Episodios

  • In the late nineteenth century, medical educators intent on transforming American physicians into scientifically trained, elite professionals recognized the value of medical school design for their reform efforts. Between 1893 and 1940, nearly every medical college in the country rebuilt or substantially renovated its facility. In Building Schools, Making Doctors: Architecture and the Modern American Physician (U Pittsburgh Press, 2022), Katherine Carroll reveals how the schools constructed during this fifty-year period did more than passively house a remodeled system of medical training; they actively participated in defining and promoting an innovative pedagogy, modern science, and the new physician.
    Interdisciplinary and wide ranging, her study moves architecture from the periphery of medical education to the center, uncovering a network of medical educators, architects, and philanthropists who believed that the educational environment itself shaped how students learned and the type of physicians they became. Carroll offers the first comprehensive study of the science and pedagogy formulated by the buildings, the influence of the schools’ donors and architects, the impact of the structures on the urban landscape and the local community, and the facilities’ privileging of white men within the medical profession during this formative period for physicians and medical schools.
    Rachel Pagones is an acupuncturist, educator, and author based in Cambridge, England. Her book, Acupuncture as Revolution: Suffering, Liberation, and Love (Brevis Press) was published in 2021.
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  • In The Mind and the Moon: My Brother’s Story, the Science of Our Brains, and the Search for Our Psyches (Ecco, 3033), Daniel Bergner examines these and other by describing three riveting case studies in the context of the history of psychiatry and psychopharmacology. Alongside the story of his brother Bob’s struggle with bipolar disorder, we learn about Caroline, who is besieged by the hallucinations of psychosis, and David, an attorney who is engulfed by anxiety and depression. In telling their stories while describing the frontiers of brain research, Bergner shows how the pharmaceutical industry has played a key role in perpetuating a biological view of the mind and drug-based cures for its disorders – despite mediocre drug effectiveness, many challenging side effects, and questionable patient outcomes. The Mind and the Moon addresses fundamental issues of selfhood and identity in ways that will challenge basic beliefs about who we are and who we might be.
    Steve Beitler’s work in the history of medicine focuses on how pain has been understood, treated, experienced, and represented. His recently published articles examined the history of opiates in American football and surveyed the history of therapeutic drugs. He can be reached at [email protected]
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  • The health care sector frequently emphasizes “Cultural competence”, an elastic concept that stretches from the simplest recognition of diversity of patient populations, to include policy implications of patients’ overall worldviews re the body, health, and decision-making.
    The issue, highlighted again in the recent U.S. Supreme Court abortion decision, gained prominence during Covid-19 pandemic, with the challenge of so-called marginal groups’ access to and compliance with vaccination programs.
    Legislation for equality impacts minority health care. It has brought both benefits and unintended consequences.
    We will talk about these important issues with today’s guest, Ben Kasstan, Ph.D., an anthropologist at the University of Bristol and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. His research explores public health, specifically, what health protection means and according to whom. Ben’s published works on public health issues include maternity care, childhood vaccinations, and sexuality education.
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  • Today I had the pleasure of talking to Professor Gonçalo Santos (University of Coimbra), about his new book, Chinese Village Life Today: Building Families in an Age of Transition, which was published in 2021 by University of Washington Press.
    Chinese Village Life Today is based on more than twenty years of Gonçalo Santos’s field research. The book paints a richly detailed portrait of a rural township in Guangdong Province, north of the industrialized Pearl River Delta region, to consider the intimate choices that village families make in the face of larger forces of modernization. Filled with vivid anecdotes and keen observations, the book offers a fresh perspective on China’s urban-rural divide and a grounded theoretical approach to understand how China’s rural transformation is changing the ways that local people shape their intimate daily lives - from marriage, childbirth, and childcare to personal hygiene and public sanitation.
    I highly recommend the book for anyone who wants to understand village life in China today, and more broadly for those interested in studies on medical anthropology and the workings of technocratic frameworks of governance.
    Dr. Suvi Rautio is an anthropologist of China.
