Baggrund March–May 2020
In the Danish online journal: Ignác Semmelweis, hand soap and the hygiene revolution; history of vaccination in Denmark; and Madagascan bathing rituals and the language of anthropology.
Eurozine review 10/2020
La Revue nouvelle 3/2020
Wespennest 178 (2020)
Baggrund March–May 2020
Culture & Démocratie 51 (2020)
Subscribe to the Eurozine Review and Newsletter!
Soap had been used for centuries for cleaning clothes and kitchen utensils before its benefits to public health were discovered. Only in the mid-nineteenth century did Ignác Semmelweis introduce it into the maternity ward of Vienna’s general hospital. Washing hands proved to be not only a hygienic revolution, but also a cultural one, ‘accelerating work on sewers in cities, the installation of water taps, flush toilets and in-home baths’.
History of vaccination
Smallpox outbreaks recurred every 4 to 7 years in eighteenth-century Copenhagen, primarily affecting children, writes Martin Kristensen. English medicine student Edward Jenner was the first to dare to experiment with vaccination, deliberately infecting a child with cowpox. Not all authorities approved: ‘Religious anti-vaccination groups protested against such pagan conduct as using a cattle disease to cure a human being.’ However, as early as 1810, Copenhagen made the smallpox vaccine obligatory and the illness was never seen again.
Anthropology of bathing
Anders Norge Lauridsen tracks bathing rituals in Madagascar and the different ways in which they serve to ‘purify’. Indonesian, East African and Islamic influences, as well as those of French colonialism, show up in Madagascan bathing rituals, writes Lauridsen. Accounting for these intercultural connections requires that the local vocabulary for concepts such as ‘purity’ be taken into account.
Published 8 June 2020
Original in English
Estonian journal Vikerkaar devotes its summer issue to Africa, including contributions on the social and environmental costs of Chinese development, bushman culture, the hauntings of colonialism, new African writing and more.
On modern fables
Popular anthropology has recently questioned assumptions about the role of farming in the emergence of the bureaucratic state and the inevitable connection between inequality and urban life. But while it is important to challenge doctrines of civilizational development, their origins must also be examined if conventional knowledge and its blind spots are not to be reproduced.