality.
Ashenburg searches for clean and dirty in plague-ridden streets, medieval steam baths, castles and tenements, and in bathrooms of every description. She reveals the bizarre rescriptions of history’s doctors as well as the hygienic peccadilloes of kings, mistresses, monks and ordinary citizens, and guides us through the twists and turns to our own understanding of clean, which is no more rational than the rest. Ashenburg’s tour of history’s baths and bathrooms reveals much about our changing and most intimate selves — what we desire, what we ignore, what we fear, and a significant part of who we are.
Title: Dust: A History of the Small & The Invisible
While the story of the big has often been told, the story of the small has not yet even been outlined. With Dust, Joseph Amato enthralls the reader with the first history of the small and the invisible. Dust is a poetic meditation on how dust has been experienced and the small has been imagined across the ages. Examining a thousand years of Western civilization—from the naturalism of medieval philosophy, to the artistry of the Renaissance, to the scientific and industrial revolutions, to the modern worlds of nanotechnology and viral diseases—Dust offers a savvy story of the genesis of the microcosm.
Dust, which fills the deepest recesses of space, pervades all earthly things. Throughout the ages it has been the smallest yet the most common element of everyday life. Of all small things, dust has been the most minute particulate the eye sees and the hand touches. Indeed, until this century, dust was simply accepted as a fundamental condition of life; like darkness, it marked the boundary between the seen and the unseen.
With the full advent of scientific discovery, technological innovation, and social control, dust has been partitioned, dissected, manipulated, and even invented. In place of traditional and generic dust, a highly diverse particulate has been discovered and examined. Like so much else that was once considered minute, dust has been magnified by the twentieth-century transformations of our conception of the small. These transformations—which took form in the laboratory through images of atoms, molecules, cells, and microbes—defined anew not only dust and the physical world but also the human body and mind. Amato dazzles the reader with his account of how this powerful microcosm challenges the imagination to grasp the magnitude of the small, and the infinity of the finite.
Title: Hygiene: A Critical History of Colonialism, Nationalism and Public Health
This is a cultural history of borders, hygiene and race. It is about foreign bodies, from Victorian Vaccines to the pathologized interwar immigrant, from smallpox quarantine to the leper colony, from sexual hygiene to national hygiene to imperial hygiene. Taking British colonialism and White Australia as case studies, the book examines public health as spatialized biopolitical governance between 1850 and 1950. Colonial management of race dovetailed with public health into new boundaries of rule, into racialised cordons sanitaires.
The ideological underpinnings of early modern theories of contagion are dissected in this volume by an integrated team of literary scholars, cultural historians, historians of medicine and art historians. Even today, the spread of disease inspires moralizing discourse and the ostracism of groups thought responsible for contagion; the fear of illness and the desire to make sense of it are demonstrated in the current preoccupation with HIV, SARS, ‘mad cow’ disease, West Nile virus and avian flu, to cite but a few contemporary examples. Imagining Contagion in Early Modern Europe explores the nature of understanding when humanity is faced with threats to its well-being, if not to its very survival.
Title: The Gothic Body: Sexuality, Materialism, and Degeneration at the Fin de Siècle (Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture)
This book accounts for the resurgence of Gothic, and its immense popularity, during the British fin de siècle. In particular, Kelly Hurley explores a key scenario that haunts the genre: the loss of a unified and stable human identity, and the emergence of a chaotic and transformative ‘abhuman’ identity in its place. Gothic is revealed as a highly productive and speculative genre, strongly indebted to nineteenth-century scientific, medical and social theories, including evolutionism, criminal anthropology and degeneration theory.
Title: Disgust: Theory and History of a Strong Senstation
Disgust (Ekel, dégoût) is a state of high alert. It acutely says “no” to a variety of phenomena that seemingly threaten the integrity of the self, if not its very existence. A counterpart to the feelings of appetite, desire, and love, it allows at the same time for an acting out of hidden impulses and libidinal drives.