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  • To be an emergency room doctor is to be a professional listener to stories. Each patient presents a story; finding the heart of that story is the doctor’s most critical task. More technology, more tests, and more data won’t work if doctors get the story wrong. Empathy, creativity, and imagination are the cornerstones of clinical care. In Tornado of Life: A Doctor's Journey through Constraints and Creativity in the ER (MIT Press, 2022), ER physician Jay Baruch offers a series of short, powerful, and affecting essays that capture the stories of ER patients in all their complexity and messiness.
    Patients come to the ER with lives troubled by scales of misfortune that have little to do with disease or injury. ER doctors must be problem-finders before they are problem-solvers. Cheryl, for example, whose story is a chaos narrative of “and this happened, and then that happened, and then, and then and then and then,” tells Baruch she is "stuck in a tornado of life.” What will help her, and and what will help Mr. K., who seems like a textbook case of post-combat PTSD but turns out not to be? Baruch describes, among other things, the emergency of loneliness (invoking Chekhov, another doctor-writer); his own (frightening) experience as a patient; the patient who demanded a hug; and emergency medicine during COVID-19. These stories often end without closure or solutions. The patients are discharged into the world. But if they’re lucky, the doctor has listened to their stories as well as treated them.
    Galina Limorenko is a doctoral candidate in Neuroscience with a focus on biochemistry and molecular biology of neurodegenerative diseases at EPFL in Switzerland.
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  • The process of manipulating the genetic material of one animal to include the DNA of another creates a new transgenic organism. Several animals, notably goats, mice, sheep, and cattle are now genetically modified in this way. In Our Transgenic Future: Spider Goats, Genetic Modification, and the Will to Change Nature (NYU Press, 2022), Lisa Jean Moore wonders what such scientific advances portend. Will the natural world become so modified that it ceases to exist? After turning species into hybrids, can we ever get back to the original, or are they forever lost? Does genetic manipulation make better lives possible, and if so, for whom?
    Moore centers the story on goats that have been engineered by the US military and civilian scientists using the DNA of spiders. The goat’s milk contains a spider-silk protein fiber; it can be spun into ultra-strong fabric that can be used to manufacture lightweight military body armor. Researchers also hope the transgenically produced spider silk will revolutionize medicine with biocompatible medical inserts such as prosthetics and bandages. Based on in-depth research with spiders in Florida and transgenic goats in Utah, Our Transgenic Future focuses on how these spider goats came into existence, the researchers who maintain them, the funders who have made their lives possible, and how they fit into the larger science of transgenics and synthetics. This book is a fascinating story about the possibilities of science and the likely futures that may come.
    Rachel Pagones is an acupuncturist, educator, and author based in Cambridge, England. Her book, Acupuncture as Revolution: Suffering, Liberation, and Love (Brevis Press) was published in 2021.
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  • Genome sequencing is one of the most exciting scientific breakthroughs of the past thirty years. But what precisely does it involve and how is it developing?
    In Genomics: How Genome Sequencing Will Change Healthcare (Random House, 2022), Rachael Pells explains the science behind genomics. She analyses its practical applications in medical diagnosis and the treatment of conditions that range from cancer to severe allergic reactions to cystic fibrosis. She considers its potential to help with advances in agriculture and environmental science. She explores the ethics of genetic modification and the dangers involved when humans 'play God'. And she addresses the fundamental question: to what extent will future advances transform human longevity and the quality of life.
    Galina Limorenko is a doctoral candidate in Neuroscience with a focus on biochemistry and molecular biology of neurodegenerative diseases at EPFL in Switzerland.
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  • The story of DDT as you’ve never heard it before: a fresh look at the much-maligned chemical compound as a cautionary tale of how powerful corporations have stoked the flames of science denialism for their own benefit In the 1940s, DDT helped the Allies win the Second World War by wiping out the insects that caused malaria, with seemingly no ill effects on humans. After the war, it was sprayed willy-nilly across fields, in dairy barns, and even in people's homes. Thirty years later the U.S. would ban the use of DDT—only to reverse the ban in the 1990s when calls arose to bring it back to fight West Nile and malaria. What changed? 
