Amid the Coronavirus scramble that has left my local Costco completely bare of hand soap, sanitizing wipes, and tissues, I had the completely irrelevant thought this morning that I haven’t washed my hair in weeks. I’ve done plenty to care for my hair – cowash, conditioner, combing, rinsing – but I haven’t used shampoo in an effort to bring my deflating curls back to life. This may sound gross or weird initially, but as the many curl support groups are fond of explaining, I’m just allowing my natural oils to coat my hair again, while only removing dirt and buildup. As disconnected as these two phenomena are, they have a common cause: since the early 20th century, we have been obsessed with disinfectants.Read More
It’s just as unreasonable to think that a piece of paper gauze will stop you from getting sick as it is to think that a plaster mask stuffed with herbs will. But that’s the problem with how we remember major infectious disease events of the past – we remember that people died, but we don’t think a lot about how we might be repeating their mistakes.
When a pandemic worms its way into our collective consciousness, fighting the disease is no longer just about fighting the virus, but also about fighting the social anxieties that surround it.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, I am not offering medical advice.Read More
If you are an avid PBS fan, you may have seen the premier of a new documentary titled Ornament of the World in the last month. It’s a piece about the interfaith world of medieval Spain, and given that I work on the very related field of cross-cultural contact in medieval Sicily, I should have been excited to see it, but, frankly, I was surprised and somewhat exhausted at the thought that this movie had been made. Because not only was its perspective on interreligious contact left behind by the field of medieval studies almost 20 years ago, but its entire approach to the question assumes that peoples of different religions should be inherently separate.Read More
Last year, my husband and I were looking to buy a house in the small California city of San Leandro, on the edge of Oakland. Being a historian and a nerd (redundant, I know), I looked into the history of the town and its name. I was surprised, delighted, and eventually horrified to find it rooted in medieval history, and it showed me just how deep-seated America’s racism is in its visions of the Middle Ages. Read More
Corduroy was one of my favorite books as a kid, but it wasn’t until I started reading it to children as an adult that I realized it has a political message. Read More