Self Help

In this episode of High Theory, Angela Hume tells us about Self Help, not the neoliberal strategy of self-actualization through consumer choices, but the radical political movement of gynecological self-help, that flourished in the late twentieth century and created a set of portable political tactics based in anarchist feminist philosophy. 

In the episode, she references Alondra Nelson’s book Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination (Minnesota UP, 2013); Michelle Murphy’s Seizing the Means of Reproduction: Entanglements of Feminism, Health, and Technoscience (Duke UP, 2012); and several health activist organizations, including the Women’s Choice Clinic in Oakland, CA; AidAccess which provides mail order medication assisted abortion; and MYA Network, a group of clinicians seeking to expand abortion access in primary care settings. 

Angela suggested we include three links that everyone should have at their fingertips, PlanC ( which helps people access abortion pills, AidAccess ( the pill fulfillment service described above, and I Need an A (, a clinic locator. 

In our longer conversation, she also named the Keep Our Clinics campaign, a fundraising effort to support independent abortion clinics, to which pre-sales of her book contributed. We’re sorry we didn’t get this up early enough for you to participate in the pre-sale! But now the book is out in the world, you can even read a review of it in The Guardian

Our conversation is based Angela’s new book, Deep Care: The Radical Activists Who Provided Abortions, Defied the Law, and Fought to Keep Clinics Open(link is external) (AK Press, 2023). A work of public scholarship and a history of medicine, the book tells a story of Bay Area abortion defense—from feminist clinical practice, to underground abortion provision, to street politics and clinic defense—from the 1970s to 2000s. You can read an excerpt from the book in the Post45 contemporaries collection “Abortion Now, Abortion Forever,” which was the starting point for our conversation on High Theory. 

Angela Hume is a feminist historian, critic, and poet, who teaches at UC Berkeley. Her creative and expository writing classes address environmental and health justice, working-class and multiethnic American literatures, feminist and queer storytelling, and more. Beyond Deep Care, Angela is co-editor of Ecopoetics: Essays in the Field (U of Iowa P, 2018). Her full-length books of poetry include Middle Time (Omnidawn, 2016) and Interventions for Women (Omnidawn, 2021).

The image for this episode was made by Saronik Bosu in 2023.

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In this episode of High Theory, Laura Stokes talks about melancholy. One of the four humors in ancient humoral medicine, melancholy, or black bile, is a fluid substance and spiritual principle that was thought to move within the human body. A proper quantity of black bile allows one to be calm and contemplative, thoughtful and withdrawn. A superabundance produces sadness, indigestion, and a host of other evils. Research is a melancholy practice; scholars are prone to melancholic dispositions.

Throughout the episode Laura refers to Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholyan early modern text that describes the sources, symptoms, and treatments for a surplus of melancholy, in a rather meandering way, with an entire separate disquisition on love melancholy. It was published in multiple versions over Burton’s lifetime – people usually cite the 1638 edition.

Laura Stokes is an associate professor of history at Stanford University where they study Early Modern Europe. Their first book Demons of Urban Reform: Early European Witch Trials and Criminal Justice, 1430-1530 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) examines the origins of witchcraft prosecution in fifteenth-century Europe against the backdrop of a general rise in the prosecution of crime and other measures of social control. They are currently working on a microhistory of a murder conspiracy within the Basel butchers’ guild at the turn of the sixteenth century, which is really about Early Modern economic cultures. And they run pretty amazing summer reading groups.

Image: © 2022 Saronik Bosu

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Hannah Zeavin talks about teletherapy, from Freud’s letters to suicide hotlines to therapy apps. If therapy is always mediated, teletherapy is any form of therapy in which that mediation is more clearly legible. This mediated practice is the topic of her new book The Distance Cure: A History of Teletherapy (MIT Press, 2021).

Hannah is a Lecturer in the departments of English and History at UC Berkeley, where she is affiliated with the Berkeley Center for Science, Technology, Medicine, and Society, and she is a visiting fellow at Columbia University Center for the Study of Social Difference. She is currently at work on a second book project, about technology in the American family, called Mother’s Little Helpers, also with MIT Press. You can learn more about Hannah’s research and teaching on her website:

Image: adapted from a 1912 advertisement of the Illinois Telephone and Telegraph Co.

Music used in promotional material: ‘A Better Normal’ by Ian Sutherland

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Gabriel Winant talks with Kim about the decline of the industrial working class and the rise of the health care industry.

Gabriel is an assistant professor of History at the University of Chicago. His book, The Next Shift: The Fall of Industry and the Rise of Health Care in Rust Belt America, is recently out from Harvard University Press. You can read his recent article on the subject in The New York Times.

The Next Shift focuses on the working class in the American context and Pittsburgh in particular. In the full version of our conversation, Gabriel recommended Aaron Benanav’s book Automation and the Future of Work (Verso 2020), for an argument about the larger global economic structures of deindustrialization. He also talks a bit about James Boggs, as someone who was well positioned to notice the effects of deindustrialization. We found this article about Boggs worth reading.

The image for this episode is a photograph of the abandoned Detroit Public Schools Book Depository, taken by Thomas Hawk on 13 June 2010. The image is posted of Flickr under a creative commons attribution non-commercial license. Lauren Berlant describes gives this photograph as a bad image of neoliberalism, which allows our social theory to derive “its urgency and its reparative imaginary from spaces of catastrophe and risk where the exemplum represents structural failure” (“The Commons: Infrastructures for Troubling Times” Society and Space 34 no. 3 (2016) p.395). But I like it. Saronik modified the original image.

Music used in promotional material: ‘Shadow of a Coal Mine’ by Linda Draper

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Experimental Life

Travis Chi Wing Lau talks about the notion that one can experiment on the fundamental conditions and nature of life in order to perfect them. He looks at this idea in diverse literary, scientific, and cultural contexts from the vitality debate and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to the perils of the CRISPR technology and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go.

Travis Chi Wing Lau (he/him/his) is Assistant Professor of English at Kenyon College. His research and teaching focus on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British literature and culture, health humanities, and disability studies. Alongside his scholarship, Lau frequently writes for venues of public scholarship like Synapsis: A Journal of Health HumanitiesPublic Books, Lapham’s Quarterly, and The Los Angeles Review of Books. His poetry has appeared in Barren Magazine, WordgatheringGlassSouth Carolina Review, Foglifter, and The New Engagement, as well as in two chapbooks, The Bone Setter (Damaged Goods Press, 2019) and Paring (Finishing Line Press, 2020).

Image: “Experimental Life” © 2021 Saronik Bosu

Music used in promotional material: “Future Life” by Ketsa

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