In Disgust, Winfried Menninghaus provides a comprehensive account of the significance of this forceful emotion in philosophy, aesthetics, literature, the arts, psychoanalysis, and theory of culture from the eighteenth century to the present. Topics addressed include the role of disgust as both a cognitive and moral organon in Kant and Nietzsche; the history of the imagination of the rotting corpse; the counter-cathexis of the disgusting in Romantic poetics and its modernist appeal ever since; the affinities of disgust and laughter and the analogies of vomiting and writing; the foundation of Freudian psychoanalysis in a theory of disgusting pleasures and practices; the association of disgusting “otherness” with truth and the trans-symbolic “real” in Bataille, Sartre, and Kristeva; Kafka’s self-representation as an “Angel” of disgusting smells and acts, concealed in a writerly stance of uncompromising “purity”; and recent debates on “Abject Art.”
Title: Dirt, Undress, and Difference: Critical Perspectives on the Body’s Surface
“A magnificent volume! It offers brand new perspectives on body politics and identity or subjectivity formation in the post-colonial world.” ―Dorothy Ko, Barnard College
While there is widespread interest in dress and hygiene as vehicles of cultural, moral, and political value, little scholarly attention has been paid to cross-cultural understandings of dirt and undress, despite their equally important role in the fashioning of identity and difference. The essays in this absorbing and thought-provoking collection contribute new insights into the neglected topics of bodily treatments and transgressions. In detailed ethnographic studies from around the world, the contributors recast assumptions about filth and nakedness, exploring how various forms of transgression associated with the body’s surface are drawn up into relations of power and inequality. They demonstrate imaginatively how body surfaces are powerfully mobilized in the making and unmaking of moral worlds.
This book explains the historical reasons for the divergence in public health policies adopted in Britain, France, Germany and Sweden, and the spectrum of responses to the threat of contagious diseases such as cholera, smallpox and syphilis. In particular the book examines the link between politics and prevention, and uses medical history to illuminate broader questions of the development of statutory intervention and the comparative and divergent evolution of the modern state in Europe.
Title: Contagion and Chaos: Disease, Ecology, and National Security in the Era of Globalization
An analysis of infectious disease as a threat to national security that examines the destabilizing effects of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, SARS, and Mad Cow Disease.
Historians from Thucydides to William McNeill have pointed to the connections between disease and civil society. Political scientists have investigated the relationship of public health to governance, introducing the concept of health security. In Contagion and Chaos, Andrew Price-Smith offers the most comprehensive examination yet of disease through the lens of national security. Extending the analysis presented in his earlier book The Health of Nations, Price-Smith argues that epidemic disease represents a direct threat to the power of a state, eroding prosperity and destabilizing both its internal politics and its relationships with other states. He contends that the danger of an infectious pathogen to national security depends on lethality, transmissability, fear, and economic damage. Moreover, warfare and ecological change contribute to the spread of disease and act as “disease amplifiers.”
Price-Smith presents a series of case studies to illustrate his argument: the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918-19 (about which he advances the controversial claim that the epidemic contributed to the defeat of Germany and Austria); HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa (he contrasts the worst-case scenario of Zimbabwe with the more stable Botswana); bovine spongiform encephalopathy (also known as mad cow disease); and the SARS contagion of 2002-03. Emerging infectious disease continues to present a threat to national and international security, Price-Smith argues, and globalization and ecological change only accelerate the danger.
Title: Clean: a history of personal hygiene and purity
In this pioneering book, Virginia Smith combines archeology, psychology, biology, and sociology to reveal how and why standards of cleanliness have come to exist today. Using hundreds of first-hand accounts and sources, Smith bring us from the Neolithic age to the present, peppering her engaging prose with enlightening and often surprising details.
