Hardback
September 21, 2021
9781421441382
English
296
101549
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September 21, 2021
9781421441399
9781421441382
English
296
101549
33
9.00 Inches (US)
6.00 Inches (US)
$30.00 USD, £22.00 GBP
v2.1 Reference

Getting Under Our Skin

The Cultural and Social History of Vermin

For most of our time on this planet, vermin were considered humanity's common inheritance. Fleas, lice, bedbugs, and rats were universal scourges, as pervasive as hunger or cold, at home in both palaces and hovels. But with the spread of microscopic close-ups of these creatures, the beginnings of sanitary standards, and the rising belief that cleanliness equaled class, vermin began to provide a way to scratch a different itch: the need to feel superior, and to justify the exploitation of those pronounced ethnically—and entomologically—inferior.

In Getting Under Our Skin, Lisa T. Sarasohn tells the fascinating story of how vermin came to signify the individuals and classes that society impugns and ostracizes. How did these creatures go from annoyance to social stigma? And how did people thought verminous become considered almost a species of vermin themselves? Focusing on Great Britain and North America, Sarasohn explains how the label "vermin" makes dehumanization and violence possible. She describes how Cromwellians in Ireland and US cavalry on the American frontier both justified slaughter by warning "Nits grow into lice." Nazis not only labeled Jews as vermin, they used insecticides in the gas chambers to kill them during the Holocaust.

Concentrating on the insects living in our bodies, clothes, and beds, Sarasohn also looks at rats and their social impact. Besides their powerful symbolic status in all cultures, rats' endurance challenges all human pretentions. From eighteenth-century London merchants anointing their carved bedsteads with roasted cat to repel bedbugs to modern-day hedge fund managers hoping neighbors won't notice exterminators in their penthouses, the studies in this book reveal that vermin continue to fuel our prejudices and threaten our status. Getting Under Our Skin will appeal to cultural historians, naturalists, and to anyone who has ever scratched—and then gazed in horror.

About the Author

Lisa T. Sarasohn (PORTLAND, OR) is professor emerita of history at Oregon State University. She is the author of Gassendi's Ethics: Freedom in a Mechanistic Universe and The Natural Philosophy of Margaret Cavendish: Reason and Fancy during the Scientific Revolution.

Endorsements

"Getting Under Our Skin is a first: a long durée history of the creatures that have infested bodies and homes, provoking fear and disgust and haunting the imagination. Thoroughly researched and compellingly written, Lisa Sarasohn's book shows the very best of the new interspecies histories."

- Michael Worboys, University of Manchester, coauthor of The Invention of the Modern Dog: Breed and Blood in Victorian Britain
Johns Hopkins University Press
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9781421441382 : getting-under-our-skin-sarasohn
Hardback
September 21, 2021
$30.00 USD
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Electronic book text
September 21, 2021
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Other Titles by Lisa T. Sarasohn

The Natural Philosophy of Margaret Cavendish

Lisa T. Sarasohn
Apr 2010 - The Johns Hopkins University Press
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