    How to Sell a Poison: The Rise, Fall, and Toxic Return of DDT (Bold Type Books, 2022) traces the surprising history of DDT’s rapid rise, infamous fall, and controversial revival to reveal to show that we’ve been taking the wrong lesson from DDT’s cautionary tale. Historian Elena Conis uncovers new evidence that it was not the shift in public opinion following the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring that led to the ban but in fact the behind-the-scenes political machinations of Big Business. She makes a compelling case that the real threat was not DDT itself but the prioritization of profits over public health. ​ If we don't change the ways we make decisions about new scientific discoveries and technologies, Conis argues, we’re doomed to keep making the same mistakes and putting people at risk—both by withholding technologies that could help them and by exposing them to dangerous chemicals without their knowledge or consent. In an age when corporations and politicians are shaping our world behind closed doors and deliberately stoking misinformation around public health issues, from pesticides to vaccines to COVID-19 to climate change, we need greater transparency and a new way of communicating about science—as a discipline of discovery that's constantly evolving, rather than a finite and immutable collection of facts—in order to combat the war on facts and protect ourselves and our environment.
    Claire Clark is a medical educator, historian of medicine, and associate professor in the University of Kentucky’s College of Medicine.
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  • Childbirth defines families, communities, and nations. In Birthing the West, Jennifer J. Hill fills the silences around historical reproduction with copious new evidence and an enticing narrative, describing a process of settlement in the American West that depended on the nurturing connections of reproductive caregivers and the authority of mothers over birth.
    Economic and cultural development depended on childbirth. Hill’s expanded vision suggests that the mantra of cattle drives and military campaigns leaves out essential events and falls far short of an accurate representation of American expansion. The picture that emerges in Birthing the West presents a more complete understanding of the American West: no less moving or engaging than the typical stories of extraction and exploration but concurrently intriguing and complex.
    Birthing the West: Mothers and Midwives in the Rockies and Plains (U Nebraska Press, 2022) unearths the woman-centric practice of childbirth across Montana, the Dakotas, and Wyoming, a region known as a death zone for pregnant women and their infants. As public health entities struggled to establish authority over its isolated inhabitants, they collaborated with physicians, eroding the power and control of mothers and midwives. The transition from home to hospital and from midwife to doctor created a dramatic shift in the intimately personal act of birth.
    Jennifer J. Hill is an associate teaching professor of American studies at Montana State University and serves as the executive director of the Women’s Reproductive History Alliance, a digital museum dedicated to educating the public on reproductive history.
    Troy A. Hallsell is the 341st Missile Wing Historian at Malmstrom AFB, Montana. The ideas represented in this podcast do not reflect the 341st Missile Wing, United States Air Force, or the Department of Defense.
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  • The last few years have brought to the fore the brilliant work of scientists as they worked to find a vaccine for Covid-19. But have you ever stopped to think about the role of biological materials in this and other science- and health-related research?
    In this episode of SSEAC Stories, Dr Natali Pearson is joined by Associate Professor Sonja van Wichelen to take a close look at the complex world of global health governance, with a particular focus on biotechnology and bioscience governance in Indonesia. They discuss the crucial role of biological materials exchange for scientific research, what rules govern their use, and the history of inequality that has underpinned scientific use of biological materials. Taking Indonesia’s recent efforts to gain leverage in the uneven space of the global bioeconomy, they explore how bioscience governance mechanisms can perpetuate, or sometimes help address, global power inequalities in the way biological material is used.
    About Sonja van Wichelen:
    Sonja van Wichelen is Associate Professor with the School for Social and Political Sciences at the University of Sydney. She researches the social implications of biotechnology and law and has focused on reproductive technologies in previous projects. More recently she is examining bioscience governance in Southeast Asia. Focusing on Indonesia, she is particularly interested in the relationship between regulatory frameworks and global inequality. She is the author of Legitimating Life: Adoption in the Age of Globalization and Biotechnology (Rutgers University Press, 2019), and Religion, Gender, and Politics in Indonesia: Disputing the Muslim Body (Routledge, 2010).