Subconscious cleanliness has been with us since the first cell ejected a foreign invader. Even at the earliest stages of human development, our bodies produced pleasure-giving chemical opiates when things smelled or felt clean, inducing us to do things like bathing and removing dirty clothes. The need to be clean led directly to socialization, as we turned to our fellows for help with those hard to reach spots. In Eurasia during the Bronze Age, an emerging hierarchy of wealthy elites turned their love of grooming into an explosion of the cosmetic and luxury goods industry, greatly effecting the culture and economy of a vast area and leading to advances in chemistry and medicine. The history that follows, from Greece and Rome, where citizens focused much of their leisure time on perfecting, bathing, or just writing about the model athletic body, through Europe in the middle ages and the following centuries, is full of intriguing customs, convoluted treatises, and many reversals. Baths were good for you, baths were bad for you, baths were good again–but only if they were quite cold. Even the enlightened medical knowledge of modern times could not stop an onslaught of health remedies, treatments, spas, and New Age nature cures that were to follow. While today we are immeasurably closer–perhaps too close–to knowing just what “clean” means to our bodies, we are still just as far as we ever were on agreeing what it means to our souls.
In the age of HIV, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the Ebola Virus and BSE, metaphors and experience of contagion are a central concern of government, biomedicine and popular culture.
Contagion explores cultural responses of infectious diseases and their biomedical management over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It also investigates the use of ‘contagion’ as a concept in postmodern reconceptualisations of embodied subjectivity.
The essays are written from within the fields of cultural studies, biomedical history and critical sociology. The contributors examine the geographies, policies and identities which have been produced in the massive social effort to contain diseases. They explore both social responses to infectious diseases in the past, and contemporary theoretical and biomedical sites for the study of contagion.
Title: Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks
In this thought-provoking work, Tony D. Sampson presents a contagion theory fit for the age of networks. Unlike memes and microbial contagions, Virality does not restrict itself to biological analogies and medical metaphors. It instead points toward a theory of contagious assemblages, events, and affects. For Sampson, contagion is not necessarily a positive or negative force of encounter; it is how society comes together and relates.
Sampson argues that a biological knowledge of contagion has been universally distributed by way of the rhetoric of fear used in the antivirus industry and other popular discourses surrounding network culture. This awareness is also detectable in concerns over too much connectivity, such as problems of global financial crisis and terrorism. Sampson’s “virality” is as established as that of the biological meme and microbe but is not understood through representational thinking expressed in metaphors and analogies. Rather, Sampson interprets contagion theory through the social relationalities first established in Gabriel Tarde’s microsociology and subsequently recognized in Gilles Deleuze’s ontological worldview.
According to Sampson, the reliance on representational thinking to explain the social behavior of networking—including that engaged in by nonhumans such as computers—allows language to overcategorize and limit analysis by imposing identities, oppositions, and resemblances on contagious phenomena. It is the power of these categories that impinges on social and cultural domains. Assemblage theory, on the other hand, is all about relationality and encounter, helping us to understand the viral as a positively sociological event, building from the molecular outward, long before it becomes biological.
Title: Slime Dynamics: Generation, Mutation, and the Creep of Life
Despite humanity’s gradual ascent from clustered pools of it, slime is more often than not relegated to a mere residue—the trail of a verminous life form, the trace of decomposition, or an entertaining synthetic material—thereby leaving its generative and mutative associations with life neatly removed from the human sphere of thought and existence. Arguing that slime is a viable physical and metaphysical object necessary to produce a realist bio-philosophy void of anthrocentricity, this text explores naturephilosophie, speculative realism, and contemporary science; hyperbolic representations of slime found in the weird texts of HP Lovecraft and Thomas Ligotti; as well as survival horror films, video games, and graphic novels, in order to present the dynamics of slime not only as the trace of life but as the darkly vitalistic substance of life.
Title: Confluences of Medicine in Medieval Japan: Buddhist Healing, Chinese Knowledge, Islamic Formulas, and Wounds of War
Confluences of Medicine is the first book-length exploration in English of issues of medicine and society in premodern Japan. This multifaceted study weaves a rich tapestry of Buddhist healing practices, Chinese medical knowledge, Asian pharmaceuticals, and Islamic formulas as it elucidates their appropriation and integration into medieval Japanese medicine. It expands the parameters of the study of medicine in East Asia, which to date has focused on the subject in individual countries, and introduces the dynamics of interaction and exchange that coursed through the East Asian macro-culture.
