The Kiss of Death
202 pages, 6 x 9
Release Date:15 Oct 2019

The Kiss of Death

Contagion, Contamination, and Folklore

Utah State University Press
Disease is a social issue, not just a medical issue. Using examples of specific legends and rumors, The Kiss of Death explores the beliefs and practices that permeate notions of contagion and contamination. Author Andrea Kitta offers new insight into the nature of vernacular conceptions of health and sickness and how medical and scientific institutions can use cultural literacy to better meet their communities’ needs.
Using ethnographic, media, and narrative analysis, this book explores the vernacular explanatory models used in decisions concerning contagion to better understand the real fears, risks, concerns, and doubts of the public. Kitta explores immigration and patient zero, zombies and vampires, Slender Man, HPV, and the kiss of death legend, as well as systematic racism, homophobia, and misogyny in North American culture, to examine the nature of contagion and contamination.
Conversations about health and risk cannot take place without considering positionality and intersectionality. In The Kiss of Death, Kitta isolates areas that require better communication and greater cultural sensitivity in the handling of infectious disease, public health, and other health-related disciplines and industries.
‘An important contribution to the folklore studies of folk belief and healing with a keen eye toward offering a powerful intervention in the way actual health-care providers and researchers do their invaluable work.’
—Robert Glenn Howard, University of Wisconsin
‘A fascinating and important argument that vernacular understandings about contamination and contagion coexist in a larger context of medical, political, and pop-cultural knowledge.’
—Willow G. Mullins, Washington University
'The Kiss of Death: Contagion, Contamination, and Folklore is a quick and accessible read, weaving the worlds of health, medicine, and monsters into narratives, stories, and folklore.'
Anthropology Book Forum
The Kiss of Death invites us to interrogate our most deeply held cultural assumptions that the call is coming from outside the house, and makes persuasive assertions about why anthropologists, public health officials, and science communicators should take folklore and the structural inequalities they point to into more consideration.'
—Allegra Lab
'This book is as enjoyable a read as it is insightful and thought-provoking. In addition, it makes a very valuable contribution to contemporary folklore studies and will no doubt become a staple text in contemporary legend scholarship'
Andrea Kitta is associate professor in the Department of English at East Carolina University with a specialty in medicine, belief, and the supernatural. Her current research includes vaccines, pandemic illness, contagion and contamination, stigmatized diseases, disability, health information on the internet, and Slender Man. She is the author of the 2012 Brian McConnell Book Award winner Vaccinations and Public Concern in History and coeditor of Diagnosing Folklore.
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