Tag Archives: teaching

Epidemics and the Modern World

Epidemics and the Modern World surveys the role of significant infectious diseases in history from the Black Death of the fourteenth century to the Zika virus in the early twenty-first century. In light of the recent coronavirus outbreak, author Mitchell Hammond discusses how epidemics are a distinctively modern problem as well as a topic of historical interest.


In 1972, two leading virologists, one of whom had won a Nobel Prize, suggested that “the most likely forecast about the future of infectious disease is that it will be very dull.” In Western countries, at least, infectious disease seemed to be on the run after the introduction of antibiotics, the expansion of childhood immunizations, and the success of campaigns against smallpox and polio. Many experts glimpsed a bright future.

Now this optimism seems very distant. Even before the SARS virus appeared in 2003, many scientists agreed that the world was entering a new era of so-called “emerging infectious diseases.” The outbreak caused by the coronavirus—a pathogen that resembles SARS in many respects—reminds us that infectious diseases pose a distinctive set of challenges for the modern world.

Humans have always had diseases, but we have not always had epidemics or pandemics as we understand them today. Before the later nineteenth century, some diseases certainly spread widely but it was difficult to discern their movement over large distances. A turning point was reached in 1889, when the so-called “Russian flu” began several sweeps around the world. Steamships and railroads transported pathogens swiftly across oceans and continents. The flu could be followed more or less in real time because lines of telegraph cable were knitting the world together. This was a modern pandemic—an episode in which microbes and ideas simultaneously spread independently around much of the world.

Our many experiences with the coronavirus today similarly remind us that epidemic diseases are not a holdover from a primitive past when humans were defenseless against natural forces. On the contrary, today’s new infections arise from a world in which organisms and landscapes have been shaped to suit human purposes. Massive use of antibiotics, farming on an industrial scale, and deforestation are some activities that increase exposure to pre-existing pathogens and the evolution of novel pathogens. Once an infection has human consequences, diseases spread faster than ever because the pace and scale of travel have never been greater. The forces that spread disease are not limited to one location or group of people. Pandemics reveal us, all of us, to ourselves. As Ron Barrett and Georg Armelagos recently put it: “microbes are the ultimate critics of modernity.”

Image 2.1 from Epidemics and the Modern World: Mary and the Christ child with pox sufferers.

Another lesson relates to the objectives that I had for this book and my courses at the University of Victoria. Just as we explore today’s emerging diseases with the best tools available, our knowledge of past epidemics is enriched when we incorporate insights from the natural sciences. Epidemics and the Modern World attends to science with focus boxes that develop key concepts at greater length. For example, genomic data gathered from corpses has transformed our understanding of the impact of bubonic plague in Eurasia and Africa after 1348. Studies of arthropods, including hundreds of mosquito species, inform our view of how diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, or Zika virus disease might affect our future.

Such investigations do not answer all our questions, and we cannot accept scientific claims uncritically, especially with respect to the distant past. However, a fuller understanding of both human and non-human biological forces can steer us away from superficial explanations of events. In particular, it can steer us away from stereotypes about how certain societies or peoples bear more responsibility for epidemics than others. The forces that drive the emergence of new diseases today are global forces that belong to everyone.

I finished writing Epidemics and the Modern World before anyone had heard of the new coronavirus. I write this post without knowing what will ensue in the short and long term. But it is clear that epidemics not only influence our modern world, they manifest its essential character.


Dr. Mitchell L Hammond is a professor in the Department of History at the University of Victoria.

To read the the Introduction of Epidemics and the Modern World, click here.

Communication and the Human Experience

Due for release this February, Introducing Communication is a new textbook featuring discussions on issues and challenges associated with mass globalization and new technologies. This smart and sophisticated text encourages students to reflect on how these consequences and implications come to bear on how we live and communicate. Author Amardo Rodriguez explains why his new textbook can be used in any introductory communication course.