The book explores these themes primarily through the two extant works of the Buddhist priest and clinical physician Kajiwara Shozen (1265-1337), who was active at the medical facility housed at Gokurakuji temple in Kamakura, the capital of Japan’s first warrior government. With access to large numbers of printed Song medical texts and a wide range of materia medica from as far away as the Middle East, Shozen was a beneficiary of the efflorescence of trade and exchange across the East China Sea that typifies this era. His break with the restrictions of Japanese medicine is revealed in Ton’isho (Book of the simple physician) and Man’apo (Myriad relief formulas). Both of these texts are landmarks: the former being the first work written in Japanese for a popular audience; the latter, the most extensive Japanese medical work prior to the seventeenth century.
Confluences of Medicine brings to the fore the range of factors–networks of Buddhist priests, institutional support, availability of materials, relevance of overseas knowledge to local conditions of domestic strife, and serendipity–that influenced the Japanese acquisition of Chinese medical information. It offers the first substantive portrait of the impact of the Song printing revolution in medieval Japan and provides a rare glimpse of Chinese medicine as it was understood outside of China. It is further distinguished by its attention to materia medica and medicinal formulas and to the challenges of technical translation and technological transfer in the reception and incorporation of a new pharmaceutical regime.
Title: The Medieval Islamic Hospital: Medicine, Religion, and Charity
The first monograph on the history of Islamic hospitals, this volume focuses on the under-examined Egyptian and Levantine institutions of the twelfth to fourteenth centuries. By the twelfth century, hospitals serving the sick and the poor could be found in nearly every Islamic city. Ahmed Ragab traces the varying origins and development of these institutions, locating them in their urban environments and linking them to charity networks and patrons’ political projects. Following the paths of patients inside hospital wards, he investigates who they were and what kinds of experiences they had. The Medieval Islamic Hospital explores the medical networks surrounding early hospitals and sheds light on the particular brand of practice-oriented medicine they helped to develop. Providing a detailed picture of the effect of religion on medieval medicine, it will be essential reading for those interested in history of medicine, history of Islamic sciences, or history of the Mediterranean.
Title: The Wild Life of Our Bodies: Predators, Parasites, and Partners That Shape Who We Are Today
“An extraordinary book…. With clarity and charm [Dunn] takes the reader into the overlap of medicine, ecology, and evolutionary biology to reveal an important domain of the human condition.” —Edward O. Wilson, author of Anthilland The Future of Life
Biologist Rob Dunn reveals the crucial influence that other species have upon our health, our well-being, and our world in The Wild Life of Our Bodies—a fascinating tour through the hidden truths of nature and codependence. Dunn illuminates the nuanced, often imperceptible relationships that exist between homo sapiens and other species, relationships that underpin humanity’s ability to thrive and prosper in every circumstance. Readers of Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma will be enthralled by Dunn’s powerful, lucid exploration of the role that humankind plays within the greater web of life on Earth.
Title:Spillover – Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic
Ebola, SARS, Hendra, AIDS, and countless other deadly viruses all have one thing in common: the bugs that transmit these diseases all originate in wild animals and pass to humans by a process called spillover. In this gripping account, David Quammen takes the reader along on this astonishing quest to learn how, where from, and why these diseases emerge and asks the terrifying question: What might the next big one be?
Title: A Manufactured Plague: The History of Foot and Mouth Disease in Britain
Foot and mouth disease (FMD) is currently regarded as one of the world’s worst animal plagues. But how did this label become attached to a curable disease that poses little threat to human health? And why, in the epidemic of 2001, did the government’s control strategy still rely upon Victorian trade restrictions and mass slaughter? This groundbreaking and well-researched book shows that, for over a century, FMD has brought fear, tragedy and sorrow- damaging businesses and affecting international relations. Yet these effects were neither inevitable nor caused by FMD itself but were, rather, the product of the legislation used to control it, and in this sense FMD is a ‘manufactured’ plague rather than a natural one. A Manufactured Plague turns the spotlight on this process of manufacture, revealing a rich history beset by controversy, in which party politics, class relations, veterinary ambitions, agricultural practices, the priorities of farming and the meat trade, fears for national security and scientific progress all made FMD what it is today.
