All _Essays

Infectious Diseases in Historical Perspective

French Pox Versus Venereal Syphilis

Medical historiography has tended to almost automatically identify the disease that entered European medical and lay writings at the end of the 15th century as morbus gallicus with the present-day condition known as “venereal syphilis.” This identification, which goes back to the invention, in 1530, of the term syphilis as a synonym for morbus gallicus by Girolamo Fracastoro (c. 1478–1553), has been retained by many 19th- and 20th-century medical historians, and there […]

The Illness of Narrative

Reframing the Question of Limits

This paper uses Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground as the starting point for a critique of the assumption that engaging with narratives enhances well-being. While the ‘limits of narrative’ have long been an object of critique by scholars in the medical humanities, the question of limits has been posed primarily in terms of whether narrativity can be considered an anthropological universal, and in terms of what (or whom) a privileging of narrativity might exclude. […]

The Experience of Migration: From Metaphor to Metamorphosis

In banal by now media representations of migrants it remains frequently the case that metaphors are systematically used in racist and demeaning manners, though also, occasionally, in positive ways empathizing with the plight of refugees, migrant communities, and the sans papiers. [1] There are varied reasons why this is the case but none of them appear to be accidental, as specialists observe. [2] I am interested, here, in considering the wider, more personal and […]

Love as Practice of Solidarity

Of Peripheral Bodies, Embodied Justice and Associated Labor

On the eve of my third late spring in Frankfurt, there is the lightness and ease of being not there but here. The lindens in front of the windows give comfort, but I’m yearning for the sweetly pungent fragrance of their Banja Luka sisters. I will not be smelling them this June, or perhaps ever again for that matter, the borders have been closed again due to the corona pandemic. Their smell is from elsewhere and it won’t be going anywhere — their labors are lost.

Caring like a State

Politicizing Love, Touch, and Precarious Lives in the Time of COVID-19

The year 2020 will be remembered as the year of the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). The pandemic spread around the globe, and as of February 5, 2021,[footnote]“WHO Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Dashboard,” World Health Organization, 2020, accessed December 1, 2020, .[/footnote] 104,370,550 persons had been infected, with an additional 271,180 lives taken to an early grave — sadly, this tragic record will only increase in the upcoming months. As the death toll steadily rose throughout the year, several voices were heard, crying for the need for more compassion, more love, more kindness […]