By Amardo Rodriguez

Every fall, I teach the introductory communication course at Syracuse University. It is a large lecture course and a core requirement for our majors and minors. In preparing to teach this course a few years ago, I read every introductory communication textbook I could track down, both in print and out of print. What I found was simply striking. Nearly all the textbooks focused on only one perspective of communication – viewing communication in terms of messages. The reason for this is most likely because this is how the National Communication Association defines communication.

However, there are many other ways to define communication that are much more amenable to a world where divergence is increasingly more valued than convergence. We can, for instance, view communication in terms of problem-solving, as in helping us navigate and appreciate our diversity and complexity. From this view, communication becomes a problem-solving activity.

Suffice it to say, I never had any intention or ambition to write an introductory communication textbook. Initially, I was only seeking to develop a textbook for my introductory communication class, as I could find none – either in print or out of print – that could do what I believe any introductory textbook should ultimately do, which is to give new students a rigorous and comprehensive survey of the diversity of perspectives, heritages, and concepts that define a discipline.

Over the last five years I have committed myself to creating a textbook that my students will find both challenging and enlightening, meaning one that is intellectually rigorous and culturally fascinating. What has ultimately come from all of this writing and rewriting is an introductory communication textbook that I am confident many instructors and students across the US, Canada, and the world will find just as intellectually rigorous and culturally fascinating.

Introducing Communication covers eight different perspectives and introduces an array of concepts from around the world. It discusses why the study of communication is important in terms of deepening our understanding of the human condition, enlarging how we frame and resolve human problems and struggles, and appreciating the different perspectives that communication brings to the study of the human experience.

This introductory communication textbook also highlights the consequences and implications that come with different ways of defining, understanding, and studying communication, and it presents a robust and rigorous examination of these different consequences and implications. The book is ideally suited for persons who teach any kind of introductory communication course and are looking for a text that is theoretically rigorous, intellectually expansive, and pedagogically elegant.

My textbook is different to other introductory communication textbooks in three important ways:

I. It introduces students to a diversity of perspectives that I am yet to find in any other introductory communication textbook. I highlight how these different perspectives fundamentally expand and deepen our understanding of communication.

II. It highlights communication issues and challenges that are impacting peoples from around the world as our spaces and distances collapse and implode. For instance, I discuss how the proliferation of new kinds of technology is contributing to the demise of the world’s linguistic diversity.

III. It introduces students to communication concepts from all corners of the world and showcases the contributions of different cultures and peoples to our understanding of communication. I discuss concepts from African cultures, Middle Eastern cultures, Asian cultures, and Indigenous cultures. The book functions as a global introductory communication textbook by moving beyond the Western bias that permeates every introductory communication textbook and still fundamentally defines our understanding of communication knowledge.

This textbook could be used in any corner of the world without the instructor having to worry about promoting or propagating Western biases. In fact, the book looks critically at the Western hegemon that shapes how we define communication knowledge. It would therefore be ideal for any instructor looking for a textbook that introduces students to a global view of communication.

I have been using early versions of this textbook in my own large lecture class for the past five years and obsessively revising and polishing the text based on student feedback. The feedback has always been positive in terms of the book being accessible and interesting. The unsolicited comments from students have also been encouraging. Here is one humbling example:

Dear Professor Rodriguez, I want to start by thanking you for writing this textbook. I usually do not do the reading for any of the classes I take, but when the time came to read your textbook, I learned something new about myself. . . . I have learned that if something seems so out of the ordinary for me, it may make total sense to someone else. . . . If someone were to ask me for help to define communication, I would just hand them the textbook and tell them to read it. There are so many perspectives I learned that I didn’t even know existed. Thank you, Professor Rodriguez, for enlightening me. Keep on doing what you’re doing because not only have you enlightened me, you have enlightened many others.”

In addition to the book itself, I believe professors will find the Instructor’s Manual to be quite valuable. It has many supplementary readings from The New York Times that will help students appreciate how the concepts and perspectives found in the book expand and deepen our understanding of current events around the world. It also has relevant TED Talks, classroom discussion questions, and suggested essay questions. The accompanying Test Bank includes multiple-choice questions that reinforce key concepts and ideas. Like the book, I wrote these instructors’ materials with my students in mind, and I hope they will be useful to you and your students as well.

