2020 Chicago Folklore Prize
We are currently offering free access to this resource for understanding cultural responses to the current outbreak of coronavirus. Please visit this page to download.
In addition Dr. Kitta has created resources for teachers who are now teaching online and want to cover COVID-19 with their students. Access online teaching resources here.
“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
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.