New & Notable

To post an event or new book, write to aah2155[at]columbia.edu.

Opportunities

CFP: Narrative Special Issue: Abstracts due April 1, 2019

In January 2021 Narrative will devote a special issue to the topic of “Narrative in the Public Sphere.” This message is a call for abstracts for potential contributions. Contributions on health/medical humanities narrative in the public sphere would be very welcome.

The overarching goal of the special issue is to participate in and influence conversations about narrative’s role in the construction and understanding of the public sphere as well as its potential role in changing that construction and understanding.

The issue will work with a broad and inclusive concept of the public sphere, one that has its roots in Habermas’s work but one not fully tied to his account. The key components of the concept for the special issue are that it includes multiple domains (and their attendant activities) that feed into a collective sense of a metaphorical public space within a society and culture. Examples of such domains include politics, education, health care/medicine, the law, economics, art, literature, journalism, religion, and more. The special issue is open to submissions about narrative in any domain provided that the work of the essay involves linking the narrative(s) under consideration to larger issues in that domain or in the broader public sphere. For example, an essay within the domain of religion should focus less on the nature of individual beliefs or practices and more on the consequences of a set of beliefs or practices for the society and culture in which that religion is located. Similarly, an essay on literary narrative should focus less on the intricacies of structure and more on possible effects/efficacy of the narrative for the society and culture in which it is produced.

Here’s the timetable for the special issue: abstracts (350-500 words) due April 1, 2019; decisions on abstracts by May 15, 2019; essays due January 15, 2020; special issue, January 2021.

Please send questions to narrativej@gmail.com.

Events

A Dramatic Reading of Lipstick Lobotomy

March 28 – 6:15 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Buell Hall East Gallery, Columbia University

This event is the first in the Explorations in the Medical Humanities series to feature an original creative piece, Krista Knight’s new play Lipstick Lobotomy (2018). Knight is currently the Writer-in-Residence in Cinema & Media Arts and Theatre at Vanderbilt University, and the play has never been fully staged. Drawing on Columbia’s institutional history, we will host a dramatic reading of the play in Buell Hall, the only remaining building from the psychiatric institution formerly located on the University site. This one-off production will feature a dramatic reading of Knight’s play by local actors, commentary from the playwright and director, and a brief history of Columbia’s architectural/institutional history as a psychiatric facility. The reading is intended to present the gendered and political history of lobotomy as a widely-performed psychiatric procedure in the mid-20th century, and, more generally, to explore the ways in which dramatic performance can engender new ways of thinking about medical testimony.

Lipstick Lobotomy imagines the playwright’s great aunt Ginny and JFK’s little sister Rosemary Kennedy meeting at an exclusive high-end sanitarium for women in the fall of 1941. Ginny is desperate to be friends with the charismatic and stylish Rosemary and is not satisfied with the talk therapy at the Institute and pressures her doctors for more aggressive treatment. Meanwhile, Rosemary, forced into the institute by her famous family because of her intellectual disability, keeps trying to escape. The famous surgeon Dr. Walter Jackson Freeman II visits the Institute to perform a lobotomy on one of the patients, and Rosemary is selected for the treatment because of her Kennedy family connections. The surgeons go too far and Rosemary is incapacitated to the mental level of a 3-year-old. Ginny sees Rosemary, debilitated by the “botched” lobotomy, yet decides to get the procedure herself. Ginny has learned what a lobotomy is, its risks and complications, and still won’t face a future without it.

This event is free and open to the public.

