Reading the classics: Ideology, tautology, and memory

In a 1986 New York Review of Books essay that would become the opening section of his 1991 book, Italo Calvino asks “Why read the classics?” He organizes his answer as a list of definitions. The items in the list blend into each other, deepening a case for reading books that “learned” people claim to have read,... Continue Reading →


My Little Buttercup, Or what happened when I visited a community health center near Bo

I wanted to see a community health center, where clinicians might have seen suspected Ebola cases three years ago. So, I asked my driver, Idrissa, whether he could ask some of his local contacts about the location of the health center in Gondama. I hadn’t been to Gondama since 2003. It wasn’t too difficult to... Continue Reading →

Facebook reminded me that streets have names: a dispatch from Freetown

When I was in Bo on August 15, 2017, I received a reminder on Facebook that I had a appeared on Democracy Now three years ago, with Laurie Garrett and Lawrence Gostin, to talk about the then escalating Ebola crisis in West Africa. During her epic screed -- it nearly left me speechless, that's how... Continue Reading →


Developing an analysis plan (ethnographic data)

The other day, I found myself overwhelmed by the amount of data I had collected over the past four or five years for my global surgery project. I’m trying to finish up the book proposal, and I realized that there were bits of data that I hadn’t taken into consideration: should that stuff be in... Continue Reading →


Using short-form writing and audio to build critical skills

This semester, I've been testing out several new kinds of assignments. Reading themes, podcasts, blogs. All are to get the students thinking about how to be observant, critical thinkers and how to communicate their analyses. Each of the exercises builds into one big final project: a This American Life style podcast. (Yes, I know. High... Continue Reading →


Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