Podcast Episode 166: Medical Humanities: Pandemics, Food Shaming & Social Science – Dr. Kari Nixon

Dec 8, 2020

From Food Shaming to Pandemics – What We Can Learn from Medical Humanities

“Medical humanities can be defined as an interdisciplinary, and increasingly international endeavor that draws on the creative and intellectual strengths of diverse disciplines, including literature, art, creative writing, drama, film, music, philosophy, ethical decision making, anthropology, and history, in pursuit of medical educational goals.[2] The humanistic sciences are relevant when multiple people’s perspectives on issues are compiled together to answer questions or even create questions. The arts can provide additional perspective to the sciences.” (Wikipedia – accessed 12-2-20)


Tune in to this episode to learn about:

  • health is a malleable concept
  • food has been tied to social status throughout history
  • food insecurity and obesity are connected
  • systemic deprivation influences food “choices”
  • medical humanities can help inform and frame science and research
  • public health recommendations and shaming
  • silver linings in pandemics

Medical humanities helps us think about how we are framing the scientific or research questions that puzzle us.”

 Dr. Kari Nixon, PhD

Podcast Episode 166: Medical Humanities: Pandemics, Food Shaming & Social Science – Dr. Kari NixonDr. Kari Nixon is an assistant professor at Whitworth University. Her research focuses on social understandings of death, disease, and community. She teaches regularly on topics such as medical humanities, Victorian literature, and even zombies. Her first academic book, Kept From All Contagion: Germ Theory, Disease, and the Dilemma of Human Contact came out in May 2020, and her mass market book, Quarantine Life: From Cholera to Covid-19, What Pandemics Teach Us About Parenting, Work, Life and Communities from the 1700s to Today, comes out in June 2021. Written for all audiences, Quarantine Life presents 30 lessons from past epidemics and how we can apply them to cope with the strain of the novel Coronavirus.

Science is only as good as the human actors that create that knowledge. We, as human actors, have the opportunity to shape it and better it.”

About the book:

Quarentine Life from Cholera to Covid-19

Throughout history, there have been numerous epidemics that have threatened mankind with destruction. Diseases have the ability to highlight our shared concerns across the ages, affecting every social divide from national boundaries, economic categories, racial divisions, and beyond. Whether looking at smallpox, HIV, Ebola, or COVID-19 outbreaks, we see the same conversations arising as society struggles with the all-encompassing question: What do we do now?

Quarantine Life from Cholera to COVID-19 demonstrates that these conversations have always involved the same questions of individual liberties versus the common good, debates about rushing new and untested treatments, considerations of whether quarantines are effective to begin with, what to do about healthy carriers, and how to keep trade circulating when society shuts down.

This immensely readable social and medical history tracks different diseases and outlines their trajectory, what they meant for society, and societal questions each disease brought up, along with practical takeaways we can apply to current and future pandemics—so we can all be better prepared for whatever life throws our way.


Dr. Kari Nixon: Website | Twitter

Dr. Nixon’s book: Quarantine Life from Cholera to Covid-19

Dr. Nixon’s guest post: What The History of “Healthy” Food Teaches Us About Mom-Shaming

Research article: A Taste of Inequality: Food’s Symbolic Value across the Socioeconomic Spectrum

Related Episodes:

Food, Pseudoscience & Science Moms – Podcast Episode #119 with Kavin Senapathy

Food Bullying – Podcast Episode #130 with Michele Payn




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Music by Dave Birk

Produced by JAG in Detroit Podcasts


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