Spring 2021 Virtual Workshop

Medical Posthumanities: Governing Health Beyond the Human

Illustration courtesy of NIH Nanotechnology Image Library collection.

2021 Baldy Center Workshop — Medical Posthumanities: Governing Health Beyond the Human. Illustration courtesy of NIH Nanotechnology Image Library.

April 14 Presentations

Day 1

April 15 Presentations

Day 2

April 16 Presentations

Day 3

April 14, 15 & 16, 2021: While medical humanities have tended to focus almost exclusively on humans, a medical posthumanities, by contrast, would take seriously the role of "more-than-human" actors to explore the complex entanglements of human, animal, and ecological health.

Given that the human individual has long served as the subject of liberal societies and the systems of governance to which they gave rise, the legal implications of a medical posthumanities are immediate.




The Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy

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Irus Braverman.

Irus Braverman

Irus Braverman is professor of law and adjunct professor in geography at the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. Her books include Planted Flags: Trees, Land, and Law in Israel/Palestine (2009), Zooland: The Institution of Captivity (2012), Wild Life: The Institution of Nature (2015), and Coral Whisperers: Scientists on the Brink (2018). Her most recent monograph Zoo Veterinarians: Governing Care on a Diseased Planet (2021) highlights the recent transformation that has occurred in the zoo veterinarian profession during a time of ecological crisis, and what these changes can teach us about our rapidly changing planet. Read more.






James Bono.

James J. Bono:  My research interests include the cultural history of science and medicine during the Renaissance and early modern periods; the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries; images, visualization, and technologies of the “literal” in early modern science; the history of the body and sexuality; the role of metaphor and narrative in science; and the function of technologies of communication in the production and dynamics of knowledge and culture. I am also interested in medical humanities, and the narrative construction of illness and the physician-patient relationship. Learn more.

Lucinda Cole.

Lucinda Cole is Research Associate Professor (English) and Affiliate Professor, Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is author of Imperfect Creatures: Vermin, Literatures, and the Sciences of Life, 1600-1740 (2016). Her articles have appeared in ELHCriticismJournal for Early Modern Cultural StudiesConfigurations, and Journal for Critical Animal Studies, and in collections on animals and animality, literature and medicine. She is writing a book on posthumanism, medicine, and zoonotic diseases. Learn more.

Jennifer A. Surtees.

Jennifer A. Surtees:  In my laboratory, we are interested in the general problem of maintaining genome stability. To this end, we focus on two distinct aspects of genome stability: 1) the roles of mismatch (MMR) proteins in multiple pathways for DNA repair and 2) the manner in which regulation of dNTP pools, through the regulation of ribonucleotide reductase (RNR) activity, impacts genome integrity. Learn more.

Paul Vanouse.

Paul Vanouse has been working in emerging media forms since 1990. Interdisciplinarity and impassioned amateurism guide his art practice. His electronic cinema, biological experiments, and interactive installations have been exhibited widely. Venues have included: Walker Art Center, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Carnegie Museum, Warhol Museum, New Museum, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Buenos Aires, Louvre in Paris, and galleries in Berlin, Barcelona, and New Zealand. Learn more.



WEDNESDAY, APRIL 14, 2021 – 11:00AM - 1:00PM EDT

11:00AM - 11:15AM: Day 1 Introductions

11:15AM - 12:45PM: Panel 1. Traversing Disciplines

Chair: Irus Braverman

Abigail Woods, “One Health and History”

Laura H. Kahn, “Initiating a One Heath Approach to Global Health”

Chris Walzer, “Spillover Interfaces from Wuhan to Wallstreet—One Health and Capital”

12:45PM-1:00PM: Day 1 themes and concluding remarks


THURSDAY, APRIL 15, 2021 – 11:00AM - 1:00PM EDT

11:00AM - 12:30PM: Panel 2. Posthumanisms: One Health as Art and Ethics

Chair: Paul Vanouse

Lucinda Cole, “Why the Medical Posthumanities?”