What Students Deserve in a Textbook

With the recent release of Through the Lens of Cultural Anthropology, we asked author Laura Tubelle de González to talk about her new textbook, and her hopes for its use in the classroom. Here, González discusses what inspired her, why she includes her own personal experiences, and how her strategic use of language and graphics will allow students to easily place themselves within the book.


Excerpt from Chapter 8: Gender and Sexuality in Through the Lens of Cultural Anthropology.

When my daughter, Maya, was very little, I made sure to provide her with all kinds of toys, including those “meant” for boys, like cars, excavation kits, robots, and other toys from the blue aisle. I didn’t want to confine her imagination to those things that North American society deemed appropriate only for girls. One day, I came into her room, and she was playing with a set of little Hot Wheels cars. I gave myself an imaginary pat on the back, feeling smug that she had chosen the cars over her dolls for playtime. Wanting to know more, I asked, “I see you’re playing with your cars. What are you playing?” Expecting to hear something typical for car play, like “car chase” or “car crash,” I was flabbergasted when she replied, “well, this is the daddy car, this is the mama car, and these are the baby cars.” I realized then that there are aspects of gender that are unquestionably intrinsic to each individual. Maya was who she was, no matter what toys I offered her.

My lower division cultural anthropology courses are full of personal examples, like this one about Maya’s Hot Wheels cars and expectations of gender. I can’t resist telling stories about my first night of fieldwork in Oaxaca when I was served fried grasshoppers, or how deliberating whether or not to buy the most popular (pooping!) baby doll as a holiday gift illustrates the market economy. There are so many ways in which life as a teacher, family member, community member, and citizen highlights anthropological ideas. I believe that the classroom community is made richer when we share our own life examples. My new textbook from UTP, Through the Lens of Cultural Anthropology, seeks to create the kind of reading environment that connects author and students in the same way we connect in the classroom.

The textbook is an adaptation of a four-field general anthropology textbook that I co-authored with my Canadian colleague, Bob Muckle, called Through the Lens of Anthropology, Second Edition. As we wrote, we made an effort to create a text that was engaging and geared toward lower-division students. The book has a special focus on food, sustainability, and language throughout, with pop culture references that students will recognize. We also tried to write a true North American text, that felt relevant to students from both the US and Canada. Through the Lens of Cultural Anthropology develops the cultural and linguistic sections into a full semester’s course text with 12 chapters and additional chapter topics, retaining an emphasis on those areas mentioned above.

When writing Through the Lens of Cultural Anthropology, I thought of my own students, and what they deserve in a textbook. First, it’s essential that all students see themselves reflected in the book. For this reason, I put special emphasis on the use of gender-neutral pronouns and inclusion of transgender and non-binary issues throughout, not just confined to the gender and sexuality chapter. My research among gender expansive students in community colleges underscores the importance of inclusion of all genders and sexualities in the classroom and in course material.

Credit: Karen Rubins/Alpa Shah.

Secondly, the book makes a special effort to include narratives that are not always emphasized, such as the contributions of Black anthropologists, issues of White privilege, the voices of Canadian First Nations peoples, and others. It is important to me as a teacher and textbook author to enable students to connect to course material in not only logical but also emotional ways. I believe that transformative learning comes from compassion, not only intellectual understanding. Therefore, the book attempts to make these kinds of connections. I deeply appreciate the comment made by my friend and fellow UTP author, Tad McIlwraith, when he said the book “reads like a provocative argument in favour of cultural diversity.”

Finally, following the lead of editor Anne Brackenbury (who has recently left her position at UTP), the textbook uses comics and graphic panels to help tell the story of anthropology in a visual way. The cover has a preview of that focus, with a wonderful set of images of diverse people from the text by artist Charlotte Hollands, who regularly creates graphic panels for the American Anthropological Association. My students enjoy the way that a graphic story can draw them into a set of ideas in ways that text alone often can’t. For instance, reading about praxis may not be as successful as engaging with a graphic panel on praxis in the context of collaborating with the mermaid community (drawn by Karen Rubins, illustrating the article by Alpa Shah).

