Photo credit: St. Louis Post Dispatch / Public Domain
Every new disease has been politicized, a historian explains why.
What we can learn from the history of disease.
by Stranger’s Guide
Dr. Christopher Rose is a social historian of medicine focusing on Egypt and the Middle East in the 19th and 20th century. He is currently an adjunct instructor in Global Studies at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, and spoke to Stranger’s Guide about what the history of pandemics can teach us today.
You’re about to lead a course at St Edward’s University on “Plagues and Pandemics” — can you tell us briefly about it?
This is a class I’ve wanted to teach for a while. We’re going to start off with the COVID-19 pandemic; we’re all living through it, and the students understand how they’re feeling, how their families are feeling—the anxiety and uncertainty and frustration that goes with living through a pandemic. Then we’re going to examine past epidemics—HIV/AIDS, influenza, cholera, smallpox, among others—using the present moment as a way to build historical empathy.
Welcome to Stranger’s Guide. Working with writers from around the globe, both online and in print, we seek to evoke new places and showcase new perspectives. From investigative stories and beautiful photo essays, to unusual facts and long-form features, this is travel writing like you’ve never seen before.
“I look nothing like my mother,” says Indian poet Nupur Saraswat in her spoken word video Twisted And Mine. “My hair, twisting like a pig’s tail at every end, my hips take too much space on the train, my breasts take too much space on my body. . . . It wasn’t long before I realized my body offended people . . . The girls around me were getting used to being sent home from school for wearing their skirts too short; I got used to being sent home for letting my big, black, curly hair down. The teachers would try to explain that my hair was inappropriate for an educational institution.”
Spoken word is fast becoming the vehicle of choice with which Indian youth express themselves. Frustrated with their political leaders and for years feeling disenfranchised, they use spoken-word poetry to talk about everything from relationships and sexuality to depression and suicide. No subject is off limits.
Shantanu Anand, who founded the Airplane Poetry Movement to help popularize spoken word in India, says it gives young people “a way to share that opinion which is not just a Facebook status or an essay.” Shruthi Mohan, who runs Open Sky, an open mic platform in cities across the country, says it has made “ranting and venting as a form as expression” acceptable.