    For more information or to browse additional resources, visit the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre’s website: www.sydney.edu.au/sseac.
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  • Managing diabetes often feels daunting and challenging. Conquer Your Diabetes comprehensively covers the best approaches to prevention, control and remission of this condition, and provides a roadmap for people with diabetes to live rewarding and fulfilling lives.
    Drs. Abrahamson and Chopra are renowned master clinicians and teachers at Harvard Medical School, with decades of extensive clinical experience.
    The global epidemic of diabetes and prediabetes afflicts more than 1 billion people. Sadly, more than 50% of people with diabetes do not achieve their desired glucose control. Moreover, less than 25% achieve their blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose goals.
    In 25 succinct chapters, the authors put all the pieces of the diabetes puzzle together, including a concise history of the disease, underlying types and causes, prediabetes, obesity, weight loss, pregnancy, mental health, type 2 diabetes prevention and remission, and latest treatments.
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  • “Vaccine: The Human Story” is a podcast and video series that tells the story of the global fight against smallpox, from its earliest history as a folk demon, to the birth of the anti-vax movement, through to its eradication in the 1960s. It is written and hosted by Dr. Annie Kelly.
    Dr. Kelly, a specialist in antifeminism, conspiracy theories and the far right, earned her doctorate in American Studies in 2020 from the University of East Anglia. Her dissertation is entitled: “Fear, Hate and Countersubversion: American Antifeminism Online”. She specializes in research related to contemporary social movements, digital discourse analysis and their relation to race, gender and sexuality in American politics. Her writings have appeared in The New York Times and since 2019 she has been the UK correspondent for “QAnon Anonymous”, which The Washington Post named “Podcast of the Year”. Dr. Kelly is currently a postdoctoral researcher with “Everything Is Connected: Conspiracy Theories in the Age of the Internet”.
    You can also find "Vaccine: A Human Story" on YouTube.
    Michael G. Vann is a professor of world history at California State University, Sacramento. A specialist in imperialism and the Cold War in Southeast Asia, he is the author of The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt: Empires, Disease, and Modernity in French Colonial Vietnam (Oxford University Press, 2018). When he’s not reading or talking about new books with smart people, Mike can be found surfing in Santa Cruz, California.
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  • In Botanical Ecstasies: Psychoactive Plant Formulas in India and Beyond, Dr Matthew Clark proposes that soma/hoama is instead an ayahuasca-like plant complex made from many different species.
    He discusses a range of candidates that reliably grow in the right areas and which in combination might produce an effect similar to the so-called 'classic' psychedelics. These early ecstatic experiences, he suggests, contributed to the emergent concept and ritual techniques of mysticism.
    Raj Balkaran is a scholar, online educator, and life coach. For information see rajbalkaran.com.
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  • Sarah Fox's fascinating new book Giving Birth in Eighteenth-Century England (U London Press, 2022) rewrites all that we know about eighteenth-century childbirth by placing women’s voices at the center of the story. Examining childbirth from the perspective of the birthing woman, this research offers new perspectives on the history of the family, the social history of medicine, community and neighborhood studies, and the study of women’s lives in eighteenth-century England.
    From “quickening” through to “confinement,” “giving caudle,” delivery, and “lying-in,” birth was once a complex ritual that involved entire communities. Drawing on an extensive and under-researched body of materials, such as letters, diaries, and recipe books, this book offers critical new perspectives on the history of the family, community, and the lives of women in the coming age of modern medicine. It unpacks the rituals of contemporary childbirth—from foods traditionally eaten before and after birth, birthing clothing, and how a woman’s relationship with her family, husband, friends, and neighbors changed during and after pregnancy. In this important and deeply moving study, we are invited onto a detailed and emotional journey through motherhood in an age of immense socio-cultural and intellectual change.
    Hannah Smith is a PhD Candidate in History at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. She can be reached at [email protected]
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  • Commodities of Care: The Business of HIV Testing in China (U Minnesota Press, 2021) examines the unanticipated effects of global health interventions, ideas, and practices as they unfold in communities of men who have sex with men (MSM) in China. Targeted for the scaling-up of HIV testing, Elsa L. Fan examines how the impact of this initiative has transformed these men from subjects of care into commodities of care: through the use of performance-based financing tied to HIV testing, MSM have become a source of economic and political capital.
