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#Against the Grain

Imperial Fevers, Invisible Lives

April 30, 2021 | 5 pm CEST | with Edna Bonhomme, historian, writer, and interdisciplinary artist

Imperial Fevers, Invisible Lives

Epidemics are not just about the bacteria and viruses that coexist with us; they also reflect the social divisions that push some people to the margins of society. Whether it is the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Black American communities or the high incidence of maternal mortality for Black people, we have to reckon with how histories and legacies of inequality create the phenomenon of premature death. This talk addresses these inequalities as it relates to sexual and reproductive health of Black women in the United States and beyond, through the use of textual archives and oral histories that help to unpack the variant notions of sickness and health. By bringing these to the forefront, we also seek and propose opportunities to repair existing broken systems through reformatting the existing modalities of care in our communities.

Edna Bonhomme (she/her) is a historian and writer based in Berlin, Germany. She earned her PhD in the history of science from Princeton University, and a Master of Public Health from Columbia University. Working with sound, text, and archives, Edna explores contagion, epidemics, and toxicity through decolonial practices and African diaspora worldmaking. A central question of her work asks: “what makes people sick?” Her practices trouble how people perceive modern plagues and how they try to escape from them. As a researcher, she answers this question by using textual archives and oral histories to unpack the variant notions of sickness and health,as well as the modalities of care that shape the possibility for repair. Her artistic language combines science studies with traditional healing elements. Her project Black Health in Germany is part of a long-term research project that she started in 2019 with a growing collection/archive on the representation of Black health and healing in Germany. Some of her critical multimedia projects have been featured at Haus Kulturen der Welt (Berlin), alpha nova galerie futura (Berlin), and the Austrian Academy of Women Artists (Austria). She has written for academic journals and popular press including Aljazeera, The Baffler, The Guardian, The Nation, Africa is a Country, The New Republic, ISIS History of Science Journal, Jacobin Magazine, Journal for North African Studies, Public Books, and other publications.

This lecture is part of the Against the Grain lecture series:

April 16 | 5 pm CEST
Decolonizing Colonial Desire
with Uzma Rizvi

April 23 | 5 pm CEST
Deforestation as Epistemicide
with Franca López Barbera

April 30 | 5 pm CEST
Imperial Fevers, Invisible Lives
with Edna Bonhomme

May 7 | 5 pm CEST
The Frame of History
with Evan Nicole Brown

May 14 | 5 pm CEST
Finding Louise E. Jefferson
with Tasheka Arceneux-Sutton

May 21 | 5 pm CEST
Ladies of Letters
with Bahia Shehab

May 28 | 5 pm CEST
Salted Waters in the Whorls of Time
with Luiza Prado de O. Martins

June 4 | 5 pm CEST
Visualising the Invisible
with Sria Chatterjee