HLTH/HIST H206B Health and Medicine in Modern American History
This course explores the history of medicine, health, and healing in the modern United States. We will examine the evolution of the American medical profession from the competitive medical marketplace of the nineteenth-century to the contemporary organization of healthcare and biomedicine. The course will grapple with major questions, including: how have race, class, and gender shaped medical ideas and practices? How have relationships between patients and practitioners changed? Has the epistemic authority of medicine shifted from the clinic to the laboratory? How have hospitals and health insurance evolved? How has biomedical research and health activism shaped the practice of medicine? How are the meanings and experiences of illness socially produced? Students will learn to think historically about these and other topics and to put contemporary issues of health and medicine into historical context.
HLTH/HIST H312B Sick City: Urban Health in American History
This upper-division seminar examines cities as sites of public health concern, intervention, and activism in modern American history. American cities have long faced health challenges ranging from epidemic disease and poor sanitation to slum housing and pollution, problems complicated by racism, classism, pernicious gender norms, and political dysfunction. Cities themselves have long served as the laboratories in which policymakers, health officials, and social movements generate knowledge about the health of populations and experiment with different strategies for public health. We will interrogate narratives of “progress” in public health by thinking critically about the very concept of “public health” as a distinct domain of action, expertise, and authority. Students will be asked to think historically about a set of core questions and themes: how certain urban problems have attracted attention from health officials while others remain obscured or are seen as matters of private responsibility, how particular urban spaces come to be conceptualized as sites of medical concern while others remain invisible or neglected, and how activists and other organizations fight to make visible urban health injustices visible.
WRPR 188A01, 02 Epidemics and Society
Epidemic diseases are often imagined as microscopic germs unleashing devastation as they traverse the globe. But epidemics are not merely biological phenomena; they are shaped by society, culture, and popular representation. As historian Charles Rosenberg has argued, epidemics often take on “the quality of pageant—mobilizing communities to act out propitiatory rituals that incorporate and reaffirm fundamental social values and modes of understanding.” How do individuals and the media construct narratives to make sense of epidemic outbreaks? How do cultural assumptions, political ideologies, and popular representations influence medical, social, and governmental responses to epidemics? This writing course examines cultural responses to epidemics, considering how ideas about race, class, gender, sexuality, and national identity inflect responses to disease outbreaks; the social and cultural implications of outbreak narratives; and the ways in which responses to epidemic disease both reflect and constitute the boundaries of political communities. Guided by these questions, students will develop their skills in close reading, clear writing, and crafting effective arguments. Readings will emphasize historical primary sources, and may include newspaper and other popular accounts, medical articles, and documentary films.
WRPR 189B01, 02 Health and the City [No Longer Offered]
This course examines the modern history of cities as sites of public health concern and intervention. Since the early nineteenth century, European and American cities have faced health challenges exacerbated by the epidemiological, ecological, and social consequences of rapid urbanization, industrialization, and social dislocation. City dwellers have been threatened by factors ranging from epidemic disease and poor sanitation to overcrowded slum housing and the prevalence of pests, problems that were complicated by social, political, and economic factors such as pervasive poverty, racial segregation, distrust of immigrant populations, and limited government resources. Students will be asked to think historically about a set of core questions and themes: how certain urban problems have attracted attention from health officials while others remain obscured or are seen as matters of private responsibility, how particular urban spaces come to be conceptualized as sites of medical concern while others remain invisible or neglected, how local social, political, and economic forces influence and shape public health interventions, and what it means to practice “public health” as a distinct domain of action, expertise, and authority. Guided by these questions, students will develop skills in close reading, clear writing, and crafting effective arguments. Readings will emphasize historical primary sources such as medical texts, public health reports and pamphlets, newspaper accounts, educational films, and legal documents.
Health and the City was recently featured on the Haverford “Cool Classes” blog. Check it out here!