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Janet Gyatso

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Janet Gyatso's new book is a masterfully researched, compellingly written, and gorgeously illustrated history of medicine in early modern Tibet that looks carefully at the relationships between medicine and religion in this context. Being Human in a Buddhist World: An Intellectual History of Medicine in Early Modern Tibet (Columbia University Press, 2015) looks carefully at the "double movements" of medicine and religion from the twelfth through seventeenth centuries: at the same time, medical learning in Tibet encouraged a critical approach to religious authority while also maturing within the context of Tibetan Buddhism. Gyatso finds a turn to "evidence of the empirical" in some aspects of Sowa Rikpa, a kind of mentality that shaped not just approaches to anatomy and pharmacy but also the writing of commentaries and the ethics of medical practice. The chapters of Being Human in a Buddhist World introduce readers to a wide variety of materials that include visual and verbal engagements in some fascinating debates over gendered bodies, the evidence of the senses, the possibility of having access to the word of the Buddha (and the stakes involved), and the relationships between Tibetan and other kinds of medical theory and practice, among much else. In addition to its obvious import for Tibetan and Buddhist studies, Gyatso's book should be required reading for anyone working in the history of early modern science and medicine, especially those readers and writers who are interested in embracing a multi-sited, plural approach to the field.


Joanna KempnerNot Tonight: Migraine and the Politics of Gender and Health

March 21, 2015

Migraine is real, and it is pervasive—at least 12% of Americans suffer some form of this spectrum disorder. Still, migraine remains a conflicted illness—people routinely dispute the legitimacy of both the experience and its sufferers. In Not Tonight: Migraine and the Politics of Gender and Health (University of Chicago Press, 2014), Joanna Kempner sets out […]

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James A. Holstein, Richard S. Jones, and George Koonce, Jr.Is There Life After Football?: Surviving the NFL

March 17, 2015

The health of former NFL players has received plenty of attention in recent years. The suicides of Junior Seau and Dave Duerson, along with stories of retired players in only their 40s and 50s affected by dementia and ALS, have revealed the toll that a professional football career can take on a man’s body and […]

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Donna J. DruckerThe Classification of Sex: Alfred Kinsey and the Organization of Knowledge

March 10, 2015

Donna J. Drucker is a guest professor at Darmstadt Technical University in Germany. Her book The Classification of Sex: Alfred Kinsey and the Organization of Knowledge (University of Pittsburg Press, 2014) is an in-depth and detailed study of Kinsey’s scientific approach. The book examines his career and method of gathering vast amounts of data, identifying […]

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Lisa StevensonLife Beside Itself: Imagining Care in the Canadian Arctic

March 5, 2015

Lisa Stevenson’s new book opens with two throat-singing women and one listening king. Whether we hear them sitting down to a normal night’s dinner (as the women) or stalking the pages of a short story from Italo Calvino’s Under the Jaguar Sun (as the king), listening to these voices can potentially transform our notion of […]

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Joseph M. GabrielMedical Monopoly: Intellectual Property Rights and the Origin of the Modern Pharmaceutical Industry

February 19, 2015

Commercial interests are often understood as impinging upon the ethical norms of medicine. In his new book, Medical Monopoly: Intellectual Property Rights and the Origins of the Modern Pharmaceutical Industry (University of  Chicago Press, 2013), Joe Gabriel shows how the modernization of American medicine was bound up in the ownership, manufacture, and marketing of drugs. Gabriel unearths […]

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Emilie CloatrePills for the Poorest: An Exploration of TRIPS and Access to Medication in Sub-Saharan Africa

February 9, 2015

Emilie Cloatre’s award-winning book, Pills for the Poorest: An Exploration of TRIPS and Access to Medication in Sub-Saharan Africa (Palgrave, 2013), locates the effects—and ineffectualness—of a landmark international agreement for healthcare: the World Trade Organization’s “Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.” Cloatre takes seriously the idea of TRIPS as a technology in Bruno Latour’s meaning of […]

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Elena ConisVaccine Nation: America’s Changing Relationship with Immunization

February 2, 2015

The 1960s marked a “new era of vaccination,” when Americans eagerly exposed their arms and hind ends for shots that would prevent a range of everyday illnesses—not only prevent the lurking killers, like polio. Medical historian Elena Conis shows that Americans’ gradual acceptance of vaccination was far from a medical fait accompli: it was—and remains—a […]

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Keith WailooPain: A Political History

January 20, 2015

Is pain real? Is pain relief a right? Who decides? In Pain: A Political History (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014), Keith Wailoo investigates how people have interpreted and judged the suffering of others in the US from the mid-1940s to the present. While doctors and patients figure in his story, the primary protagonists are politicians, judges, […]

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S. Lochlann JainMalignant: How Cancer Becomes Us

January 14, 2015

Cancer pervades American bodies—and also habits of mind. Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us (University of California Press, 2013) is a sharp, adventurous book by the established legal anthropologist, S. Lochlann Jain. The book simultaneously complicates and clarifies the multiple ways in which cancer and patient-hood gets appropriated, embodied and reproduced through seemingly quotidian activities—from opening an […]

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