Subjective objects

Madeleine Mant // As an anthropologist of health, I am deeply invested in both bodies and objects relating to bodies. I want to know how access to healthcare becomes embodied in varied sets of data, from human skeletal remains to institutional records to material culture. Traces of lived lives wait quietly, some beneath the soil,…

Gut Check: A History of Bowels and Brains

Timothy Kent Holliday // In recent years some scholars have argued that the gut microbiome, perhaps as much as the brain, defines the condition of humanness (Moore, Mathias, & Valeur 1). Communication between the gastrointestinal tract and the central nervous system is referred to as the gut-brain axis. Gut flora sometimes figure in how scientists…

Airborne Imaginaries

Emily Waples // This month, the CDC published an update to its coronavirus guidelines, acknowledging the airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2, even at distances greater than now-sacrosanct six-foot radius. The revision was radical only in its belatedness, affirming well-established scientific evidence of aerosol transmission. Occurring on the heels of an April 30 update to the WHO…

Archive Fevers, Archive Cures: Leprosy and Decolonization in Hawaii

Bassam Sidiki // In the summer of 2019, a mere months before the pandemic would dramatically alter our lives, I boarded a plane from Detroit to Honolulu. I had received a pre-doctoral research grant to visit the Hawaii National Archives where they keep papers of the Kalaupapa Leper Settlement on the island of Molokai. This…

Review-Borderlands Curanderos: The Worlds of Santa Teresa Urrea and Don Pedrito Jaramillo by Jennifer Koshatka Seman

John A. Carranza // In Borderlands Curanderos, Dr. Jennifer Koshatka Seman provides an extensive study of the healing careers of Santa Teresa Urrea and Don Pedro Jaramillo. Both healers were born in Mexico before crossing the border to practice curanderismo, “an earth-based healing practice that blends elements of indigenous medicine with folk Catholicism” (1). Seman…

The Hype Around Wonder Drugs, Then and Now

Brent Arehart // Every day, American viewers of television and streaming services alike are targeted by direct-to-consumer ads for pharmaceuticals. We are all too familiar with them. Chances are you already know something about Prozac, Lipitor, and myriads of other drugs even if you can’t recall off the top of your head what they are…

Death Wish: Caring for the Dead and Dying in Nineteenth-Century Philadelphia

Timothy Kent Holliday // “Dying is an art, like everything else” (Plath 245). With these words twentieth-century poet Sylvia Plath alluded to her own suicidal ideation. Death wishes of a different kind entwined in cities like Philadelphia in the 1830s, a century before Plath’s birth: the dying dreams of a patient, and the nineteenth-century anatomist’s…

The Case for the Country Doctor

Scott C. Thompson // The nineteenth-century “country doctor”—making community house calls, accepting direct and indirect payments, treating patients with a limited range of pharmaceutical and technological options—is a paradoxical figure in Victorian fiction.[1] While perceived as disconnected from the cutting edge of Western scientific and medical research taking place in urban centers (such as London,…

Entering the Mystery: The Lady’s Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness

Emily Waples // Emily Dickinson, we know, did not title her poems. But when Mabel Loomis Todd and Thomas Wentworth Higginson set out to publish their first edition of Dickinson’s work in 1890, four years after her death, they took this liberty. What contemporary readers of R.W. Franklin’s edition may now know as poem #760,…