    In ethnographic detail, Fan shows how this particular program, ushered in by global health donors, became the prevailing strategy to control the epidemic in China in the late 2000s. Fan examines the implementation of MSM testing and its effects among these men, arguing that the intervention produced new markets of men, driven by the push to meet testing metrics.
    Fan shows how men who have sex with men in China came to see themselves as part of a global MSM category, adopting new selfhoods and socialities inextricably tied to HIV and to testing. Wider trends in global health programming have shaped national public health responses in China and, this book reveals, have radically altered the ways health, disease, and care are addressed.
    Adam Bobeck is a PhD candidate in Cultural Anthropology at the University of Leipzig. His PhD is entitled “Object-Oriented Azadari: Shi’i Muslim Rituals and Ontology”. For more about his work, see www.adambobeck.com.
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  • Imagine knowing years in advance whether you are likely to get cancer or having a personalized understanding of your individual genes, organs, and cells. Imagine being able to monitor your body's well-being, or have a diet tailored to your microbiome. The Secret Body reveals how these and other stunning breakthroughs and technologies are transforming our understanding of how the human body works, what it is capable of, how to protect it from disease, and how we might manipulate it in the future.
    Taking readers to the cutting edge of research, Daniel Davis shows how radical new possibilities are becoming realities thanks to the visionary efforts of scientists who are revealing the invisible and secret universe within each of us. Focusing on six important frontiers, Davis describes what we are learning about cells, the development of the fetus, the body's immune system, the brain, the microbiome, and the genome--areas of human biology that are usually understood in isolation. Bringing them together here for the first time, Davis offers a new vision of the human body as a biological wonder of dizzying complexity and possibility.
    Written by an award-winning scientist at the forefront of this adventure, The Secret Body: How the New Science of the Human Body Is Changing the Way We Live (Princeton UP, 2022) is a gripping drama of discovery and a landmark account of the dawning revolution in human health.
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  • In Bedlam in the New World: A Mexican Madhouse in the Age of Enlightenment (UNC Press, 2022), Cristina Ramos tells us the story of Mexico city’s oldest public institution for the insane, the Hospital de San Hipólito. This institution, founded in 1567, was the first mental hospital in the New World. Remarkable as this fact may be, this book is not simply about the singularity of this institution­­­––though by placing this institution au pair with similar ones in the European context Ramos reframes traditional narratives in the history of psychiatry. What makes this book truly remarkable is that Ramos presents San Hipólito as both a microcosm and a colonial laboratory of the Hispanic Enlightenment. According to Ramos, during the late eighteenth-century madness became understood in increasingly medical terms, and San Hipólito served as a site of care, confinement, and knowledge production.
    Heeding the call of scholars who ask that histories of medicine take a more complex view of religion, Ramos traces the medicalization of madness that took place under the Hispanic Enlightenment and shows that the main agents of medicalization were not philosophers or physicians, but the clergy and more surprisingly still, inquisitors. Transcending the walls of the hospital, Ramos takes us to other colonial institutions such as the Holy Office and the criminal secular courts and shows us the stories of the individuals who were taken to San Hipólito. Inquisitors were fundamental actors in this story because, in their purpose of establishing veracity, they were at the forefront of devising new models for undertaking the complexities of human reasoning and the nuances of intent. Bedlam in the New World is a book beautifully written and poignantly argued and will captive listeners who are interested in histories of medicine, madness, colonialism, and religion!
    Lisette Varón-Carvajal is a PhD Candidate at Rutgers University. You can tweet and suggest books at @LisetteVaron
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  • In her eighteenth-century medical recipe manuscript, the Philadelphia healer Elizabeth Coates Paschall asserted her ingenuity and authority with the bold strokes of her pen. Paschall developed an extensive healing practice, consulted medical texts, and conducted experiments based on personal observations. As British North America’s premier city of medicine and science, Philadelphia offered Paschall a nurturing environment enriched by diverse healing cultures and the Quaker values of gender equality and women’s education. She participated in transatlantic medical and scientific networks with her friend, Benjamin Franklin. Paschall was not unique, however. Women Healers: Gender, Authority, and Medicine in Early Philadelphia (U Pennsylvania Press, 2022) recovers numerous women of European, African, and Native American descent who provided the bulk of health care in the greater Philadelphia area for centuries.
