Andrew and Florence White Fellowship, University of California Davis Humanities Research Institute
February 2018 – July 2018
Vital Matter: Life, Chronic Illness and Care in Contemporary German Life Writing
Situated at the intersection of medical humanities, feminist science and technology studies, disability studies, and German cultural studies, my interdisciplinary research project analyzes contemporary textual and visual German life writing about chronic illnesses such as cancer, multiple sclerosis or dementia. I analyze how life writing transforms biomedical and cultural notions of embodiment, disease and care through a theorization of matter as vital and pathological. Life writers show how living with chronic illness is not limited to social construction or to loss of mobility, memory or bodily integrity. Rather, it constitutes an intensified process of material transformation that allows for the possibility of becoming in assemblages with cancer cells, drugs, food, or assistive technology. As a result, this theory of life deconstructs the binaries of health and disease and envisions to shift the focus of Western health care policy from cure to well-being in assemblages of care.
Katja Herges received her medical degree from the University of Heidelberg and her Dr.med. from the University of Mainz. Subsequently, she was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences at Stanford University, where she researched and published on neuroimmunological diseases. She is currently a PhD Candidate in German at the University of California, Davis, with a designated emphasis in Feminist Theory and Research. In 2017-2018, she is an Andrew and Florence White Scholar of the University of California Humanities Research Institute.