NEW DELHI, Jan. 15, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Based on Julia Hauser’s rigorous scholarship and enhanced by Sarnath Banerjee’s wry illustrations, this utterly gripping book playfully melds meticulous research with imaginative storytelling to create a graphic narrative about pandemics from sixth-century Constantinople to late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and how it affected human relationships, systems of belief, knowledge and political power.
Paperback | Non-Fiction | 140 pp | Rs 699
Available wherever books are sold | Releasing 15th Jan 2024
Author, Julia Hauser, says, “The idea for ‘The Moral Contagion‘ came to us in the early phase of the Covid-19 pandemic when the fear of this unknown virus and the pain of being separated from one’s wider social circle were dominant in many people’s lives. Yet others, generally members of ethnic minorities, found themselves scapegoated for allegedly spreading the virus. As we discussed these aspects, I mentioned that some of these social dynamics had been at work much earlier, most notably during the plague. Sarnath was intrigued by this, and this is how the book came into being. The Moral Contagion tells the story of the plague from antiquity to the early twentieth century in different cities and different parts of the world, from sixth-century Constantinople to late 19th-century Bombay. The book examines how societies, and indeed how morality, changed due to the plague. Since India was hit particularly hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, we hope that The Moral Contagion will be of interest to many readers.”
Author, Sarnath Banerjee, says, “One of the big satisfaction of doing this book was to comb through the visual culture and historical references around the great plagues in preparation for the drawings. The drawings allowed me to meander freely through the centuries, getting to understand the moral universe of the times and feeling as if I was living through them.
“Julia’s sparkling storytelling style allowed the drawings to be interpretive rather than illustrative. I was given the freedom to build a parallel visual narrative that went alongside the main story. One of the great advantages of drawing is that it lets you slow down. While drawing Byzantine architecture, opium dens of colonial Hong Kong, Plague hospitals in Bombay, interiors of Damascus houses, it felt as if time stopped and went backward.
“Academics have great insights and imagination. Sadly, their works are often trapped in institutions and circulated between peers. They rarely ever affect culture and when they do it is always a significant step in influencing civil society.”
HarperCollins India Executive Publisher, Udayan Mitra, says, “Julia Hauser and Sarnath Banerjee have taken one of the most dreaded subjects of our time — that of pandemics — and turned it into a book that is at once illuminating and a joy to go through. Julia’s account of the plague pandemics that have struck over the centuries is immensely informative, and Sarnath’s colourful illustrations complement the narrative, making for a wonderful mix. The Moral Contagion is a book that should engage many a curious reader; we are HarperCollins India are delighted to be able to publish it this January.”
About the Book
I wake up shivering and with a sore throat. Is it Covid?
I grab a test kit and wait for the result. Luckily all is well.
Most likely I have just caught a harmless cold …
This scenario has become painfully familiar to us. India was one of the countries hit hardest by the Covid pandemic, with a tragically high number of casualties. The pandemic also made some things an integral part of our lives: wearing masks, sanitizing, social distancing, isolating oneself.
None of this, however, is unique—even though the Covid virus was a new one. Over the centuries, wave after wave of the devastating plague pandemic had impacted humanity in similar ways, and the responses to the threats it posed had been similar too. From sixth-century Constantinople and fourteenth-century Europe to Islamic Spain, seventeenth-century London, eighteenth-century Aleppo, and Hong Kong, Bombay, San Francisco and South Africa in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the history of the plague is, in a way, the story of modern civilization.
The Moral Contagion is an insightful and absorbing take on that story. Based on Julia Hauser’s rigorous scholarship and enhanced by Sarnath Banerjee’s wry illustrations, this utterly gripping book playfully melds meticulous research with imaginative storytelling to create a graphic narrative about pandemics and reflect on how societies and individuals tend to react when faced with an adversary that is, literally, larger than life.
About the Authors
Julia Hauser is a senior lecturer in Modern History at the University of Kassel, Germany, and an alumna of the Arab–German Young Academy of Sciences and Humanities (AGYA). Hauser was a fellow at the Orient Institut Beirut, Rice University, Houston/Texas, the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences Calcutta, and ICAS:MP, Delhi. Among her publications are German Religious Women in Late Ottoman Beirut. Competing Missions (Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2015) and A Taste for Purity. An Entangled History of Vegetarianism. Columbia Studies in International and Global History (New York: Columbia University Press, 2023).
Sarnath Banerjee has published five works of graphic fiction: Corridor (Penguin, 2004), The Barn Owl’s Wondrous Capers (Penguin, 2007), The Harappa Files (HarperCollins, 2011), All Quiet in Vikaspuri (HarperCollins, 2015) and Doab Dil (Penguin, 2019). In collaboration with historians, Banerjee had produced ‘Liquid History of Vasco Da Gama‘ for the Kochi Biennial 2014, and ‘The Poona Circle’, a series of vandalized history textbooks, for the Pune Biennale 2017. He has been a fellow of the Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart; Indian Foundation for the Arts, Bangalore; and MacArthur Foundation. He received the Belknap fellowship, Princeton, and the CAST fellowship, MIT, in 2019.
ABOUT HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS INDIA
HarperCollins is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, having begun publishing in India in 1992. HarperCollins India publishes some of the finest writers from the Indian Subcontinent and around the world, publishing approximately 200 new books every year, with a print and digital catalogue of more than 2,000 titles across 10 imprints. Its authors have won almost every major literary award including the Man Booker Prize, JCB Prize, DSC Prize, New India Foundation Award, Atta Galatta Prize, Shakti Bhatt Prize, Gourmand Cookbook Award, Publishing Next Award, Tata Literature Live! Award, Gaja Capital Business Book Prize, BICW Award, Sushila Devi Award, Sahitya Akademi Award and Crossword Book Award. HarperCollins India also represents some of the finest publishers in the world including Harvard University Press, Gallup Press, Oneworld, Bonnier Zaffre, Usborne, Dover and Lonely Planet. HarperCollins India has won the Publisher of the Year Award four times at Tata Literature Live! in 2022, 2021, 2018 and 2016, and at Publishing Next in 2021 & 2015. HarperCollins India is a subsidiary of HarperCollins Publishers.
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