Thursday, February 23, 2023

The Rootcutter : The Rootcutter Gathers from the Environment and Slices into Rootstock


The idea for The Rootcutter came about during the early months of the pandemic, when the Society for Ancient Medicine committee members were, like everyone else, stuck inside our homes, wondering how the world would be transformed by COVID-19. Like Bayo Akomolafe in his essay I, Coronavirus, we wondered whether and how the social, economic, and political structures of the modern world would be altered, recast, or reinforced through the changes wrought not only by the virus itself but also by our efforts to halt its spread. As historians of medicine, our first impulse was to reflect on how our training and knowledge base might help us through such a global health crisis, and what frameworks of understanding might render our expertise in ancient medicine and pharmacology useful for wider audiences. As we grappled with big questions and great uncertainty, we found that building community around these reflections was a useful salve.

The Rootcutter is one result. Over the next 12 months, we will publish a series of essays by experts in various aspects of our field, each focusing on a specific piece of evidence for the study of ancient medicine (for example, an ostracon, a recipe, and in one case even a city) and exploring how close investigation of that evidence might enable us to reflect more critically on the ways that ancient medicine informs modern practices and ideas. Each essay will include some key bibliography and a set of questions intended to prompt further reflection and, where relevant, classroom discussion.


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