Category: History

“Blindness and Boldness”: Haptic Imaginaries from the Operating Theater to the Pandemic Everyday

“It’s like driving a car in the fog”: The Operating Theater A torso, swollen with gas and yellow with antiseptic – this was the only glimpse of the patient’s body visible among the draped blue sterile sheets of the operating theatre. Poking through four quarter-inch incisions across the lower abdomen were the tools of surgical… Read more →

Sister Mariana’s Spyglass: The Unreliable Ghost of Female Desire in a Convent Archive

In 1731, Sister Mariana de Jesus, a young nun at the Augustinian Convent of Santa Monica in Portuguese Goa, was caught using a spyglass to ogle the monks at the convent’s brother monastery across the street.[1] Under other circumstances, Sister Mariana’s spyglass might not have attracted much attention. Spyglasses were popular among the sisters of… Read more →

Misinformation, Vaccination, and “Medical Liberty” in the Age of COVID-19

Vaccination is of critical importance right now. At this moment, the United States is fighting an uphill battle against COVID-19, reaching over 100,000 cases a day and counting. Hospital systems are strained and the country’s morgues are cracking under the pressure of thousands of corpses waiting in trailers for burial. Meanwhile, the vacuum of national… Read more →

Liberty and Insanity Sitting in a Tree

In 2011, I participated in a National Endowment for the Humanities summer seminar entitled “The Problem of Governance in the Early Republic.” Our group was housed at the Library Company of Philadelphia, and for three weeks the participants, led by Purdue University professors John L. Larson and Michael A. Morrison, talked and argued about a… Read more →

“I Assumed It Was Urgent”: Helen Hurd’s Story

As an archivist, I gain deep knowledge of people through their personal papers. I come to appreciate their senses of humor or feel moved by their personal tragedies. A decade ago, I became intrigued by a woman whose collection contains signed photographs of 1920s movie stars. Helen Hurd’s journey from Hollywood reporter to Rutgers University… Read more →

Thucydides, Historical Solidarity, and Birth in the Pandemic

I never felt any particular fear for my safety, or my baby’s, during my first pregnancy in 2016. I felt even more confident as I prepared to give birth to my second child in the spring of 2020. This changed dramatically in mid March, when suddenly my due date at the end of April coincided… Read more →

Not Our First Rodeo: Reading Porter’s Pale Horse, Pale Rider through the Lens of Denver Newspapers’ Coverage of the 1918 Flu Pandemic

Weathering the COVID-19 pandemic in Fort Worth, Texas, I’m continually dismayed by the ways that money and politics are prioritized over human life all around me. In November, for example, our mayor cheerfully hosted a national rodeo competition, bringing in thousands of tourists during a period when we had fewer than twenty available ICU beds… Read more →

The Women’s Health Movement and the Dream of the Diaphragm

Half a century after the emergence of the women’s liberation movement, “the pill” remains ingrained in the iconography of second-wave feminism. Although the drug now comes in a sleek blister pack, the image of a retro Dialpak remains an aesthetic touchstone—a symbol of bodily autonomy now emblazoned on enamel pins, earrings, and rubber stamps. It… Read more →

Wearable Immunity: Beauty Lessons from the Pockmarking Era

This pandemic’s “mask wars,” as with the 1918 flu pandemic and HIV/AIDS in the 1980s, have prompted reflections on how the visual cultures of disease prevention have shaped the cultures of fashion. It is timely to think again about how markers of health protection have been donned and displayed and to ask what lessons history… Read more →

Speaking Out: Joe Biden, Stuttering, and Disability Discrimination in the United States

In October 2020, CNN host Jake Tapper confronted Lara Trump for a video of what seemed to be her mocking now–President Elect Joe Biden’s stutter on the campaign trail. In the video, Lara Trump was seen saying “Joe, can you get it out? . . . Let’s get the words out, Joe. You kind of… Read more →