Susan Merrill Squier, “Graphic Medicine in the Medical PostHumanities: Zoonosis, Zooeyia, and Zooambivalence"

Maneesha Deckha, “The One Health Initiative: Why It Must Oppose Animal Farming and Animal Research”

12:30PM - 1:00PM: Day 2 themes and concluding remarks


FRIDAY, APRIL 16, 2021 – 11:00AM - 1:00PM EDT

11:00AM – 12:30PM: Panel 3. Zoonosis: Contagious Bodies and the Politics of Disease

Chair: Jim Bono

Frédéric Keck, “Birds as Sentinels of the Environment in Hong Kong and Taiwan”

Susan McHugh, “Rabies on Ice: Learning from Interspecies Suffering in Arctic Canada”

Rodrigo Medellin, “Bats and Covid: Myths, Realities, and Hope in Pandemic Times”

12:30PM - 1:00PM: Wrap up: Decolonizing One Health


Lucinda Cole, “Why the Medical Posthumanities?”

Lucinda Cole.

Lucinda Cole

Abstract: Because most diseases are zoonotic, a capacious medical humanities needs to take into account the complex intersections among human, animal, and ecosystem health. One step in this direction is taking seriously what One Health practitioners have long insisted: that human, animal, and ecosystem health are deeply interdependent. An equally important step, however, is to acknowledge the lessons of posthumanism—primarily, that we must reject a nature-culture dualism inherited from the Enlightenment, and that we must recognize the extent to which humanist and neoliberal models of the self encourage us to perceive ourselves and our suffering bodies as somehow separate from the word we inhabit. Focusing on two examples from the history of medicine, we demonstrate how a genuinely posthumanist approach to the medical humanities encourages us to perceive the human body as one among many bodies, and humans not as exceptions to or dominators of the natural order, but as part of a living continua populated by myriad species with whom we share a biosphere and a microbiome. 

Lucinda Cole is Research Associate Professor (English) and Affiliate Professor, Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is author of Imperfect Creatures: Vermin, Literatures, and the Sciences of Life, 1600-1740 (University of Michigan Press, 2016). Her articles have appeared in such venues as ELHCriticismJournal for Early Modern Cultural StudiesConfigurations, and Journal for Critical Animal Studies, and in numerous collections on animals and animality, literature and medicine. She is now writing a book on posthumanism, medicine, and zoonotic diseases.

Maneesha Deckha, "The One Health Initiative – Why it Must Oppose Animal Farming and Animal Research"

Maneesha Deckha.

Maneesha Deckha

Abstract: At the Opening of its Mission Statement, the One Health Initiative states that “(r)ecognizing that human health (including mental health via the human-animal bond phenomenon), animal health, and ecosystem health are inextricably linked, One Health seeks to promote, improve, and defend the health and well-being of all species…”  (One Health Initiative, 2020). It is not clear, however, that the One Health Initiative (OHI) opposes two uses of animals that entail significant if not devastating health concerns for humans and the environment, and fatal ones for animals both individually and, sometimes, as a species: the farming of animals for human consumption of their flesh or byproducts such as milk or eggs, or the breeding of animals or their use for research testing. Farming and research are spaces where animals not only suffer serious harm and death, but also are deliberately bred into lives of disease and deformity to enhance their economic or use value. In this contribution, I argue that a commitment to OHI, in order to not undermine its transformative vision, should entail a clear objection to virtually all farming and research use of animals.

Maneesha Deckha is Professor and Lansdowne Chair in Law at the University of Victoria. Her research interests include feminist and critical animal studies, animal law and legalities, and reproductive law. She is widely published and has received grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and other funding bodies. She has also held the Fulbright Visiting Chair in Law and Society at New York University. Her book project on feminism, postcolonialism and critical animal law entitled Animals as Legal Beings: Contesting Anthropocentric Legal Orders is forthcoming from the University of Toronto Press. She serves as the Director of the Animal Studies Research Initiative at the University of Victoria and is a Brooks Animal Studies Academic Network Fellow. 

Laura H. Kahn, "Implementing a One Health Approach to Global Health"

Dr. Laura H. Kahn.