 

New Books

2018

After Eunuchs: Science, Medicine, and the Transformation of Sex in Modern China

Howard Chiang, Columbia University Press

From anticastration discourses in the late Qing era to sex-reassignment surgeries in Taiwan in the 1950s and queer movements in the 1980s and 1990s, After Eunuchs explores the ways the introduction of Western biomedical sciences transformed normative meanings of gender, sexuality, and the body in China. Chiang investigates how competing definitions of sex circulated in science, medicine, vernacular culture, and the periodical press, bringing to light a rich and vibrant discourse of sex change in the first half of the twentieth century. He focuses on the stories of gender and sexual minorities as well as a large supporting cast of doctors, scientists, philosophers, educators, reformers, journalists, and tabloid writers, as they debated the questions of political sovereignty, national belonging, cultural authenticity, scientific modernity, human difference, and the power and authority of truths about sex. Theoretically sophisticated and far-reaching, After Eunuchs is an innovative contribution to the history and philosophy of science and queer and Sinophone studies.

Another Person’s Poison: A History of Food Allergy
Matthew Smith, Columbia University Press

Another Person’s Poison parses the political, economic, cultural, and genuine health factors of a phenomenon that dominates our interactions with others and our understanding of ourselves. For most of the twentieth century, food allergies were considered a fad or junk science. While many physicians and clinicians argued that certain foods could cause a range of chronic problems, from asthma and eczema to migraines and hyperactivity, others believed that allergies were psychosomatic.

Gender, Health, and History in Modern East Asia

Edited by Angela Ki Che Leung and Izumi Nakayama, Hong Kong University Press

This groundbreaking volume captures and analyzes the exhilarating and at times disorienting experience when scientists, government officials, educators, and the general public in East Asia tried to come to terms with the introduction of Western biological and medical sciences to the region. The nexus of gender and health is a compelling theme, for this is an area in which private lives and personal characteristics encounter the interventions of public policies. The nine empirically based studies by scholars of history of medicine, sociology, anthropology, and STS (science, technology, and society), spanning Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong from the 1870s to the present, demonstrate just how tightly concerns with gender and health have been woven into the enterprise of modernization and nation building throughout the long twentieth century.

A Medical History of Hong Kong: 1842–1941

Moira M. W. Chan-Yeung, The Chinese University Press

This book tells the fascinating story of the development of medical and sanitation services in Hong Kong during the first century of British rule and how changing political values and directions of the colonial administration and the socioeconomic status of Hong Kong affected the policies of development in these areas. It also recounts how the bubonic plague of 1894 changed the government’s laissez-faire attitude towards sanitation and public health and began sanitary reforms and developed public health infrastructure.

The Rise of Autobiographical Medical Poetry and the Medical Humanities

Johanna Emeney, ibidem Press

In this fascinating book, Johanna Emeney examines the global proliferation of new poetry related to illness and medical treatment from the perspective of doctors, patients, and carers in light of the growing popularity of the medical humanities. She provides a close analysis of poetry from New Zealand, the U.S., and the U.K. that deals with sociological and philosophical aspects of sickness, ailment, medical treatment, care, and recuperation.

2017

Buddhism and Medicine: An Anthology of Premodern Sources

Edited by C. Pierce Salguero, Columbia University Press

From its earliest days, Buddhism has been closely intertwined with medicine. Buddhism and Medicine is a singular collection showcasing the generative relationship and mutual influence between these fields across premodern Asia. The anthology combines dozens of English-language translations of premodern Buddhist texts with contextualizing introductions by leading international scholars in Buddhist studies, the history of medicine, and a range of other fields.

Exhaustion: A History

Anna Katharina Schaffner, Columbia University Press

Medical, cultural, literary, and biographical sources have cast exhaustion as a biochemical imbalance, a somatic ailment, a viral disease, and a spiritual failing. It has been linked to loss, the alignment of the planets, a perverse desire for death, and social and economic disruption. Pathologized, demonized, sexualized, and even weaponized, exhaustion unites the mind with the body and society in such a way that we attach larger questions of agency, willpower, and well-being to its symptoms. Mapping these political, ideological, and creative currents across centuries of human development, Exhaustion finds in our struggle to overcome weariness a more significant effort to master ourselves.

