Jeremy A. Greene - "The Doctor Who Wasn't There" - Hannah Zeavin - "The Distance Cure" - Eugene Raikhel

Thursday, November 17, 2022 - 5:00pm - 6:00pm
Event Presenter/Author: 
Jeremy A. Greene and Hannah Zeavin

Jeremy A. Greene will discuss his book The Doctor Who Wasn't There. Hannah Zeavin will also discuss her book The Distance Cure. They will be joined in conversation by Eugene Raikhel

This event will be held in-person at Seminary Co-op. At this time, masks are required while in the store and strongly encouraged at outdoor events.


About the books: The Doctor Who Wasn’t There traces the long arc of enthusiasm for—and skepticism of—electronic media in health and medicine. Over the past century, a series of new technologies promised to democratize access to healthcare. From the humble telephone to the connected smartphone, from FM radio to wireless wearables, from cable television to the “electronic brains” of networked mainframe computers: each new platform has promised a radical reformation of the healthcare landscape. With equal attention to history and the politics and economies of American healthcare, physician and historian Jeremy A. Greene explores the role that electronic media play, for better and for worse, in the past, present, and future of our health. Today’s telehealth devices are far more sophisticated than the hook-and-ringer telephones of the 1920s, the radios that broadcasted health data in the 1940s, the closed-circuit televisions that enabled telemedicine in the 1950s, or the online systems that created electronic medical records in the 1960s. But the ethical, economic, and logistical concerns today’s devices raise are prefigured in the past, as are the gaps between what was promised and what was delivered. Each of these platforms also produced subtle transformations in health and healthcare that we have learned to forget, displaced by promises of ever newer forms of communication that took their place. Illuminating the social and technical contexts in which electronic medicine has been conceived and put into practice, Greene’s history shows the urgent stakes, then and now, for those who would seek in new media the means to build a more equitable future for American healthcare.

Therapy has long understood itself as taking place in a room, with two (or more) people engaged in person-to-person conversation. And yet, starting with Freud’s treatments by mail, psychotherapy has operated through multiple communication technologies and media. These have included advice columns, radio broadcasts, crisis hotlines, video, personal computers, and mobile phones; the therapists (broadly defined) can be professional or untrained, strangers or chatbots. In The Distance Cure, Hannah Zeavin proposes a reconfiguration of the traditional therapeutic dyad of therapist and patient as a triad: therapist, patient, and communication technology. Hannah Zeavin tracks the history of teletherapy (understood as a therapeutic interaction over distance) and its metamorphosis from a model of cure to one of contingent help. She describes its initial use in ongoing care, its role in crisis intervention and symptom management, and our pandemic-mandated reliance on regular Zoom sessions. Her account of the “distanced intimacy” of the therapeutic relationship offers a powerful rejoinder to the notion that contact across distance (or screens) is always less useful, or useless, to the person seeking therapeutic treatment or connection. At the same time, these modes of care can quickly become a backdoor for surveillance and disrupt ethical standards important to the therapeutic relationship. The history of the conventional therapeutic scenario cannot be told in isolation from its shadow form, teletherapy. Therapy, Zeavin tells us, was never just a “talking cure”; it has always been a communication cure.

About the authors: Jeremy A. Greene is the William H. Welch Professor of Medicine and the History of Medicine, director of the Department of the History of Medicine, and director of the Center for Medical Humanities and Social Medicine at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of Prescribing by Numbers: Drugs and the Definition of Disease, Generic: The Unbranding of Modern Medicine, and, most recently, coeditor of Therapeutic Revolutions: Pharmaceuticals and Social Change in the Twentieth Century, the last also published by the University of Chicago Press.

Hannah Zeavin is a scholar, writer, and editor whose work centers on the history of human sciences (psychoanalysis, psychology, and psychiatry), the history of technology, feminist STS, and media theory. She is an Assistant Professor at Indiana University in the Luddy School of Informatics. Additionally, she is a visiting fellow at the Columbia University Center for the Study of Social Difference. Zeavin’s first book, The Distance Cure: A History of Teletherapy is now out from MIT Press, with a Foreword by John Durham Peters. She is at work on her second book, Mother’s Little Helpers: Technology in the American Family (MIT Press, under contract). Other academic work has appeared in or is forthcoming from differences: A Journal of Feminist Studies, Technology and Culture, American Imago, Media, Culture, & Society, and elsewhere. Essays and other public writing have appeared or are forthcoming from Bookforum, Dissent, The Guardian, Harper’s Magazine, n+1, The New York Review of Books, Slate, The Washington Post, and beyond. In 2021, Zeavin co-founded The Psychosocial Foundation and is the Founding Editor of Parapraxis, a new magazine for psychoanalysis. She also serves as an Editorial Associate for The Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association and an Associate Editor for Psychoanalysis & History.

About the interlocutor: A cultural and medical anthropologist, Eugene Raikhel is associate professor of comparative human development and director of the Center for East European and Russian/Eurasian Studies at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Governing Habits: Treating Alcoholism in the Post-Soviet Clinic.

Event Location: 
The Seminary Co-Op Bookstores
5751 S Woodlawn Ave.
Chicago, IL 60637