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On Righteous Anger and the Forgetfulness of the Young

In 1943, as the Japanese bombed the Port of Calcutta and Gandhi fasted in a Delhi prison to protest his detention, a young man in the seaside town of Nagapattinam borrowed money from a friend, leased a tent, and exhibited a film that launched his fortunes. The film, Sivakavi, starred M. K. Thyagaraja, an early superstar of Tamil talkies …

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Border Promiscuity, Illicit Intimacies, and Origin Stories: Or what Contagion’s Bookends Tell us About New Infectious Diseases and a Racialized Geography of Blame

The first scene of the 2011 film, Contagion, opens with a black screen and ambient airport noise. A woman coughs. As the screen fades from black to reveal a darkened airport bar, a caption in red, located at the bottom of the screen, reads “Day 2.” Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) shoves shelled peanuts into her mouth and wipes the …

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Cancer Culture avant la lettre

In the class I teach on illness narratives, cancer comes after the plague. In the realm of representation and cultural memory, infectious diseases have a long visual and allegorical pedigree. Pestilence is always already more than an epidemiological reality. With cancer culture things are different. A cursory search for early modern images of cancer in the U.S. National Library of …

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Fish

If you’ve seen Hubert Sauper’s (2004) documentary film Darwin’s Nightmare you may remember the stark contrast he draws between the sterile disassembly line of a factory producing Nile perch fillets for export to Europe and the seething, smoky, maggoty miasma where Tanzanian women, men, and children work to dry and fry fish carcasses. You may also recall your own sense …

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A Strange Kind of Sad

Dear Diary,

Everyone is sad, but it’s a strange kind of sad.

-Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder) in Heathers (1988)

 

Elizabeth Wilson’s Gut Feminism hovers on the challenge to “cultivate capacities to harm.” In this intricate book, Wilson explores what might happen if feminist theory consumed biology differently. Feminist theory must do so by “reading” biology through the apparatus of …

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Reel Waves

These are the files open on my computer screen: a PDF of Anand Pandian’s Reel World, a digital video of the 2011 Japan tsunami, and a Word document filling up with notes on fieldwork I am right this minute conducting at a “wave lab” at Oregon State University. Here at this laboratory, scientists generate scaled down “tsunamis” in a …

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