Introduction: The Challenge of the Epidemic Corpse
The epidemic corpse has long been understood as a locus of social, moral, and biological danger. In various historical and contemporary settings, it has been seen to pose a challenge to society to which there is no easy response. We ask how the epidemic corpse might also be seen to challenge and threaten central presumptions within social theory. This introduction begins the task of sketching a comparative history of the epidemic corpse as a generative feature of social debate and contestation, from ancient Greece to the present. We take this comparative approach as the basis for rethinking the notion of contagion within the medical humanities more broadly, and we propose a new reading of epidemics as episodes of material production.
Research leading to this chapter was funded by a European Research Council Starting Grant (under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme/ERC grant agreement no 336564) for the project Visual Representations of the Third Plague Pandemic.