One thing that can be said for an eight-month course of cancer treatment: it is highly educational. I am learning to suffer.
—Prof. Vivian Bearing in Margaret Edson’s Wit
In fact, the Hmong view of health care seemed to me to be precisely the opposite of the prevailing American one, in which the practice of medicine has fissioned into smaller and smaller subspecialties, with less and less truck between bailiwicks. The Hmong carried holism to its ultima Thule. As my web of cross-references grew more and more thickly interlaced, I concluded that the Hmong preoccupation with medical issues was nothing less than a preoccupation with life. (And death. And life after death.)
—Anne Fadiman, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
Being called paranoid schizophrenic is more important than what my name is, Mildred Smiley.
—Mildred Smiley in Susan Smiley’sOut of the Shadow
I conceive of care as the way someone comes to matter and the corresponding ethics of attending to the other who matters.
—Lisa Stevenson, Life Beside Itself
[Photograph of David Wojnarowicz’s “Untitled (Hujar Dead),” 1988-89 from the David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake at Night exhibition at the Whitney Museum]
In this course we will explore two broad themes: Global Science and Women’s Health. We will investigate how these two themes relate to each other through particular case studies. Our first series of case studies will look at various relationships within the institution of medicine: between doctors and patients, patients and nurses, doctors and nurses, etc. As we analyze these various relationships, we will consider the way knowledge, power, and choice gets expressed in and through these relationships. Our second series of case studies will expand out from those specific relationships within medicine to larger global structures that affect the health of peoples throughout the world, historically and in the present. In this section we will explore biopolitical issues and the relationship between health and human rights. Some of our organizing questions for the semester include: what factors impact health?; what constitutes good care?; and how can we better deliver care throughout the world? The course is structured to move from the experience of the ill body in the world to the way global structures affect that particular experience and back again.