Racialized Disgust and Fear of Disease: Implications for Public Health.

Guenter Risse, Professor Emeritus of History of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and Affiliate Professor, Department of Bioethics and Humanities, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, will be giving a Master Class titled “Racialized Disgust and Fear of Disease: Implications for Public Health” on November 2nd at 12pm in a TBD-venue at Laurel Heights campus.
This will be a wonderful opportunity to hear a world renowned scholar and a truly captivating communicator discuss the subject of his recently published book, “Plague Fear and Politics in San Francisco’s Chinatown” (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012). Professor Risse is also former chair of our department (1985 -2000), when DAHSM used to be only the Department of History of Health Sciences.

Plague, Fear and Politics in San Francisco’s Chinatown” is the first book about the San Francisco’s plague to incorporate the voices of those living in Chinatown at the time (1900-1904). In his book, Risse addresses the ecology of Chinatown, the approaches taken by Chinese and Western medical practitioners, and the effects of quarantine plans on Chinatown and its residents by drawing from a variety of sources, including Chinese-language news reports and other accounts.
The discussion of how the epidemics sparked racial prejudices, and of the intrusive, controlling, and arbitrary measures put in place by health officials in San Francisco trying to control the deadly disease, is still relevant today. Risse also explains how the presence of plague threatened California’s agricultural economy and San Francisco’s leading commercial role with Asia, and describes how Chinese residents organized and successfully opposed government quarantines and evacuation plans in federal court.

As Professor Risse writes, the book had an unusually long gestation: it began in 1987, with a series of historical lectures devoted to the impact of epidemics, including plague, delivered at UCSF to start with, and then also at UCLA, Yale University, Loma Linda University, the University of Wisconsin, and in East and West Berlin. The support of UCSF was critical to sponsor the research on which the book is based during the early years, and up until the retirement of Professor Risse from being chair of the department in 2001. In particular, Risse acknowledges the help of three research assistants at UCSF as being fundamental to help collect newspapers and organize timetables for the book project: Andrea Richardson, Rebecca Ratcliffe, and Matt Wray, together with then graduate-students Caroline Acker and Collin Talley.

The Master Class will take place on November 2nd at 12.00 pm at a venue to be announced at Laurel Heights campus. Dr Risse will give a 15-minute introduction and then take questions and engage in discussion with the class.
If you would like to participate please email PorterDATdahsm.ucsf.edu as soon as possible to register. Note that it would be very helpful if you could read chapters from the book before attending the class.

If you are interested in knowing more about Guenter Risse, you can do so by visiting Professor Risse’s personal website.

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Last modified: September 20, 2012