Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative
Wald traces how changing ideas about disease emergence and social interaction coalesced in the outbreak narrative. She returns to the early years of microbiology--to the identification of microbes and "Typhoid Mary," the first known healthy human carrier of typhoid in the United States--to highlight the intertwined production of sociological theories of group formation ("social contagion") and medical theories of bacteriological infection at the turn of the twentieth century. Following the evolution of these ideas, Wald shows how they were affected by--or reflected in--the advent of virology, Cold War ideas about "alien" infiltration, science-fiction stories of brainwashing and body snatchers, and the HIV/AIDS pandemic. "Contagious "is a cautionary tale about how the stories we tell circumscribe our thinking about global health and human interactions as the world imagines--or refuses to imagine--the next Great Plague.
“Priscilla Wald stunningly demonstrates how epidemics are forms of cultural autobiography, telescoping stories of outbreak and contagion that are reflected in our myths, symbols, archetypes, and social networks. Beautifully written and passionately argued, "Contagious" is required reading for those interested in learning how our diseases shape the ways we think about ourselves and our relationships and how our desires to be close to other people overlap with our anxieties about being infected by them.”—Jonathan Michel Metzl, author of "Prozac on the Couch: Prescribing Gender in the Era of Wonder Drugs"
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