The Facts of Life

Paula Knight, PSU Press

April’s dreams of motherhood come true before too long, but as Polly enthusiastically builds a career, her desire and hope to start a family become less firmly ingrained. Her struggles with chronic illness also have an effect on her choices and relationships, and she wonders whether motherhood will be in the cards for her at all. Soon she meets Jack, and together they start a fraught journey, first debating whether parenthood is right for them and then facing the heartbreak of repeated miscarriages and the effects of illness on their ability to have a child. Through it all, Polly is forced to reexamine what family can mean in a society that so often associates family—and womanhood—with children.

Beautifully drawn and poignantly honest, The Facts of Life is a funny, sometimes painful graphic memoir that explores what it takes to be a woman, a partner, and a mother . . . or not.

Narrative in Social Work Practice: The Power and Possibility of Story

Editors: Ann Burack-Weiss, Lynn Sara Lawrence, and Lynne Bamat Mijangos, Columbia UP

Narrative in Social Work Practice features first-person accounts by social workers who have successfully integrated narrative theory and approaches into their practice. Contributors describe innovative and effective interventions with a wide range of individuals, families, and groups facing a variety of life challenges. One author describes a family in crisis when a promising teenage girl suddenly takes to her bed for several years; another brings narrative practice to a Bronx trauma center; and another finds that poetry writing can enrich the lives of people living with dementia. In some chapters, the authors turn narrative techniques inward and use them as vehicles of self-discovery. Settings range from hospitals and clinics to a graduate school and a case management agency. Throughout, Narrative in Social Work Practice showcases the flexibility and appeal of narrative methods and demonstrates how they can be empowering and fulfilling for clients and social workers alike.

Politics, Piety, and Biomedicine: The Malaysian Transplant Venture

Jenny Schreiber, Transcript-Verlag

The discourse on transplantation and brain death has become emblematic of conflicts between certain perspectives on adequate medical care, death, and dying. Scientific and religious, modernizing and traditional as well as academic and popular voices debate how to approach these topics. This work captures the heterogeneous and often contradictory views on the Malaysian transplant venture and the treatment option of end-stage organ failure from the Malay and Chinese population, physicians, state officials, and Muslim, Buddhist, and Daoist clergy. It also addresses vital issues as to the use of and extent to which biomedicine and medical technology in contemporary Malaysia actually benefits its people.

Taking Turns: Stories from HIV/AIDS Care Unit 371
MK Czerwiec, PSU Press

A shining example of excellence in the treatment and care of patients, Unit 371 was a community for thousands of patients and families affected by HIV and AIDS and the people who cared for them. This graphic novel combines Czerwiec’s memories with the oral histories of patients, family members, and staff. It depicts life and death in the ward, the ways the unit affected and informed those who passed through it, and how many look back on their time there today. Czerwiec joined Unit 371 at a pivotal time in the history of AIDS: deaths from the syndrome in the Midwest peaked in 1995 and then dropped drastically in the following years, with the release of antiretroviral protease inhibitors. This positive turn of events led to a decline in patient populations and, ultimately, to the closure of Unit 371. Czerwiec’s restrained, inviting drawing style and carefully considered narrative examine individual, institutional, and community responses to the AIDS epidemic—as well as the role that art can play in the grieving process.

2016

Aliceheimer’s: Alzheimer’s Through the Looking Glass

Dana Walrath, PSU Press

Aliceheimer’s is a series of illustrated vignettes, daily glimpses into their world with Alzheimer’s. Walrath’s time with her mother was marked by humor and clarity: “With a community of help that included pirates, good neighbors, a cast of characters from space-time travel, and my dead father hovering in the branches of the maple trees that surround our Vermont farmhouse, Aliceheimer’s let us write our own story daily—a story that, in turn, helps rewrite the dominant medical narrative of aging.”