When I mention to people that I teach anthropology, I often hear “that was my favorite class in college!” The way cultural anthropology connects students’ lives to others around the world makes it a potentially transformative course, especially for students thinking about ethnocentrism or cultural relativism for the first time. Engaging in the act of deconstructing our own behavior – questioning our beliefs and behaviors – is a way to make course material real, both in the classroom and in our texts.


If you want to find out more about Through the Lens of Cultural Anthropology, click here to view the table of contents and read an exclusive excerpt from the book.

Laura Tubelle de González is a professor of Anthropology at San Diego Miramar College in Southern California.

Pride Month: Course Syllabi Featuring UTP Titles

Pride Month

To celebrate Pride Month, we have developed a blog series with weekly posts, designed to allow UTP authors the opportunity to share with us what Pride means to them, and to discuss a whole manner of Pride-related topics.

This week we’re showcasing UTP books that have made their way onto recent course syllabi. Read on to see how our books are used in undergraduate classroom across North America.


Prairie Fairies: A History of Queer Communities and People in Western Canada, 1930-1985

Prairie Fairies draws upon a wealth of oral, archival, and cultural histories to recover the experiences of queer urban and rural people in the prairies. Focusing on five major urban centres (Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, Edmonton, and Calgary), Prairie Fairies explores the regional experiences and activism of queer men and women by looking at the community centres, newsletters, magazines, and organizations that they created from 1930 to 1985.

  • Winner of the CHA 2019 Clio Prairies Book Award
  • Winner of the Jennifer Welsh Scholarly Writing Award (Saskatchewan Book Awards)

 

Course

Canadian Women’s and Gender History (HI 397), Wilfrid Laurier University, Brantford, ON

Professor Tarah Brookfield lists Prairie Fairies as one out of three options for a book review assignment.

“This course explores the history of Canadian women from the colonial period until the end of the twentieth century. It compares women’s diverse historic experiences in the workplace, family, community, and nation, and how women’s and men’s identities and paths were shaped by social constructions of gender, race, sexuality, and class. The course also considers how historians have developed the field of women’s and gender history and how this has reshaped understandings of Canadian history.”


Queering Urban Justice: Queer of Colour Formations in Toronto

Queering Urban Justice foregrounds visions of urban justice that are critical of racial and colonial capitalism, and asks: What would it mean to map space in ways that address very real histories of displacement and erasure? What would it mean to regard Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (QTBIPOC) as geographic subjects who model different ways of inhabiting and sharing space?

Course

Urban Politics (PO 412), John Carroll University, University Heights, OH

Professor Elizabeth A. Stiles recommends Queering Urban Justice to students in this course.

“Most Americans live in metropolitan areas—either in a city or in a suburb based in relation to a city. The city is often the background for the American dream as opportunities for social mobility and wealth are present there. It is also the site for some of our sharpest failures as a nation—rising inequality, urban riots, and environmental problems. In this course, we will begin with various theories and evidence about urban politics and their surrounding suburbs. We will then analyze links between urban institutions and national politics, as well as issues of race, class, health disparities, and environmental issues.”


Sex and the Weimar Republic: German Homosexual Emancipation and the Rise of the Nazis

Liberated, licentious, or merely liberal, the sexual freedoms of Germany’s Weimar Republic have become legendary. The home of the world’s first gay rights movement, the republic embodied a progressive, secular vision of sexual liberation. Sex and the Weimar Republic examines the rise of sexual tolerance through the debates which surrounded “immoral” sexuality: obscenity, male homosexuality, lesbianism, transgender identity, heterosexual promiscuity, and prostitution.

Course

Modern German History – The Weimar Years (HIST 196G), University of California, Santa Cruz, CA

Professor Edward Kehler teaches this course and each week students are asked to discuss a particular reading. In Week 7, students focus on Sex and the Weimar Republic.

