JHU Press Blog

Confronting Long-term Fatal Illness: Patient and Kin Perspectives

by krm | Wednesday, February 22, 2017 - 6:00 AM

Discussions about death and dying today tend to focus on do not resuscitate orders and withholding or withdrawing life support technologies. My book takes a very different approach. After reading 105 memoirs by family members of people who died from chronic illness, I realized that dying today is often an extremely protracted process, not only because new technologies can extend a person’s final days or weeks, but even more because many people live for years with one or more terminal conditions. In most of the memoirs I read, issues about treatment at the very end of life appeared relatively minor when considered within the entire sweep of a long-term fatal disease. I thus focus on the common experience of learning the diagnosis, grappling with the decision whether to enroll in a clinical trial, acknowledging the limits of medicine, receiving care at home and in health care institutions, and, finally, obtaining palliative care.

Several memoirs questioned the exalted value increasingly assigned to the acceptance of mortality. Critics of aggressive, high-intensity services at the end of life often stress the importance of acceptance. They note that people who acknowledge the inevitability of death are less likely to insist on expensive and...Read More

Five Essentials for Surgical Care During Conflict & Disaster

by krm | Tuesday, February 21, 2017 - 6:00 AM

With numerous ongoing conflicts and disasters occurring around the world, the work of surgical humanitarians is never ending. To understand the context and prepare to provide surgical care under such conditions, it is essential to know the following:

Learn how to do a C-section

Labor ward in Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo courtesy Nick Czernkovich

Most people are surprised to learn that C-sections are the most common surgical procedure performed both during conflicts and after a disaster. A study using Doctors Without Borders/Medecins sans Frontiers data highlighted this issue and documented that of more than 90,000 procedures performed in over 20 countries, more than 25% were C-sections. The ability to do this procedure and provide maternal health in general is a key point when planning humanitarian interventions or working as a surgical humanitarian.

To learn how to do C-sections and treat other common surgical problems in low-resource settings, surgeons and other health can professionals can take an “International Humanitarian Aid Skills Course” run each year at Stanford University.

Become a surgical MacGyver and know...Read More

A Few Words Apropos of the Pamphlet The Confessions of Nat Turner

by krm | Monday, February 20, 2017 - 6:00 AM

Nat Turner realized at some point during his nine weeks and four days in hiding that what he might say if taken alive would be interesting to the public. In August of 1831, he had led the bloody uprising by forty identifiable slaves in Southampton County, Virginia, and had become the most sought-after fugitive of his time, a figure of legend. No longer an actor, he was now a narrator. He prepared a confession.

He surrendered at noon on 30 October, and for the next day and a half, in public, he rehearsed. Within two hours he was speaking, under guard, to a crowd of one hundred at a nearby plantation. The next day he held forth for nearly two hours in front of magistrates at the courthouse in Jerusalem. He made further remarks to a gathering at the jail. Finally, in his cell, during the first three days of November (while awaiting trial and execution), he dictated a finished statement to Thomas R. Gray, a young attorney of the town. (Poor Gray has suffered odium and neglect for his trouble; he was characterized wrongly in the 1967 novel by William Styron and ignored entirely in the 2016 film...Read More

I Think of You When I See Roadkill

by krm | Thursday, February 16, 2017 - 6:00 AM

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that from one of my students, I’d be a rich man. Most people hearing that would be downright offended, and understandably so. To 99 out of 100 people it would be an insult. To me, however, it’s like music to my ears. It means a student got the full experience in my “Animal Form and Function” course where they were forced to dissect a carcass, feed it to flesh-eating beetles, and rebuild the remains. Some do it well. They get A’s. Others produce monstrosities of unknown origin with hints of mythical creatures. They don’t get A’s. But both populations still tell me they think of me when they see roadkill.

I wrote The Skeleton Revealed for a couple reasons. First, I’ve been fascinated by bones, especially dinosaur bones, since I was a kid. And, like most little boys with dinosaur toys around their bedroom, bringing them back to life and guessing how they’d act consumed hours of my life. How many times have you seen a young child pick-up a dinosaur toy and say, “RARRR!”? Unfortunately, while we think we know how dinosaurs communicated, we’ll...Read More

Celebrating All Kinds of Children

by bjs | Wednesday, February 15, 2017 - 6:00 AM

The final 2016 issue of Children's Literature Association Quarterly was a special issue on African American Children’s Literature and Genre. Sara Austin (SA), a PhD candidate in English at the University of Connecticut, and Karen Chandler (KC), an associate professor of English at the University of Louisville, served as guest editors. The pair joined us for a Q&A to talk about the issue and the field of African American children's literature.

How did this special issue come about?

KC: Sara approached me about working with her on the special issue, and so maybe she can speak about what initially motivated her to propose a special issue on African American children’s and young adult literature. I will say I was drawn to the project because I have been greatly influenced by the earlier special issue in African American Review on African American children’s literature.

SA: I was working on an article about Virginia Hamilton and talking to Arnold Adoff about life in New York before Zeely was published. While researching the article, I noticed how little scholarship there was on...Read More

The Great Recession and the Web of Inequality

by krm | Monday, February 13, 2017 - 6:00 AM

The following is an adapted excerpt from Ronald Formisano’s Plutocracy in America: How Increasing Inequality Destroys the Middle Class and Exploits the Poor as a part of our Black History Month blog series.

