Book titles

Mad Cows and Modernity. Interdisciplinary Reflections on the Crisis of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease

Edited by Iain McCalman, Benjamin Penny & Misty Cook

Proceedings of an interdisciplinary workshop held at the Australian National University, plus later invited papers, about the panicked response of the public to Cruetzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), which had jumped species from cows (BSE – mad cow disease) to humans (BJD).

Mad Cows and Modernity, the publication arising from the Forum held in May 1995, was launched by Professor Paul Bourke, founding President of the National Academies Forum, on 22 October 1998.

Professor Bourke outlined the book’s contents, and offered some reflections on cross-disciplinarity. The following is an extract from his comments on the day.

Mad Cows and Modernity is divided into three sections:

  • ‘Communication’, containing studies by Cathy Banwell and Charles Guest of media reactions to the announced connection between BSE and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease [CJD], and Michael Fitzpatrick’s tight discussion of the more extreme British press reaction.
  • ‘Evaluating Risk’ containing Colin Masters’ summary of the state of scientific knowledge with its ominous conclusion about new and compelling evidence linking BSE with the new strain of CJD; and Simon Crant’s application of the vocabulary and procedures of rational choice theory to the problem of what governments should do confronted with evidence of possible high risk to populations.
  • ‘Humanities’ which offers Harriet Ritvo’s historical account of the identification of the British with eating livestock and cattle; Hank Nelson’s wonderful narrative of the awful history of the Fore people and the identification of the cause of the transmission among them of Kuru disease, one of this group of diseases; and Robin Wallace-Crabbe’s ethnographic understanding of the point of view of the cow.

I won’t summarise these in detail but urge you to read them, enjoy them and profit from them in a whole host of ways.” Read more at the National Academies Forum website

Publisher: ANU Humanities Research Centre

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