    Although the history of women practitioners often begins with the 1850 founding of Philadelphia’s Female Medical College, the first women’s medical school in the United States, these students merely continued the legacies of women like Paschall. Remarkably, though, the lives and work of early American female practitioners have gone largely unexplored. While some sources depict these women as amateurs whose influence declined, Susan Brandt documents women’s authoritative medical work that continued well into the nineteenth century. Spanning a century and a half, Women Healers traces the transmission of European women’s medical remedies to the Delaware Valley where they blended with African and Indigenous women’s practices, forming hybrid healing cultures.
    Drawing on extensive archival research, Brandt demonstrates that women healers were not inflexible traditional practitioners destined to fall victim to the onward march of Enlightenment science, capitalism, and medical professionalization. Instead, women of various classes and ethnicities found new sources of healing authority, engaged in the consumer medical marketplace, and resisted physicians’ attempts to marginalize them. Brandt reveals that women healers participated actively in medical and scientific knowledge production and the transition to market capitalism.
    Corinne Doria is a historian specializing in the social history of medicine. She is a lecturer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in Shenzhen and teaches Disability Studies at Sciences-Po (Paris). Her work focuses on the history of ophthalmology and visual impairment in the West.
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  • A close look at stories of maternal death in Malawi that considers their implications in the broader arena of medical knowledge.
    By the early twenty-first century, about one woman in twelve could expect to die of a pregnancy or childbirth complication in Malawi. Specific deaths became object lessons. Explanatory stories circulated through hospitals and villages, proliferating among a range of practitioners: nurse-midwives, traditional birth attendants, doctors, epidemiologists, herbalists. Was biology to blame? Economic underdevelopment? Immoral behavior? Tradition? Were the dead themselves at fault?
    In Partial Stories: Maternal Death from Six Angles (U Chicago Press, 2022), Claire L. Wendland considers these explanations for maternal death, showing how they reflect competing visions of the past and shared concerns about social change. Drawing on extended fieldwork, Wendland reveals how efforts to legitimate a single story as the authoritative version can render care more dangerous than it might otherwise be. Historical, biological, technological, ethical, statistical, and political perspectives on death usually circulate in different expert communities and different bodies of literature. Here, Wendland considers them together, illuminating dilemmas of maternity care in contexts of acute change, chronic scarcity, and endemic inequity within Malawi and beyond.
    Rachel Pagones is an acupuncturist, educator, and author based in Cambridge, England. Her book, Acupuncture as Revolution: Suffering, Liberation, and Love (Brevis Press) was published in 2021.
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  • Can a history of cure be more than a history of how disease comes to an end? In 1950s Madras, an international team of researchers demonstrated that antibiotics were effective in treating tuberculosis. But just half a century later, reports out of Mumbai stoked fears about the spread of totally drug-resistant strains of the disease. Had the curable become incurable? 
    Through an anthropological history of tuberculosis treatment in India, Bharat Jayram Venkat examines what it means to be cured, and what it means for a cure to come undone. At the Limits of Cure (Duke UP, 2021) tells a story that stretches from the colonial period—a time of sanatoria, travel cures, and gold therapy—into a postcolonial present marked by antibiotic miracles and their failures. Venkat juxtaposes the unraveling of cure across a variety of sites: in idyllic hill stations and crowded prisons, aboard ships and on the battlefield, and through research trials and clinical encounters. If cure is frequently taken as an ending (of illness, treatment, and suffering more generally), Venkat provides a foundation for imagining cure otherwise in a world of fading antibiotic efficacy. 
    Garima Jaju holds a Ph.D. in international development from Oxford University and is currently a post-doc in sociology at Cambridge University.
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