On Global Health Now

I’m thinking through a more substantial post about the ethics and politics of the ongoing conflict in and around Gaza — it is at once right in my academic interest, in its relation to biopolitics and social justice, but it’s so polarizing and complex I want to be sure my thoughts on the matter are measured.

In the meantime, I thought I would offer up some thoughts on an underreported series of events going on in South Africa.

Lost in the clamor over Gaza, Ukraine, and Syria, the Ebola scare in Sierra Leone is really suffering from a dearth of news coverage. The global health ramifications there are startling (and the country is already overburdened by the medical and logistical nightmare). There are reports that several individuals who tested positive for Ebola are unaccounted for and likely in the general population. That idea is the stuff of horror film beginnings; however, it does emphasize something that we easily forget in the face of the moralization of health: the infected are people with actions, desires, feelings, and connections of their own. That is not to say that this is a good thing — certainly the preventable spread of deadly disease anywhere is terrifying and tragic — but the inability of public health services to quarantine and track those with Ebola speaks at once to inequities in the distribution of global health (and the attention of global media, both of which are concentrated in the Global North and Global West), and it speaks to the impossibility of quarantine (as totalizing control).

I’ll be back in the relatively near future with a post on “Ethical Defense” (also the title of my final dissertation chapter — don’t worry, I won’t give much of that away) as it relates to Gaza.

One of the reports on ebola:


Coming Soon: Medical Humanities Research Collective

Hi Dear Reader,

Sorry for the dearth of recent posts, but life (friends visiting from afar, moving, etc) and work (dissertating!) have taken up some of the time I often have earmarked for blogging.

That said, I’ve been busy with other, very related things. Point in case: I am working on co-founding (or… co-llecting?) a Medical Humanities Research Collective.

We’re just in the early planning phases, but a legitimate lauch (with twitter, facebook, and wordpress presences) is soon to follow.

If you’re interested in working with us please comment on the blog or contact me personally and I’ll put you in touch.

More detailed announcement to follow in August.

Stay tuned… er linked? synced? keep readin this!

Clayton Lockett, Medical Experimentation in the Prison Industrial Complex, and the Question of Capital Punishment

Clayton Lockett, Medical Experimentation in the Prison Industrial Complex, and the Question of Capital Punishment

It was hard to choose a link for this story, given that it is all over mainstream and independent news outlets. I went with The Guardian because (a) it provided detailed description and (b) they are based outside of the U.S. and have a bit more critical distance.

This is a sad case and I think it is in need of very little critical exegesis — and, certainly, I don’t want to be disrespectful, turning one man’s death into a simple teaching lesson or an example, especially given the privilege that I would be exercising and advertising in doing so.

Instead, I’ll say only a little: This execution, with all of its political intrigues and medical secrecy, fits shockingly neatly in a long history of biomedical experimentation (particularly on black bodies), especially within the prison system (for more on this you might consider: Allen Hornblum’s Acres of Skin (cheap on amazon: http://amzn.to/R1n2GD) or Harriet A. Washington’s Medical Apartheid (also very affordable on amazon: http://amzn.to/1fugZ8Q).

Lockett’s inhumane execution may lead to revision and review of Capital Punishment in the U.S. — one can only hope — but public outcry has to call the state to accountability.

ACLA 2014

Hello Dear Reader,

Robocop review will be coming up soon, I’ve been a bit busy working on the diss and some conference papers.

In fact, I’m one of three co-organizers for a panel at ACLA at New York University this year: http://www.acla.org/annual-meeting.

I’ll be presenting a paper titled “Forged in Blood: Biopolitics, State Racism, and Fascism” in the seminar, “The Poetics of Fascism 2.”

The conference and the seminars sound great, tweet at me if you’re going: @SGPokornowski, or message me on this blog to get in touch with me!

Regular Programming Resumes

Just a quick update and set of announcements.

Firstly, I’ll try to resume regular updates on the blog, although I am dissertating pretty diligently right now.

In the news department, my previously forthcoming publications all came out within a week of one another, so if the blog interests you please take the time to look up these great publications (and this is an endorsement for the publications themselves not necessarily my contributions… though… I won’t discourage you from looking up my articles and film review…).

The new volume of Literature and Medicine came out (that’s Volume 31, No. 2, the Fall 2013 issue), it’s a special issue on World Literature and Global Health guest edited by Karen Thornber. She and the executive editor, Catherine Belling, offer an introduction and foreword, respectively, that really help tie the issue together. It features a lot of great work and is totally worth your time. If you’re curious, I contributed the third article, “Insecure Lives,” which considers the relation of global health, global security, and the biopolitical in the transmedia Resident Evil franchise, Max Brooks’ novel World War Z, and the Soderbergh film Contagion. The issue is accessible via project muse and here is a nice link for you: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/literature_and_medicine/toc/lm.31.2.html.

Also out is an awesome collection on The Walking Dead edited by Dawn Keetley and featuring a compilation of stellar articles that focus primarily on the AMC television series, reading it through a series of critical lenses and really offering a deep and broad discussion of the series. My article in this collection, if you’re interested, focuses more on the comics than the show — focusing on the politics of security and survival that The Walking Dead and other zombie narratives represent. You can get a quick look at the preface and some of the chapter titles and order the book here: http://www.amazon.com/Were-All-Infected-Essays-Walking/dp/0786476281. That said, viewing it on the little “Click to LOOK INSIDE!” tab on amazon doesn’t do the book justice (the typos and errors evident on that sample are not in the print copy of the book at all).

Finally, the super awesome journal Monsters and the Monstrous, which publishes creative and critical work on monstrosity in culture just put out Volume 3 No. 2, in which I offer a film review of World War Z (it’s a much more in-depth, film-reviewy sort of review than the entries that largely populate this blog).

Happy reading!