Dr. Laura H. Kahn

Abstract: In Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari, the Israeli historian, wrote that the Abrahamic religions, the agriculture religions, created humans in the image of God to rule over all other animals and the Earth.[1] This belief in humanity’s omnipotence to do whatever it wants with other animals and the planet has had deleterious impacts on health and well-being. One Health is the concept that human, animal, and environmental/ecosystem health are linked. We must recognize our connectedness with the other animals and our dependence upon a healthy planet if we are to survive as a species. We are surprised when our actions such as the trade, slaughter, and consumption of endangered species results in the emergence of a deadly pandemic. Even worse, our wastes are contaminating the planet. Over 7.5 billion humans and over 30 billion food mammals constitute 96 to 98 percent of the total mammalian zoomass on Earth, producing almost 4 trillion kgs of fecal matter, contaminating soils and waters, and emitting greenhouse gasses.[2][3] If we are to have a sustainable future, we must implement a One Health approach to global health.

[1] Harari YN. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. HarperCollins, New York. 2015.

[2] Zeller U, Starik N, Gottert T. (2017) Biodiversity, Land Use and Ecosystem Services—An Organismic and Comparative Approach to Different Geographical Regions. Global Ecology and Conservation. 10: 114-125.

[3] Berendes DM, Yang PJ, Lai A, et al. (2018) Estimation of Global Recoverable Human and Animal Faecal Biomass. Nature Sustainability. 1: 679-685.

Dr. Laura H. Kahn is a physician and research scholar with the Program on Science and Global Security at the Princeton University School of Public and International Affairs. In 2006, she published Confronting Zoonoses, Linking Human and Veterinary Medicine in the CDC journal Emerging Infectious Diseases that helped launch the  One Health Initiative.  Kahn is the author of two books: Who’s in Charge? Leadership During Epidemics, Bioterror Attacks, and Other Public Health Crises and One Health and the Politics of Antimicrobial Resistance. In June 2020, she launched her Coursera course: Bats, Ducks, and Pandemics: An Introduction to One Health Policy which has thousands of students from around the world. In 2014, Kahn received a Presidential Award for Meritorious Service from the American Association of Public Health Physicians, and, in 2016, the American Veterinary Epidemiology Society (AVES) awarded her with their highest honor for her work in One Health: the K.F. Meyer-James H. Steele Gold Head Cane Award.

Frederic Keck, "Birds as sentinels of the environment in Hong Kong and Taiwan"

Frédéric Keck.

Frédéric Keck

Abstract: After the emergence of the H5N1 influenza virus in Hong Kong in 1997, virologists and birdwatchers have allied to monitor viruses among wild birds as early warning signs of pandemics and other environmental disasters. This collaboration borrowed models of colonial science in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and  opened it to models of citizen science. I will ask how this alliance has changed the view of birds in these two territories and fostered a One Health Agenda, arguing that if the pandemic was anticipated as the potential extinction of humanity, threats of bird extinction have symmetrically produced forms of solidarity between birds and humans.

Frédéric Keck is Director of Research at the Laboratory of Social Anthropology (CNRS-Collège de France-EHESS). After studying philosophy at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris and Anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley , he has been researching the history of social anthropology and contemporary biopolitical questions raised by avian influenza. He has been the director of the research department of the musée du quai Branly between 2014 and 2018. He published Claude Lévi-Strauss, une introduction (Pocket-La découverte, 2005), Lucien Lévy-Bruhl, entre philosophie et anthropologie (CNRS Editions, 2008) Un monde grippé ( Flammarion, 2010) and Avian Reservoirs : Virus Hunters and Birdwatchers in Chinese Sentinel Posts, (Duke University Press, 2020),. He has co-edited (with N..Vialles ) Des hommes malades des animaux, L' Herne, 2012 and (with A. Lakoff) Sentinel devices,, Limn, 2013. He received the bronze medal of CNRS in 2012 and is a fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

Susan McHugh, "Rabies on Ice: Learning from Interspecies Suffering in Arctic Canada"

Susan McHugh.

Susan McHugh

Abstract: Rabies control stories highlight the challenges of decolonizing planetary-health initiatives through posthumanist approaches to human-animal relationships. As Deborah Nadal’s Rabies in the Streets: Interspecies Camaraderie in Urban India shows, One Health approaches are making great strides in rabies control in regions where historically the disease is endemic. Yet, for cultures where the arrival of rabies coincided with settler colonialism, the story can never be so simple. Building on my research on the Qikiqtani Truth Commission’s inquiry into the mid-twentieth-century disappearance of qimmit, or Inuit sled dogs, in Arctic Canada, I will explore how cultural and historical factors complicate not only the Eurowestern conventional separate-and-exterminate approach but also the Traditional Ecological Knowledges of disease control in this case. Rabies threatened not only lives but also the unique interdependence of people and dogs foundational to Inuit culture, in ways that are instructive for developing initiatives to address zoonoses with greater cultural sensitivity.

