A Thousand Ghost Maps: History in and as Health Crises

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“A Thousand Ghost Maps” is a symposium that starts from the assertion that health and disease are always situated in expansive cultural landscapes, that the life of the body must be conceptualized holistically, and that illness and its responses cannot be separated from the historical and social forces of their particular times and spaces. The title of the talk is drawn from UVM Arts and Sciences’ “First-Year Read” selection for 2013-2014, Steven Johnson’s The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic – and How it Changed Science, Cities and the Modern World, a wide-ranging account of the spatial, cultural, and political reverberations of an 1854 Cholera outbreak; the panel mobilizes the book’s name and theme to suggest that health crises must always be understood as a complex interaction of pathogen and political economy, of individual body and configurations of power.

The symposium brings together at a single forum scholars of pediatric cancers and medieval history, of global health broadly construed and childhood toxic exposures, of AIDS in China and polio in Pakistan, researchers with MDs and PhDs alike. The discussant and moderator is President’s Burack Distinguished Lecturer JR McNeill, a Guggenheim and MacArthur Genius Fellow, Toynbee Prize-winner, and University Professor at Georgetown, who has recently written on the relevance of mosquito-borne illnesses in the decline of oceanic empires. Participants include Middlebury’s Svea Closser, McGill’s Sandra Hyde, UVM’s Barry Finette, Dartmouth’s Margaret Karagas, and John Aberth. The panel is organized and conceived by UVM Anthropology’s Jonah Steinberg. At the heart of the project is an interest in interrogating and understanding how history’s grand sweep is translated into individual and intimate experience and sensation, in the life of a body; the gathering is governed by the notion that even the largest movements of human beings across the planet are iterated at microscopic levels, in organs and cells themselves.

Davis Auditorium, Fletcher-Allen/UVM Medical School, Monday April 28, 11-12:30, reception to follow.

With:
Dr. JR McNeill, University Professor, Georgetown University, Guggenheim and MacArthur Genius Fellow, and Toynbee Prize-Winner, Author of Mosquito Empires. Burack Lecturer, Moderator and Discussant
Dr. Margaret Karagas, Darthmouth College: Section Head, Epidemiology and Biostatistics; Co-Director, Epidemiology & Chemoprevention (Norris Cotton Cancer Center); and Director, Formative Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Center
Dr. Svea Closser, Sociology and Anthropology, Middlebury College, author of Chasing Polio in Pakistan (Vanderbilt)
Dr. Sandra Hyde, Anthropology, McGill University, Author of Eating Spring Rice: The Cultural Politics of AIDS in Southwest China (UC Press
Dr. John Aberth, Author of Plagues in World History, The Black Death, and an Environmental History of the Middle Ages.
Dr. Barry Finette, Director, Global Health and Humanitarian Opportunity Program; Fletcher-Allen Pediatrics

Sponsored by UVM Anthropology, Global and Regional Studies, the First-Year Read Program and the TAP Program of the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office.

For more information, contact Jonah Steinberg, jonah.steinberg@uvm.edu, or Mary Lou Shea, 802-656-1096.

In Association with the President’s Burack Distinguished Lecture of:

JR McNeill, How Hungry Mosquitoes Liberated the Americas, 1776-1898, Billings North Lounge and Apse, Monday April 28, 4 pm, Reception to follow.