“The class is designed as a small-group discussion course providing a broad overview of some of the major historiographical debates concerning the Weimar period. Through the readings we will analyze modern Germany’s experiment with democracy and its failure. Subjects of study will include the foundation and development of the Weimar Republic, the political and economic challenges it faced, and its ultimate collapse. Aspects of Weimar culture, including gender politics and homosexual emancipation, and the factors that enabled Adolf Hitler’s seizure of power will also be covered in depth.”


Consider adding these titles to your course syllabi:

VIVA M•A•C: AIDS, Fashion, and the Philanthropic Practices of M•A•C Cosmetics

The first cultural history of the iconic brand M·A·C Cosmetics, VIVA M·A·C charts the evolution of M·A·C’s revolutionary corporate philanthropy around HIV/AIDS awareness. Drawing upon exclusive interviews with M·A·C co-founder Frank Toskan, key journalists, and fashion insiders, Andrea Benoit tells the fascinating story of how M·A·C’s unique style of corporate social responsibility emerged from specific cultural practices, rather than being part of a strategic marketing plan.


Amplify: Graphic Narratives of Feminist Resistance

In this highly original text—a collaboration between a college professor, a playwright, and an artist—graphic storytelling offers an emotionally resonant way for readers to understand and engage with feminism and resistance.

“This is the book for you if you have ever struggled to reconcile the academic, artistic, and activist sides of yourself: it combines feminist analysis and history with compelling discussion questions and striking illustrations of recent political struggles. This is the book for you if you are ready to learn about social justice in a fresh way that engages multiple learning styles and modes of expression: lead a class or a discussion group by showing an image, posing a debate question, reading an excerpt, or pursuing one of the research activities provided. This is the rare book that treats its readers as equals by showing us all how we can join the conversation and take up the struggle.”

Lucas Crawford, Department of English, University of New Brunswick


Growing into Resilience: Sexual and Gender Minority Youth in Canada

Despite recent progress in civil rights for sexual and gender minorities (SGM), ensuring SGM youth experience fairness, justice, inclusion, safety, and security in their schools and communities remains an ongoing challenge. In Growing into Resilience, André P. Grace and Kristopher Wells investigate how teachers, healthcare workers, and other professionals can help SGM youth build the human and material assets that will empower them to be happy, healthy, and resilient.


Homophobia in the Hallways: Heterosexism and Transphobia in Canadian Catholic Schools

In Homophobia in the Hallways, Tonya D. Callaghan interrogates institutionalized homophobia and transphobia in the publicly-funded Catholic school systems of Ontario and Alberta. Featuring twenty interviews with students and teachers who have faced overt discrimination in Catholic schools, the book blends theoretical inquiry and real-world case study, making Callaghan’s study a unique insight into religiously-inspired heterosexism and genderism. She uncovers the causes and effects of the long-standing disconnect between Canadian Catholic schools and the Charter by comparing the treatment of and attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer teachers and students in these publicly-funded systems.


Pink Blood: Homophobic Violence in Canada

Pink Blood is the first book to analyze homophobic violence on a national scale. Douglas Victor Janoff uses social theory, legal analysis, descriptive case studies, and interviews with victims, activists, and police officers from thirty cities to convey the shattering impact this violence has had on queer Canadians and on the communities they inhabit.

Drawing from a wide range of scholarship—law, criminology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, and social work—Pink Blood is an important addition to the literature on queer life in Canada from a respected researcher and community activist.

Putting the Devil in Context

Elizabeth Lorentz was a young maid servant in early modern Germany who believed herself to be tormented by the devil, and who was eventually brought to trial in 1667. We invited Peter A. Morton and Barbara Dähms to discuss their new book, The Bedevilment of Elizabeth Lorentz, and how they give the reader the opportunity to grapple with Elizabeth’s testimony for themselves.

Written by guest blogger, Peter A. Morton

This book is the second translation of trial records from the city of Brunswick in the seventeenth century that Barbara Dähms and I have published with University of Toronto Press. The first was The Trial of Tempel Anneke: Records of a Witchcraft Trial in Brunswick, Germany, 1663. Both trials involved an accusation of a pact with the Devil. A question that naturally arises is what this trial offers that distinguishes it from that of Tempel Anneke. The short answer is that Lorentz’s testimony reveals some of the richness and complexity of early modern ideas of the Devil and his relations with human beings.