Susan McHugh, Professor of English at the University of New England USA, researches and teaches literary, visual, and scientific narratives of cross-species relations.  She is the author of Love in a Time of Slaughters: Human-Animal Stories Against Genocide and Extinction (2019), Animal Stories: Narrating across Species Lines (2011), and Dog (2004, 2019). She is co-editor of The Palgrave Handbook of Animals and Literature (2020), Posthumanism in Art and Science: A Reader (2020), Human-animal Studies (2018), Indigenous Creatures, Native Knowledges, and the Arts (2017), and The Routledge Handbook of Human-Animal Studies (2014). McHugh serves as co-editor of the book series Palgrave Studies in Animals and Literature and managing editor of the humanities for Society & Animals.

Rodrigo Medellin, "Bats and Covid: Myths, Realities, and Hope in Pandemic Times"

Rodrigo Medellin.

Rodrigo Medellin

Abstract: We live in unprecedented times, which have us tired, worn out, depressed. Our minds flies to find a culprit, and the media and some scientists point a flaming finger to bats. Nothing is further from reality. In my talk, I will cover the available evidence and facts regarding emerging infectious diseases, pathogens, and bats. We know only an infinitesimal proportion of the viruses that experts estimate to exist. Very few viruses are pathogenic, and the vast majority of coronaviruses do us little or no harm. Bats are crucial for the functioning of ecosystems and for our every-day well-being. The best way to defend ourselves against the next pandemic is by conserving biodiversity and ecosystems. But we must also reassess our habits, and each of us has a lot to do to contribute to a bright and sustainable future for biodiversity and for ourselves.

Dr. Rodrigo A. Medellín works on conservation of mammals with emphasis on applied and policy-driven science, as a Senior Professor at the Institute of Ecology, UNAM. He is an established leader in the field of mammal conservation, and was President of the Society for Conservation Biology (2013-2015) and CoChair of the CITES Animals Committee (2002-2012). Rodrigo is Co-Chair of the IUCN Bat Specialist Group, Scientific Councilor, Convention on Migratory Species, Founding Director of the Latin American Network for Bat Conservation, and creator of Global South Bats, a network of bat scientists in Africa, Asia, and Latin America He has produced over 60 theses and 200 publications. His work has been featured in various documentaries from the BBC, National Geographic and other production houses. He is a Rolex Award Laureate, 2012 Whitley Gold Award winner, and the seventh Explorer-At-Large of the National Geographic Society.

Susan Merrill Squier, "Graphic Medicine in the Medical PostHumanities: Zoonosis, Zooeyia, and Zooambivalence"

Susan Squier.

Susan Squier

*Revised Abstract:  What is graphic medicine, and what contribution can it make to the medical PostHumanities?  Graphic medicine draws on the tradition of narrative medicine with its focus on the illness narrative, or pathography, but the stories it tells are conveyed in both words and images, combined sequentially in comic form.  Many works of graphic medicine convey what I have called a “porous pathography," one which not only narrates a human illness experience but also gives space to those of the other species around us,  and even of the biosphere in which we all live. In this talk I survey some works of graphic medicine that communicate the health, and health impacts of, bacteria, microbes, parasites, insects, companion and agricultural animals, as well as human beings and the planet as a whole. These comics often bridge the disciplinary divisions between the life sciences, human and veterinary medicine, advocating instead “integrated, coordinated approaches ... in which the health of animals is considered in relation to the health of humans and the environment.”(Woods 2018, 3) As I will explain, these comics take perspectives on the entanglement of illness and health between species that can be grouped loosely into foci on zoonosis, zooeyia, and what I will call zooambivalence.