Being Human in a Buddhist World: An Intellectual History of Medicine in Early Modern Tibet

Janet Gyatso, Columbia University Press

Through its unique focus and sophisticated reading of source materials, Being Human adds a crucial chapter in the larger historiography of science and religion. The book opens with the bold achievements in Tibetan medical illustration, commentary, and institution building during the period of the Fifth Dalai Lama and his regent, Desi Sangye Gyatso, then looks back to the work of earlier thinkers, tracing a strategically astute dialectic between scriptural and empirical authority on questions of history and the nature of human anatomy. It follows key differences between medicine and Buddhism in attitudes toward gender and sex and the moral character of the physician, who had to serve both the patient’s and the practitioner’s well-being. Being Human in a Buddhist World ultimately finds that Tibetan medical scholars absorbed ethical and epistemological categories from Buddhism yet shied away from ideal systems and absolutes, instead embracing the imperfectability of the human condition.

Hole in the Heart: Bringing Up Beth

Henny Beaumont, PSU Press

Hole in the Heart is a moving and refreshingly honest look at raising a child with special needs. Henny doesn’t shy away from the complicated emotions and challenges that affected her and her family. But her story also shows that fear can be the greatest of these challenges—and the most rewarding to overcome. Henny and Beth’s journey speaks not only to parents of children with special needs and the medical and care professionals they interact with, but to all parents who wonder whether their child is loved enough and is reaching his or her potential.

Medical Philosophy: A Philosophical Analysis of Patient Self-Perception in Diagnostics and Therapy,

David Låg Tomasi, ibidem Press

This innovative book clarifies the distinction between philosophy of medicine and medical philosophy, expanding the focus from the ‘knowing that’ of the first to the ‘knowing how’ of the latter. The idea of patient and provider self-discovery becomes the method and strategy at the basis of therapeutic treatment. It develops the concept of ‘Central Medicine’, aimed at overcoming the dichotomies of Western–Eastern medicine and Traditional–Integrative approaches. Evidence-based and patient-centered medicine are analyzed in the context of the debate on placebo and non-specific effects alongside clinical research on the patient-doctor relationship, and the interactive nature of human relationships in general, including factors such as environment, personal beliefs, and perspectives on life’s meaning and purpose. Tomasi’s research incorporates neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, and medicine in a clear, readable, and detailed way, satisfying the needs of professionals, students, and anyone who enjoys the exploration of the complexity of human mind, brain, and heart.

Me Medicine vs. We Medicine: Reclaiming Biotechnology for the Common Good

Donna Dickenson, Columbia University Press

Personalized healthcare—or what the award-winning author Donna Dickenson calls “Me Medicine”—is radically transforming our longstanding “one-size-fits-all” model. Technologies such as direct-to-consumer genetic testing, pharmacogenetically developed therapies in cancer care, private umbilical cord blood banking, and neurocognitive enhancement claim to cater to an individual’s specific biological character, and, in some cases, these technologies have shown powerful potential. Yet in others they have produced negligible or even negative results. Whatever is behind the rise of Me Medicine, it isn’t just science. So why is Me Medicine rapidly edging out We Medicine, and how has our commitment to our collective health suffered as a result?

In her cogent, provocative analysis, Dickenson examines the economic and political factors fueling the Me Medicine phenomenon and explores how, over time, this paradigm shift in how we approach our health might damage our individual and collective well-being. Historically, the measures of “We Medicine,” such as vaccination and investment in public-health infrastructure, have radically extended our life spans, and Dickenson argues we’ve lost sight of that truth in our enthusiasm for “Me Medicine.”

The Walking Med: Zombies and the Medical Image

Edited by Lorenzo Servitje and Sherryl Vint, Foreword by Steven C. Schlozman, PSU Press

The Walking Med brings together scholars from across the disciplines of cultural studies, medical education, medical anthropology, and art history to explore what new meanings the zombie might convey in this context. These scholars consider a range of forms—from comics disseminated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to graphic novels and television shows such as The Walking Dead—to show how interrogations of the zombie metaphor can reveal new perspectives within the medical humanities.