Title: Big Farms Make Big Flu: Dispatches on Infectious Disease, Agribusiness, and the Nature of Science
Thanks to breakthroughs in production and food science, agribusiness has been able to devise new ways to grow more food and get it more places more quickly. There is no shortage of news items on hundreds of thousands of hybrid poultry – each animal genetically identical to the next – packed together in megabarns, grown out in a matter of months, then slaughtered, processed and shipped to the other side of the globe. Less well known are the deadly pathogens mutating in, and emerging out of, these specialized agro-environments. In fact, many of the most dangerous new diseases in humans can be traced back to such food systems, among them Campylobacter, Nipah virus, Q fever, hepatitis E, and a variety of novel influenza variants.
Agribusiness has known for decades that packing thousands of birds or livestock together results in a monoculture that selects for such disease. But market economics doesn’t punish the companies for growing Big Flu – it punishes animals, the environment, consumers, and contract farmers. Alongside growing profits, diseases are permitted to emerge, evolve, and spread with little check. “That is,” writes evolutionary biologist Rob Wallace, “it pays to produce a pathogen that could kill a billion people.”
In Big Farms Make Big Flu, a collection of dispatches by turns harrowing and thought-provoking, Wallace tracks the ways influenza and other pathogens emerge from an agriculture controlled by multinational corporations. Wallace details, with a precise and radical wit, the latest in the science of agricultural epidemiology, while at the same time juxtaposing ghastly phenomena such as attempts at producing featherless chickens, microbial time travel, and neoliberal Ebola. Wallace also offers sensible alternatives to lethal agribusiness. Some, such as farming cooperatives, integrated pathogen management, and mixed crop-livestock systems, are already in practice off the agribusiness grid.
While many books cover facets of food or outbreaks, Wallace’s collection appears the first to explore infectious disease, agriculture, economics and the nature of science together. Big Farms Make Big Flu integrates the political economies of disease and science to derive a new understanding of the evolution of infections. Highly capitalized agriculture may be farming pathogens as much as chickens or corn.
timespace coordinates: 2020’s fictional Norwegian town of Edda in Western Norway
Ragnarok is a Norwegian-language fantasy drama from Netflix that premiered on 31 January 2020. The series is produced by the Danish production company SAM Productions. The show has been renewed for a second season.
The show takes place in the fictional town of Edda which is plagued by climate change and the industrial pollution caused by the factories owned by the local Jutul family, the fifth-richest family in Norway. The Jutuls are actually four Jötunn, frost giants and giantesses posing as a family in Edda. They are challenged by Magne, a teenage boy who is surprised to learn that he is the embodiment of Thor and begins the fight against those that are destroying the planet.
The plot follows a determined team of American engineers and designers, led by automotive designer Carroll Shelby and his British driver, Ken Miles, who are dispatched by Henry Ford II and Lee Iacocca with the mission of building the Ford GT40, a new racing car with the potential to finally defeat the perennially dominant Ferrari racing team at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France. (wiki)
timespace coordinates: isolated island in Brittany, France, 1760.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (French: Portrait de la jeune fille en feu) is a 2019 French historical drama film written and directed by Céline Sciamma (water lilies), starring Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel. Set in France in the late 18th century, the film tells the story of a forbidden affair between an aristocrat and a painter commissioned to paint her portrait. (wiki)
‘Ce Magnifique Gâteau !’ is a mid-length stop-motion animated anthology film set in colonial Africa in the late 19th century at the time of King Leopold, Belgian Congo and the Scramble for Africa. It tells the stories of 5 different characters: a troubled king, a middle-aged Pygmy working in a luxury hotel, a failed businessman on an expedition, a lost porter, and a young army deserter.