*Replaces previous title: "Reconsidering Chicken Culture: One Health and Coronavirus Comics"

Susan Squier is Brill Professor Emerita of English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Penn State University.  Her publications include, most recently, Epigenetic Landscapes: Drawings as Metaphor, as well as Poultry Science, Chicken Culture: A Partial Alphabet,  Liminal Lives: Imagining the Human at the Frontiers of Biomedicine, the co-edited volume PathoGraphics: Narrative, Aesthetics, Contention, Community, and the co-authored Graphic Medicine Manifesto.  In January 2021 she concludes her three-year term as Einstein Visiting Fellow at the Freie Universität, Berlin, where she was part of the PathoGraphics project. She is the founding president of the Graphic Medicine International Collective, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the uses of comics in health.

Chris Walzer, "Spillover Interfaces from Wuhan to Wallstreet – One Health and Capital"

Dr. Chris Walzer.

Chris Walzer

Abstract: The world is in turmoil. A novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has catapulted across the ever-evolving interface between humans and wildlife relentlessly spreading coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to the farthest reaches of our planet. What was immediately apparent was that the virus responsible for this outbreak originated in wild animals. The increasing incidence of zoonotic-origin viral spillover events is a symptom of ailing planetary health. As human activities and encroachment increasingly undermine the integrity of naturally balanced ecosystems, environmental health and resilience are compromised. We are starkly reminded of the basic fact: Human, animal, plant, and environmental health and well-being are intrinsically connected—One Health. Underpinning One Health is an ethical framework that aims to foster the health of humans, animals, and their shared environments and to endorse collaboration that radically breaks down disciplinary and policy silos to this end. The current entwined emergencies of public health, biodiversity loss, and climate change clearly illustrate the impossibility of protecting human health in isolation from the health of other animals and the environment. But these three emergencies also bring to the forefront two related values that are key to developing joined-up ethical thinking in the context of One Health: solidarity and environmental justice.

Dr. Chris Walzer is the Executive Director of Health at the Wildlife Conservation Society. He is a board-certified wildlife veterinarian, professor of Conservation Medicine at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria. He has worked extensively in the Gobi region of Mongolia linking wildlife health with the conservation of the Przewalski’s horse and the Asiatic wild ass. He has additionally led successful large-scale EU-funded ecological connectivity and biodiversity conservation projects in the Alps. Chris is the recipient of several research and service awards most notably the Distinguished Environmentalist Award from the Mongolian Ministry of Nature and Environment.

Abigail Woods, "One Health in History"

Abigail Woods.

Abigail Woods

Abstract: The call for a One Health approach that transcends species, disciplinary and professional boundaries is predicated on the existence of discrete, distinctive domains of human and veterinary medicine, whose separation must be overcome to achieve health benefits for all. But are human and veterinary medicine really as separate as One Health commentary implies? Adopting a historical perspective, and with reference to specific examples over the period 1790-1900, this paper will reveal that until relatively recently, the boundaries between these fields were extremely fluid. Historically, human medicine was often deeply zoological – encompassing a host of species drawn from across the animal kingdom. While today’s discussions of One Health privilege animals as conduits of disease to humans, or as experimental models of human disease, past animal participants in medicine were far more than that. As victims of naturally occurring diseases, they enabled medical doctors to think generically and comparatively about medical and biological problems, while as clinical subjects, they encouraged doctors to perform interventions that overlapped with those of veterinary professionals. The history of these diseased animals reveals many examples of collaboration between doctors and vets. Their management could also provoke competition, which led to the hardening of professional boundaries, and paradoxically, in time, to efforts to transcend them under the banner of One Health.

Abigail Woods joined the University of Lincoln in May 2020 as Pro-Vice Chancellor / Head of College of Arts. Previously, she worked at King’s College London, Imperial College London and the University of Manchester, where she completed her PhD in Medical History. She trained originally as a veterinary surgeon, qualifying from Cambridge in 1996. She is the lead author of One Health and its Histories: Animals and the Shaping of Modern Medicine (Palgrave, Basingstoke, 2018).


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Medical Posthumanities: Governing Health Beyond the Human.
Medical Posthumanities: Governing Health Beyond the Human.

2021 Baldy Center Workshop — Medical Posthumanities: Governing Health Beyond the Human. Illustration courtesy of NIH Nanotechnology Image Library.