I am a PhD candidate in the History Department at Duke University, where I work on the eighteenth and nineteenth century Iberian Atlantic World. My research interests include: History of Medicine, Science, and Technology; Slavery and Emancipation; Empire and Colonialism; and Feminist and Queer Studies. My primary advisor is Dr. Pete Sigal.
My dissertation project—Brazo-a-Brazo: Humanitarian Medicine and the Preservation of Empire, 1767-1841—examines immunization as it took shape in the Iberian Atlantic World. Immunization is a contested practice that compels extreme positions and inspires difficult questions about the ethics of preventative technology and the social and moral obligations physicians, governments, and citizens have to one another. By examining response to epidemic disease primarily between Mexico and Cuba, I show how concepts and practices of immunity shifted through critical moments in the colonial and revolutionary history of the Americas. I argue that the deployment of immunization cannot be understood simply as a means of preventing and controlling epidemic infection. Rather, it reveals how the preservation of human life, through aid and health intervention, sustained and justified imperial control of environments and bodies, notably those of women, children, and enslaved Africans. Vaccination was celebrated as voluntary, as reformers fashioned it into a moral obligation. I address how such claims fostered new obligations to one’s family and community and ask to what extent we can understand the nature of coercion and persuasion under colonial rule. Situating immunity as key to the extension of empire, I show how conflicts over such issues as medical consent, parental authority, and human rights were crucial to the project of colonialism. I do this by tracing the circulation of vaccine across the gulf world, demonstrating how patients and their families responded to and even sought out such interventions to make sense of impending disease. Finally, I ask how these concerns shaped the direction of public health initiatives, as vaccination supplemented quarantine and was deployed in new ways against mystery illnesses and notable plagues such as yellow fever.
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 Iberian 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.