Unequal access to health care is but one example of how income inequality creates a proliferating range of consequences not often discussed in relation to one another. None of these subjects has been ignored or unreported somewhere, either in print or on the Internet. But by drawing many of these topics together and showing interconnections, I highlight the widespread consequences of inequality as it washes through society like a noxious flood. This approach rejects arguments that downplay the effects of governmental or corporate policies and instead invoke the role of impersonal forces, such as globalization, as mainly being responsible for inequality in income and wealth. The OECD finds that “the evidence as to the role of globalization in growing inequality is mixed.” Whatever globalization has contributed to inequality as an independent cause, corporations have set the rules in global markets that virtually eliminate workers’ bargaining power, while environmental and other standards have been ignored.

It is too easy to blame impersonal...Read More

Minecraft and Robinson Crusoe

by bjs | Friday, February 10, 2017 - 6:00 AM

In the Fall 2016 issue of the journal Configurations , Josef Nguyen took a look at similarities between the computer world-building game Minecraft and pieces of fiction like Robinson Crusoe , which rely heavily on the creation of a new world. An assistant professor of game studies at the University of Texas at Dallas, Nguyen engages science and technology studies and media studies in his research, focusing on the politics of play, toys, and games. He joined us for a Q&A to talk about his essay.

How did you come to link Minecraft with Robinson Crusoe ?

When I first heard about Mojang’s Minecraft (2009/2011), I heard it described as a survival game where players must gather resources and build to survive. As a result of my literary studies, I immediately draw comparisons of cultural texts premised on being stranded and needing to survive to Daniel Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe (1719)—especially with the historic and enduring popularity of robinsonade narratives. Johann David Wyss’ novel The Swiss Family Robinson (1812), R. M. Ballantyne’s young adult adventure The Coral Island (1858), and Robert Zemeckis’ film Cast Away ...Read More

AAUP 2017 Book, Jacket, and Journal Show

by krm | Thursday, February 9, 2017 - 6:00 AM

Each year the Association of American University Presses recognizes the best in cover design in their Book, Jacket, and Journal Show. We are proud to have three Johns Hopkins Press books featured in the 2017 list! You can view the complete list of showcased books and journals here .

Selected entry for Trade Typographic, Chickenizing Farms and Food: How Industrial Meat Production Endangers Workers, Animals and Consumers by Ellen K. Silbergeld

Selected entry for Scholarly Typographic, John Adams's Republic: The One, the Few, and the Many by Richard Alan Ryerson

Selected entry for Scholarly Typographic, The Collected Poetry of Mary Tighe edited by Paula R. Feldman and Brian C. Cooney

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Five reasons why doctors shouldn’t ask their patients to lose weight (and five things they should do instead)

by krm | Wednesday, February 8, 2017 - 6:00 AM

Years ago I was the dietetics department manager and proposed that we cease offering weight loss clinics. The dietitians were enraged and others viewed this as anarchic or frivolous but I was deadly serious. I haven’t recommended weight loss to a patient for over a decade and I think to do so is unethical.

Weight loss projects don’t work

Many people are able to lose weight and keep it off for six or twelve months, but the majority regains it by five years. A meta-analysis found that only 15% of people enrolling in weight loss programmes maintain a 20 pound weight loss at five years. There are good physiological reasons for this. Doctors shouldn’t prescribe treatments with an 85% failure rate.

Our body size is genetically pre-determined

Look at your siblings, parents and tell me body size and shape isn’t genetic. And if you’re in doubt, or adopted, look at the studies. The reason some individuals remain slim in our obesogenic environment is because our appetite is hard-wired.

Increasing obesity rates are the result of macro-economic changes

During the post-war depression food was rationed. The...Read More

From Soviet Disco to Post-Soviet Oligarchy

by krm | Tuesday, February 7, 2017 - 6:00 AM

The present massive political corruption in post-Soviet geopolitical space is rooted in cultural consumption of the Brezhnev era (1964-1982). During this period of late socialism in the USSR, millions of Soviet young people, loyal members of Komsomol, fell in love with the catchy sound of “beat music” of the Beatles and hard rock of Deep Purple. Even ten years after dissolution of the Soviet Union, the post-Soviet space was ruled by former the Soviet hard rock fans, the representatives of so-called “Deep Purple generation,” the new post-Soviet politicians, such as Dmitri Medvedev, Prime-Minister of Russia, Yulia Tymoshenko, Prime-Minister of Ukraine, and Mikheil Saakashvili, President of Georgia.

Dniepropetrovsk Disco and Video Club, built in the Brezhnev era as a concert hall.

Paradoxically, the détente of the 1970s, the period of relaxation of the international tensions during the Cold War, led to the influx of Western cultural products such as popular music and feature films in the Soviet Union. As a result, Soviet ideologists, including Komsomol ideologists, tried to control Soviet consumption of those cultural products from capitalist West, using Western popular music and video in the new “socialist forms” of leisure and cultural consumption. One among many of such...Read More