Christos Lynteris

Christos Lynteris is Professor of Medical Anthropology in the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of St Andrews and coauthor of Sulphuric Utopias (MIT Press).

  • Visual Plague

    The Emergence of Epidemic Photography

    Christos Lynteris

    How epidemic photography during a global pandemic of bubonic plague contributed to the development of modern epidemiology and our concept of the “pandemic.”

    In Visual Plague, Christos Lynteris examines the emergence of epidemic photography during the third plague pandemic (1894–1959), a global pandemic of bubonic plague that led to over twelve million deaths. Unlike medical photography, epidemic photography was not exclusively, or even primarily, concerned with exposing the patient's body or medical examinations and operations. Instead, it played a key role in reconceptualizing infectious diseases by visualizing the “pandemic” as a new concept and structure of experience—one that frames and responds to the smallest local outbreak of an infectious disease as an event of global importance and consequence.

    As the third plague pandemic struck more and more countries, the international circulation of plague photographs in the press generated an unprecedented spectacle of imminent global threat. Nothing contributed to this sense of global interconnectedness, anticipation, and fear more than photography. Exploring the impact of epidemic photography at the time of its emergence, Lynteris highlights its entanglement with colonial politics, epistemologies, and aesthetics, as well as with major shifts in epidemiological thinking and public health practice. He explores the characteristics, uses, and impact of epidemic photography and how it differs from the general corpus of medical photography. The new photography was used not simply to visualize or illustrate a pandemic, but to articulate, respond to, and unsettle key questions of epidemiology and epidemic control, as well as to foster the notion of the “pandemic,” which continues to affect our lives today.

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  • Sulphuric Utopias

    Sulphuric Utopias

    A History of Maritime Fumigation

    Lukas Engelmann and Christos Lynteris

    How early twentieth century fumigation technologies transformed maritime quarantine practices and inspired utopian visions of disease-free global trade.

    In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, fumigation technologies transformed global practices of maritime quarantine through chemical and engineering innovation. One of these technologies, the widely used Clayton machine, blasted sulphuric acid gas through a docked ship in an effort to eliminate pathogens, insects, and rats while leaving the cargo and the structure of the vessel unharmed, shortening its time in quarantine and minimizing the risk of importing infectious diseases. In Sulphuric Utopias, Lukas Engelmann and Christos Lynteris examine this overlooked but historically crucial practice at the intersection of epidemiology, hygiene, applied chemistry, and engineering. They show how maritime fumigation inspired utopian visions of disease-free trade to improve global shipping and to encourage universally applicable standards of sanitation and hygiene.

    Engelmann and Lynteris chart the history of ideas about fumigation, disinfection, and quarantine, and chronicle the development of the Clayton machine in 1880s New Orleans. Built by the Louisiana Board of Health and adapted and patented by Thomas Clayton, the machine offered a barrier against bacteria and pests and enabled a highway to global trade. Engelmann and Lynteris chronicle the Clayton machine's success and examine its competitors, including carbon-based fumigation methods in Germany and the Ottoman Empire as well as the “Sulfurozador” in Argentina. They follow the international standardization of maritime fumigation and explore the Clayton machine's decline after World War I, when visions of “sulphuric utopia” were replaced by a pragmatic acknowledgment of epidemiological complexity.

    The open access edition of this book was made possible by generous funding from Arcadia – a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.

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