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. 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. My dissertation project—Brazo-a-Brazo: Humanitarian Medicine and the Preservation of Empire, 1767-1841—examines immunization as it developed within the Spanish Atlantic World. By examining response to epidemic disease in Spain, Cuba, and Mexico, 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, its deployment reveals how the preservation of human life, through aid and health intervention, sustained and justified imperial control of bodies and environments. Immunity was introduced and endorsed by Spanish medical authorities as a means of redemption—socially, spiritually, and politically. Reformers proclaimed immunity as a form of divine providence and moral obligation, mapping public health interventions onto the infrastructure of spiritual conversion. By tracing the threat of contagion, and the promise of salvation, across the Spanish Atlantic, my research analyzes how immunity, as both a scientific and a Christian practice, took shape 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.