I'm a PhD candidate in the History Department at Duke University, where I work on Latin American cultural and intellectual history. My research interests include the history of philanthropy, medicine, science, technology, and global health. My primary advisor is Dr. Peter Sigal.
My dissertation, titled "Brazo-a-Brazo: Humanitarian Medicine and the Preservation of Empire, 1767-1841" examines the development of immunization as a preventative medical technology within the Spanish Atlantic World. Broadly, it asks how responses to epidemic disease in Spain, Cuba, and Mexico shaped beliefs about immunity and informed the practice of medicine, public health, and charity through the late colonial and early republican periods. Drawing on medical texts, scientific newsletters, public health records, parish and diocesan files, sermons and pastoral letters, and correspondence amongst colonial government officials, I argue that immunization, throughout the empire, was introduced and endorsed to families as a means of "redemption." Social reformers proclaimed immunity as a form of divine providence, mapping public health interventions onto the infrastructure of spiritual conversion.
Immunization under the Spanish Crown remained, ostensibly, a voluntary practice, echoing the sentiment of humanitarianism that physicians, priests, and bureaucrats alike invoked in response to the horrific nature of epidemic disease. Situating immunity as key to a broader colonial social experiment, my research addresses how conflicts over consent, compulsion, and conversion determined which subjects were deemed “human” and thus accorded humanitarian intervention. Medical interventions, throughout the early modern world, are often interpreted as a form of social control, constituting an extension of colonialism. This framework has tended to exclude the beliefs about care and religiosity that sustained interventions in colonial Latin America, and indeed, helped justify imperial governance. My work challenges this view, calling for a reanalysis of the Catholic traditions of aid and salvation that physicians and reformers drew upon in their work and that shaped the moral economy of medicine under the collapse of empire and the inception of national public health.
Before graduate school, I worked as a curatorial assistant and archaeologist at the Kingsley Plantation, the home of Zephaniah Kingsley and his wife, Anna Madgigine Jai, a Senegalese woman who was purchased by Kingsley as a slave and freed in 1811. The work I focus on now—tracing ideas and connections across the Spanish Atlantic—is yet animated by my anthropological training and my curiosity about the outer spaces of empire.
I am a member of the Duke Digital History Working Group and a co-founder of Duke HAW (Historians are Writers), a group committed to thinking deeply about creative writing in the world of academia and beyond.