103 The Uncanny Community Disease

Molly Ingram

In my town, I attended a speech about Lyme disease. The speech was held in my local town hall to discuss the dangers of the disease, how to prevent getting it, and the steps to go about removing and treating if you find yourself with a tick bite. Living in New England my whole life, I have been taught this common lesson growing up. Experts claim to know everything about this disease and have become experts on the right ways to treat it, except they are missing one important piece to the puzzle. How did Lyme disease start? This question was asked at the end of the speech and the room went silent. You could feel an uneasy shift in the air as the speaker’s expression went from confident, to uncomfortable. This uncertainty made the experience uncanny from that moment till the end of the lecture. Sigmund Freud says that “we are tempted to conclude that what is ‘uncanny’ is frightening precisely because it is not known and familiar” (418). This shift in the room among myself, the presenter, and the rest of the audience, made me realize the community is also feeling this uncertainty, shaping this feeling and recognition for me. The speaker went on to bounce around the question and made the impression that he had no idea.

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Lyme disease has become a conspiracy, controversy, and cover-up. There are many questions that have gone unanswered, making this disease “incapable of explaining” (424). Questions arise such as: Why do doctors who specialize in treating Lyme disease patients get harassed by medical boards? Why won’t insurance cover Lyme disease treatments? It is called a disease. This mysterious chorionic illness has been said to have started by Nazi scientists who went to Plum Island in the United States right off the Connecticut shore, to work on biowarfare weapon and germs. Lyme disease is known, but it is unknown how to treat it or how it started. The uncanniness surrounds Lyme in every aspect. After the speech, I could hear people in the community talking about what they think or know about others who have told them what they think. This is where repetition compulsion comes into play. Repetition compulsion “prepares us for the discovery that whatever reminds us of this inner repetition compulsion is perceived as uncanny” (427). The majority of the people who have come to this speech have the disease themselves and grasp their understanding of what it is by their doctor telling them the same thing over and over. And with this person who is looked at as more knowledgeable as you, you believe them. Going to this community speech brought this concept to light by expressing how there is missing evidence and assumptions about whatever is going on with their health. Lyme disease is uncanny because it is “nothing new or foreign, but something familiar and old – established in the mind that has been estranged only by the process of repression” (429). Going to this lecture opened my eyes and showed me how theoretical concepts can be applied and expressed in the world among multiple people, their health, and the world. Lyme is being covered up leaving the community to feel an uncanny suspicion.


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The Student Theorist: An Open Handbook of Collective College Theory Copyright © 2018 by Molly Ingram is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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