I am a historian of Latin America and the Caribbean, specializing in gender studies and the history of race, health, and medicine. Overall, I'm interested in how health gets politicized and how people make care decisions accordingly. My current book project, Atlantic Antidote: Race, Gender, and the Birth of the First Vaccine, takes up these questions through a history of smallpox vaccination in the age of revolution. Vaccines have become the dominant way that global health practitioners, public health agencies, and modern states approach disease prevention and containment. Atlantic slavery—and its entanglements with sexual violence, coercion, and dispossession—helped birth this technology.
The book explores this history by foregrounding the social, economic, and political circumstances that created and sustained epidemic disease, demonstrating how empire and the transatlantic slave trade catalyzed the need for vaccine technology and made its development and distribution possible. It centers on the Spanish Empire, where vaccination ostensibly required parental consent. At its heart are the enslaved and free mothers whose children doctors relied upon to incubate and reproduce the live vaccine. Their experiences indicate how vaccination became embedded in struggles over abolition, parental rights, and the very meaning of consent. They also suggest how women enacted their own ideas of freedom through mothering and care practices that refused and exceeded rights-based notions of consent and selfhood that colonial officials sought to reinscribe through vaccination. Ultimately, the book argues that both consent and vaccination operated together as forms of amelioration that would act as an “antidote” not only to disease but revolutionary unrest. Doing so raises questions about the use of vaccines to curtail epidemics and the enduring entanglements between race, consent, power, and the purpose of public health.
You can read more about my research on the history of slavery and vaccination here and here.
I am passionate about teaching and mentorship and teach history and interdisciplinary courses on gender studies; science, medicine, and technology; race, slavery, and emancipation; and colonial and modern Latin America and the Caribbean. Currently, I am a research associate in the Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies at Duke University and a CHCI-ACLS fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh.