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.
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 edited collection brings together new research by world-leading historians and anthropologists to examine the interaction between images of plague in different temporal and spatial contexts, and the imagination of the disease from the Middle Ages to today. The chapters in this book illuminate to what extent the image of plague has not simply reflected, but also impacted the way in which the disease is experienced in different historical periods. The book asks what is the contribution of the entanglement between epidemic image and imagination to the persistence of plague as a category of human suffering across so many centuries, in spite of profound shifts in our medical understanding of the disease. What is it that makes plague such a visually charismatic subject? And why is the medical, religious and lay imagination of plague so consistently determined by the visual register? In answering these questions, this volume takes the study of plague images beyond its usual, art-historical framework, so as to examine them and their relation to the imagination of plague from medical, historical, visual anthropological, and postcolonial perspectives.
This edited volume draws historians and anthropologists together to explore the contested worlds of epidemic corpses and their disposal. Why are burials so frequently at the center of disagreement, recrimination and protest during epidemics? Why are the human corpses produced in the course of infectious disease outbreaks seen as dangerous, not just to the living, but also to the continued existence of society and civilization? Examining cases from the Black Death to Ebola, contributors challenge the predominant idea that a single, universal framework of contagion can explain the political, social and cultural importance and impact of the epidemic corpse.