The first point to make about the trial of Elizabeth Lorentz is that it was not a witch trial. Although she was accused of making a diabolical pact, no one involved in the case suspected that Elizabeth was a witch according to the picture that drove the witch trials. And this raises the question, why not? It would not have been difficult for the court officials to interrogate Elizabeth about the common aspects of witchcraft, especially the use of harmful magic and attendance at the sabbat. The use of torture was an option open to them, if they had wanted to force such confessions from her. The same court did just that in the trial of Tempel Anneke just a few years earlier. Yet, according to the records, both the court and the legal faculty at the University of Helmstedt accepted fairly readily that Elizabeth was a troubled soul, and that her pact (if there was one) did not derive from a desire to harm others as was commonly assumed of witches. A second point is that the stories of the Devil came from Elizabeth herself, not from the questioning of the court officials. The officials based their questions on what Elizabeth said of her own experiences.

There is here, I believe, a valuable lesson about early modern European beliefs concerning human relations with the Devil and his demons: There was not a single template applied universally to every suspicion of involvement with the Devil. As Stuart Clark long ago emphasized in his book, Thinking with Demons, despite the degree of uniformity in demonological thinking, the concept of human interaction with demons served a myriad of purposes and could be adapted to many circumstances. In the introductory essay to The Bedevilment of Elizabeth Lorentz I tried to convey some of the variety of ways in which concourse with the Devil was conceived of between the medieval and early modern periods. As I emphasized there, fitting Elizabeth neatly into any of these categories is problematic. These trial records will hopefully underscore the importance of not rushing to conclusions when we find the Devil appearing in historical documents.

With regard to understanding Elizabeth’s testimony, the reader of these documents is in somewhat the same position as that of the court officials. We have Elizabeth’s behavior as it was reported by the family and servants of her employer, Hilmar von Strombek, and we have her own descriptions of her experiences. What we don’t have is her presence before us, and so we must use the documents we have as best we can. The objective in preparing this book, as it was with The Trial of Tempel Anneke, was to present the reader with the documents as much as possible in the same manner as they would be encountered in the archive reading room. The opportunity is there for the reader to sift through the evidence so as to determine how best to make sense of the rather extraordinary tales Elizabeth tells.

Readers in the twenty-first century are of course not likely to take Elizabeth’s descriptions of the Devil as literally true, and so they will perhaps look for psychological origins of her testimony. This is an option the court considers as well. But understanding the trial records requires us to recognize that Elizabeth’s testimony conformed with a belief in the reality of the Devil that was universally accepted. There was at that time no reason to reject the truth of her testimony of demonic temptation without some kind of strong evidence against it. For the court, the possibility that Elizabeth was “not of sound mind” was fully consistent with the truth of her stories of spiritual torment by the Devil. We cannot, therefore, simply label or explain away her claims of demonic encounters; to gain a sympathetic reading of the records we must, rather, “think with demons.”

Much the same can be said for the supplementary reading of the book, the preface to a book of prayers for Appolonia Stampke, a girl who believed herself to be possessed by the Devil. There are dramatic ways of imagining cases of possession: violent behavior, strange preternatural powers, and so on. Some of these ideas have their origins in the history of possession. But there is little of this in the behavior of Appolonia, although some of the scenes in the church must have been startling. The story presented to us by her pastor, Melchior Neukirch, is that of a pious girl struggling to maintain her faith against doubts implanted by Satan. Like the attacks on Elizabeth, Appolonia’s actions need to be read carefully against their social and religious background.

The editor and translator of this book hope that the records will offer a chance for the reader to work directly with the complexities and nuances in the responses of ordinary people in early modern Europe to evidence of the Devil in their world.

Peter A. Morton is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Humanities at Mount Royal University and author of the newly-released book The Bedivilment of Elizabeth Lorentz.

Barbara Dähms is a translator.